What a clock-watcher

Swindon Advertiser:

3:09pm Wednesday 22nd October 2014

THE classically styled, substantial-looking antique clock that sits on the mantelpiece in the front room of Martin Thomas’s terraced Swindon house is a fine specimen, to be sure.

The castle on the edge of town

Swindon Advertiser:

9:51am Wednesday 15th October 2014

THEY’RE rebuilding the ramparts of an old castle near Swindon. Wow, that sounds interesting. I didn’t think Swindon had any castles. Where is it then? “Chiseldon way, ten minutes down the road,” said the news editor of the Swindon Evening Advertiser, before adding “easy enough to find.”

The neverending story

Swindon Advertiser:

10:05am Wednesday 8th October 2014

GLEAMING, eye-catching structures that include a concert hall, a university, an art gallery and several elegant apartment blocks rise majestically from a smart urban landscape dotted with public squares and fringed with tree-encrusted parkland.

When giants roamed our streets

Swindon Advertiser:

5:37pm Wednesday 1st October 2014

The recent discovery of the fossilised remains of the world’s largest dinosaur, Dreadnoughtus has prompted some recollections on long gone beasts that once roved the Swindon area… THEY would have been long dead anyway, having departed to that elephant’s graveyard around 40,000 years ago, give or take a millennia.

A right old carve-up

Swindon Advertiser:

10:09am Wednesday 24th September 2014

IT is not difficult, with a little imagination, to picture the scene among those battle-hardened Viking warriors, draped in thick skins, huddled around crackling fires, as they camped within the sturdy earth ramparts of White Horse Castle next to that enigmatic hill carving 1,143 years ago.

A frog he would a-wooing go!

Swindon Advertiser:

9:57am Wednesday 10th September 2014

AS our car crunches along the driveway of Sheila Crown’s detached country house I feel as though I am heading into the pages of some weird Beatrix Potter story or perhaps one of those risible horror B-movies where giant bunny rabbits or cow-sized ants terrorise the neighbourhood.

Street painting man

Swindon Advertiser:

9:39am Wednesday 3rd September 2014

AS the bright evening sunshine turns the redbrick houses of a typically Edwardian terrace in Swindon a luminous shade of orangey-pink I can see a man at the end of the street comfortably installed on a camping chair who is utterly engrossed in his work with a sketchbook.

The lifelong dream that crash landed

Swindon Advertiser:

12:59pm Friday 29th August 2014

ON a grey and cloudy Thursday afternoon 20 years ago a group of people are standing on the blustery downs above Swindon. Necks craned, we are keeping an eye out – and indeed an ear out – for the sight or the sound of a distant speck of silver.

An icon arrived in Swindon

Swindon Advertiser:

2:07am Wednesday 13th August 2014

LIONISED like few other popular figures of the 19th Century he was singularly acknowledged as ‘Hero of the Two Worlds’ for his unremitting endeavours on behalf of embattled masses fighting for freedom and independence on either side of the Atlantic.

Spinning back through time

Swindon Advertiser:

11:00am Wednesday 13th August 2014

FROM the rhythmic piano of Charlie Kunz and the classically-furnished duets of Layton & Johnstone to a quirky array of oddities such as Leslie Sarony’s Ain’t It Grand to be Blooming Well Dead and the beergarten hits of The Obernkirchen Children’s Choir.

The war hero...aged just 15

Swindon Advertiser:

4:22pm Wednesday 6th August 2014

REX Barnett, the Mayor of Swindon, is saying something to me over the phone which seems so extraordinary, so unlikely, so “surely he’s got it wrong” that I have to ask him to repeat it not twice but three times. This is what he is saying: “My dad fought in World War One.”

Oh we have such ‘hateful’ memories

Swindon Advertiser:

5:30am Wednesday 30th July 2014

WE were plastered in make-up to look pasty, pale and sickly… those haircuts were so severe it was like being sheep sheared… we were told to scream ‘die, I hate you, death’… sitting in the front we could feel the sheer force of the hatred… my hair was gelled into a fierce quiff… no laughing, no swearing, just jump up and shout… we were told to show as much hatred as possible… on no account should we laugh… And on one occasion, when they hadn’t quite shaken off their initial inhibitions to hit full-on hate mode, an assistant director glared at the assembled crew and sneered: “Is that the best you can do – no wonder Swindon are in the Fourth Division.”

