THE church built for Great Western Railway Workers celebrated its centenary in 1945.
To mark the occasion, St Mark’s self-published a small hardback book chronicling its history.
It’s impossible to say how many copies were printed, let alone how many survive, but one was sent to the Swindon Advertiser for review and kept in our library.
The vicar at the time, Ronald Royle, wrote his introduction in France, where he was coming to the end of his World War Two service.
He recalled being asked to come to Swindon in 1937 and said: “I have never regretted the decision, though, most unfortunately, I have been away from the Parish on Active Service for four-and-a-half years. You who read this little Centenary Book will find a faithful record of the hundred years’ work in the building up of the Kingdom of God here in Swindon.
“You will read of the beginnings when the Directors and Shareholders of the Great Western Railway, with great wisdom and no little faith, saw the need of a House of God in this new town that they were creating.
“All through the hundred years, our Association with the Railway has been a happy one.”
The unnamed author gave an account of the arrival of Brunel’s railway and the history of Swindon before and after and the growth of the New Town.
They gave an account of the construction of the church by a firm called Scott and Moffatt, and reproduced the words of a contemporary critic who suggested the spire was too small for the tower.
Every extension and alteration was faithfully recorded, along with the names of vicars, church officials and prominent teachers at the church school.
The author had kind things to say about Swindon as a whole: “A man may be lonely all his grown life.
“He may be equally lonely in Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, or any other big industrial city.
“But in the industrial town of Swindon, unless he is a recluse, he will not want for friends.
“This is because Swindon is a town of one, easily preponderant, industry – the works of the Great Western Railway Company, which employs 12,000 out of a population which, in 1939, was 66,000.”