Wonderful, wonderful WOMAD

Swindon Advertiser:

3:15pm Wednesday 23rd July 2014

AS the sun beats down on a lazy Sunday afternoon in the green baize of the Wiltshire countryside a troupe of Pakistani devotional singers, strikingly draped in silky orange stage costumes, marches in unison from an open-air arena where they have just performed a heartfelt set of choral, call-and-response pieces.

Martin’s reels of treasure

Swindon Advertiser:

5:30am Wednesday 16th July 2014

MOST of us have seen them at one time or other… those grainy monochrome films that help define our nation: Winston Churchill resolutely striding through the blitzed streets of war-ravaged London, the Coronation of the Queen in all of its pomp and ceremony, the toothless grin of Nobby Stiles as he joyfully jigs around Wembley Stadium with the World Cup on his head.

The gentle giant who just grew and grew

Swindon Advertiser:

5:30am Wednesday 2nd July 2014

EVERYONE loves a tall story… and they don’t come any taller than that of Frederick John Kempster, The Avebury Giant.

Hundreds flocked to get heads cropped when movie stars came to town...but were you a hater?

Swindon Advertiser: Several hundred extras, mostly from Swindon, appeared alongside nine professional actors and actresses during the Two Minutes Hate scene at RAF Hullavington in June 1984

3:24pm Wednesday 25th June 2014

“YOU have to work yourself into a lather… a screaming demented rage… you have got to look brutal… you must seethe with hatred… stomp your feet… shake your fists… grind your teeth… groan with passionate, frustrated loathing… you must become A REAL NAZI FACIST…”

The alternative England squad

Swindon Advertiser: The boys in Brazil….the Wild Westerners pictured before their game against a bunch of thin and fit young fellows with a neat line in step-overs and bicycle kicks in Buzios, 2004

11:58am Wednesday 18th June 2014

The Wild Westerners were a Swindon based football team formed in 1988 by ex-Advertiser journalists-turned-travel industry writers Stewart Cruttenden and Steve Kelly. The aim was to combine a passion for travel, football and drinking.

The mug that's finally found its way home

Swindon Advertiser: Barry Leighton presents Diane Everett and Andy Binks, of the Swindon Society, with Richard Bullen’s mug at the location of the Union Hotel, now part of a car park adjoining Swindon station

5:30am Wednesday 11th June 2014

WHENEVER Swindon pub landlord Richard Bullen downed a swift half of Hulbert’s finest ale, brewed just a few miles away in hilltop Highworth, he almost certainly did so from his personalised pewter beer mug.

Pete has got a grand old bag

Swindon Advertiser: Peter Cousins reflecting on his Kempsters paper bag

5:30am Wednesday 4th June 2014

IT is just an old bag really – a throwaway item of which several thousand were produced over the years and duly consigned to the bin without a moment’s thought when its purpose had been served… which in most cases was as soon as you got home.

Remembering the unmistakeable Paul Cooke

Swindon Advertiser: Let’s hear it for the Big Fella...

5:00am Wednesday 28th May 2014

AS the final strains of the band’s heady take on Howling Wolf’s Chicago blues classic Killing Floor evaporate into the dank air of a packed, smoke-filled pub, the sax player’s timing is perfect as he proclaims, with the exaggerated swank of a fairground barker: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to put your hands together and welcome onstage the man everyone is talking about… in the flesh… the fabulous… the one and only… the unmistakable… Paul Cooke.”

How smart was that?

Swindon Advertiser: Adver newspaper vendor Don Stanley, 72, is flung into the limelight by accepting the world’s first electronic cash payment – 28p for a copy of our Mondex special edition

5:30am Wednesday 21st May 2014

BARRY LEIGHTON revisits the electronic cash revolution of 1994...

Question: What caused people to riot in Swindon? Answer: An election

Swindon Advertiser: Rioters ran amok in Regent Street during the evening of April 2 1880, smashing the windows of several pubs including every pane of glass in the Artillery Arms

3:20pm Thursday 15th May 2014

WITH what we can safely assume was a mixture of grim determination and a steely resolve to discharge his public duty, Superintendent George North entered the Town Hall on the evening of Friday, April 2, 1880 and did something no other person in Swindon has done before or since… he read The Riot Act.

Smoke gets in your eyes: The man who fought the right to light up when and where he liked

Swindon Advertiser: n In November 1992 Michael White dressed up as Sir Walter Raleigh, the man credited with bringing tobacco back from the New World, in protest against moves by National Express to ban smoking from their coaches

12:20pm Wednesday 7th May 2014

FORMER scrap dealer and cardboard recycler, one-time butcher and ex-market trader turned occasional model maker Michael White is sitting on a double-decker bus next to peer of the realm Lord Stoddart of Swindon beneath a formidable fug of bluey-grey smoke.

A murder most foul

Swindon Advertiser: Executioner John Ellis of Rochdale hanged White in June, 1914, in such a manner, it was reported, to ensure a “practically instantaneous death” with a carefully calculated and measured drop of just under eight feet

5:30am Wednesday 30th April 2014

ONE hundred years ago yesterday evening Walter James White, a 22 year-old Swindon house decorator, visited his sweetheart Frances Priscilla Hunter at the Goddard Arms Hotel in Old Town, where she worked as a maid.

We shall not be moved (...but in the end they had no choice)

Swindon Advertiser: Supported on each side by a derelict, bricked-up property, the couple’s tidily kept home sat in the heart of a desolate landscape all the other properties, including the Gardener’s Arms pub, having long since been demolished. Picture courtesy Andy Bin

2:40pm Wednesday 23rd April 2014

IN one corner is a phalanx of smartly suited planning and legal experts whose names are suffixed with an admirable array of initials denoting hard-earned degrees and qualifications while besides them sit several hefty boxfuls of documents that include statements in triplicate, examples of legal precedents and door-step thick volumes pertaining to the case in hand.

Bridging a gap in our history

Swindon Advertiser: Three Golden Lion Bridges existed on the spot where Bridge Street today meets Canal Walk. The first, a wooden one erected in 1803, was replaced in the late 19th Century by an iron lift-bridge and supplemented with an elevated walk bridge

12:51pm Monday 21st April 2014

BARRY LEIGHTON reminisces about Swindon’s lost bridges with a man who has written three books about them...

It’s not about Al... it’s about music

Swindon Advertiser: Surrounded by tapes, albums, a turn-table and a mic, Alan is in his element as he is pictured in 1989 at the BBC Wiltshire studios in Old Town. Today Alan can be heard every Saturday on Swindon 105.5

5:30am Wednesday 16th April 2014

DURING a sold out show at Swindon Arts Centre around 18 months ago Andy Fairweather Low, former Sixties pop star turned exquisite guitarist who for many years toured as a member of both Eric Clapton and Roger Waters’ bands, took a couple of minutes out to make an announcement.

The time an outrageous pub landlord managed to get Swindon into the New York Times

Swindon Advertiser: Noel Reilly in his natural habitat, behind the bar at The Beehive in Prospect Hill where his idiosyncratic nature came to the fore. He banned punters for being boring or having the wrong hair

12:11pm Wednesday 9th April 2014

CHEERFULLY nursing a pint of stout while a tot of Bushmills sits on the bar within reassuringly easy grasp, Noel Reilly is regaling us with tales of his exploits behind the Iron Curtain.

Not quite what the Yanks were expecting

Swindon Advertiser: The elegant classically styled façade of Lydiard House was added to the original medieval structure when it was fashionably remodelled in 1743 by the once wealthy and royally connected St John family

5:19pm Thursday 3rd April 2014

WHEN American military bigwigs arrived in Swindon to prepare for D-Day they were no doubt as happy as clams to learn they would be billeted in nothing less than a genuine, historic mansion that many an English toff had called home for the best part of 500 years.

Pewter mug from Swindon ends up in Minnesota

Swindon Advertiser: Researching the origins of her new mug, along with the mysterious location of New Swindon, led Shari Jarett to our piece, ‘Sup Up….Before it’s Too Late’ which we ran in February last year commiserating the number of Swindon taverns that had vanish

9:41am Wednesday 26th March 2014

IN the Mid-West city of Rochester that is strung along Minnesota’s Zumbro River, Shari Jarett became intrigued by a box crammed with an eye-catching assortment of pewter vessels which was going under the hammer at auction.

Don’t drop any more bricks ... of the red variety, of course

Swindon Advertiser: Redbrick Even Swindon School was flattened in December and cracks are appearing in Prospect Hill’s quaint 120 year-old Baptist Chapel. But at least Swindon’s former technical college, pictured here, built at the foot of Victoria Road in a Flemish-Baro

9:46am Thursday 20th March 2014

FROM elaborate Edwardian edifices and cavernous industrial structures to grand Victorian institutes of further education, leisure and pleasure… not to mention shops, pubs, schools, places of worship and row upon row of terraced houses.

BARRY WRITES: Dave’s signed up for life as a Swindon Town fan

Swindon Advertiser: Swindon Town Dave displays the tattoos on his torso

4:08pm Tuesday 11th March 2014

WHENEVER Swindon Town hire a new manager, as they are sometimes inclined to do, the immediate reaction of the avid fan formerly known as Dave Clark is not to agonise over what players the boss is likely to sign up or wonder whether he will go for a different formation or switch tactics.

Lounging around at Joy’s

Swindon Advertiser: Rob Beckinsale played material from his excellent auralcandy CD including the aptly titled Drinking Song watched, on the stairs, by Francesca Chiarini (top) and Joy.

5:30am Wednesday 5th March 2014

PERCHED on stairs, crammed into the kitchen, squatting on the floor, sinking into the settee, circled around the dining table and occupying just about every other mode of seating that she has resourcefully amassed… it is another full house down at Joy’s Joint.

Our little treasure is 20 this year

Swindon Advertiser: Datingback to the 1840s the former nerve centre of the GWR Works, the Chief Mechanical Engineer's Office has, for the past 20 years, held the English Heritage Archives

1:44pm Wednesday 26th February 2014

THERE is a treasure trove sitting in the middle of Swindon – something so unique and irreplaceable that you could say it makes the Crown Jewels look like small change.

Train-spotting...and how

Swindon Advertiser: Donations of railway furniture, engines and rolling stock were always gratefully received. For 44 years this shunter transported  cigarettes from Swindon’s Wills factory to the main line before it was presented to the society in 1981

12:40pm Wednesday 19th February 2014

NEXT to a sign that amusingly reads ‘Old Codgers Sidings’ a handful of men-in-overalls, having spent the morning embroiled in oily labour, give us a grin as they quaff mugs of tea and eat sandwiches.

All in all... it’s a brilliant view of the Wall

Swindon Advertiser: The wall came tumbling down in 1989 ……but not before the immortal slogan ‘Swindon Town FC’ was added to the spaghetti-like squiggles and graffiti art on the West Berlin side of the partition

5:30am Wednesday 12th February 2014

All in all... it’s a brilliant view of the Wall

Swindon bus driver Jeff was a living, breathing, ceremonial pipe-smoking Native American

Swindon Advertiser: With Sioux blood running through his veins Jeff Starr looked the part when swapping his bus driving uniform for full Native American regalia

3:39pm Wednesday 5th February 2014

AS A Swindon bus driver Jeff Starr’s route regularly took him to all corners of the borough but as he ferried passengers through the estates of Penhill, Freshbrook and Moredon his mind was usually elsewhere… around 4,000 miles away on the Great Plains of North America where his forefathers once hunted buffalo.

Bid to put us on the world map

Swindon Advertiser: Isambard Kingdom Brunel

12:43pm Wednesday 29th January 2014

THE Great Wall of China, the Pyramids at Giza, the Grand Canyon, the Coliseum, the Rose Red City of Petra, Niagara Falls, Pompeii, Machu Picchu, the Parthenon, the Tower of London, the Great Barrier Reef, the Taj Mahal.

Jolly barbecue weather

Swindon Advertiser: This picturesque shot of Coate Water is from 1998 but the timeless image has hardly changed since the reservoir was created in 1822. During the 1830s Coate Water was described “a fine sheet of water.” Who’s arguing?

10:46am Thursday 23rd January 2014

IT is impossible to imagine such a scenario today – the boys and girls at Swindon health and safety would blow the mother of all fuses at the very notion.

The Mummy returns

Swindon Advertiser: Swindon's oldest resident the boy priest Hatemui is comfortably ensconced in his colourful coffin

2:40pm Wednesday 15th January 2014

HAVING tragically died before the full bloom of youth, the body of the boy priest Hatemui was meticulously prepared for that final journey through the darkest chasms of the Underworld in anticipation of attaining the ultimate, eternal goal… a place in the Afterlife.

Sorry tale of the strolling stones...after Mr Frost was frozen out

Swindon Advertiser: The remnants of Swindon's 'lost temple' were stacked in a Northamptonshire field for four years after being acquired by developer Neill Taylor from the Frost family in 2002

2:32pm Wednesday 8th January 2014

STANLEY Frost – ex-prisoner of war, artist, electricity board employee and, as it transpires, a true romantic - is walking through Swindon shopping centre when he is stopped dead in his tracks. He cannot believe his eyes. He is aghast.

PC Webb - a man who made a difference

Swindon Advertiser: PC Richard Webb, a respected and popular local bobby. This photograph was used on a leaflet circulated to publicise his scanner appeal in May 1986

10:55am Wednesday 18th December 2013

PROPPED up in bed at Princess Margaret Hospital, old school bobby Richard Webb is in all likelihood wondering what has happened to his life after it has been turned upside down by a particularly savage blow.

Waxing lyrical about vinyl

Swindon Advertiser: Eric Stott checks the latest second-hand vinyl arrivals at Blood on the Tracks

3:30pm Wednesday 11th December 2013

AS THE needle drops onto The Family That Plays Together, a long playing record by the Los Angeles-based Sixties hard rock psychedelic blues quintet Spirit, Eric Stott proclaims, with a mixture of conviction and satisfaction: “You can’t beat vinyl – there’s nothing like it.”

Drums and face... that’s our Mr O’D

Swindon Advertiser: Pete drumming at a recent Teddy White gig at The Vic. How does he cope with playing so many drumming styles for so many bands? “It’s not easy at first. You just have to adapt,” says Pete. “I listen to a lot of records too, and that helps.”

10:22am Wednesday 4th December 2013

HARVEY and The Rent Boys, Bantu, Ska Trek, Up Yours, Pignose, The Mill, Erin Bardwell Collective, Vindaloo Brothers, The Unmistakable Paul Cooke, The Michael Alexander Express, Sneaky Feet, at least half-a-dozen varied incarnations of the Teddy White band; mustn’t forget greasy rocking rodents The Hamsters From Hell.

The Robins are not welcome in the forest

Swindon Advertiser: Sir Jonathon Porritt

1:52pm Wednesday 27th November 2013

THE country’s foremost environmentalist is striding over a lumpy, unkempt former rubbish dump where countless thousands of tons of household waste and builders spoil has been buried or tipped.

Last tango in Swindon...

Swindon Advertiser: When the golden age of cinema is in full bloom from the Thirties to the Fifties Swindon has nine cinemas, including The Palladium in Jennings Street, Rodbourne

9:24am Wednesday 20th November 2013

NOT for the first time – but certainly the last – protesters are brandishing banners and chanting slogans outside a cinema in the middle of Swindon. Like their heroes John Wayne and Clint Eastwood they have a cause worth fighting for.

The shop that time forgot

Swindon Advertiser: The shop that time forgot

9:18am Wednesday 13th November 2013

HE walks past that fading, threadbare little shop, with its cracked and rotting wooden frames, grimy windows, crumbling plaster and peeling pink paint, at least a couple of hundred times. Glenn Mason nearly always stops and stares in, even though nothing ever changes. The box of Whiskas Cocktail cat food, as always, is sandwiched between the family-sized packets of Corn Flakes and Quaker Oats.

Photographer drawn to the war zone

Swindon Advertiser: Seconds after Jason Moore took a picture of this Palestinian protester, the photographer was shot with a rubber bullet

7:10am Wednesday 6th November 2013

JASON Moore is in the midst of a violent melee as dozens of Palestinian demonstrators hurl rocks and stones at Israeli troops. Armed soldiers charge protesters and everyone runs for cover. Well, almost everyone. Jason, a photographer, is keen to capture the dramatic scenes as they unfold so he decides to hang around. He is close to a demonstrator who is about lob a hefty missile. Jason has him in his sights. Click. Gotcha.

Just call it street cred

Swindon Advertiser: Tenzing Norgay

7:30am Wednesday 30th October 2013

SO what do furniture dealer’s wife Mary Grove, Athena the Greek goddess of war, Wembley Stadium, brewer John Sheppard and railway signalman Tom Cannon have in common?


Swindon Advertiser: The derelict Belmont Brewery is in danger of demolition before it is restored and returned to life as a nightclub… only to run into a “blasphemy” row. It is currently standing empty – but at least it is standing

5:14pm Thursday 24th October 2013

AS dusk is about to fall on a drizzly summer evening I am in West Swindon contemplating a futuristic structure held aloft by an ensemble of yellow painted tubular steel columns that, from a certain angle, resemble spiders’ legs.

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