NOEL Beauchamp, 47, is project manager for the blue plaque scheme run by Swindon Heritage, which is planning to honour Diana Dors. Mr Beauchamp, who has an engineering business, lives in Old Town and is married with two children.

“It’s all too easy,” said Noel Beauchamp, “to live in a town like Swindon, whether you live in the new part or the old part, and just exist within its roads and its houses and its services.

“You can get up go to work, come home, go to bed, get into the routine – and fall into the trap of believing that’s all Swindon is.”

He would like more people to look beyond the façade and into the stories and the people behind the making of the town.

“Especially New Swindon, having been created by the most advanced thinking people of the day, the railway people. They were effectively trying to create the future. It wasn’t developing naturally, it was a manmade decision to change the way the country was and the way Swindon was.

“To try to understand and retrace what drove them and gave them their vision is a fascinating thing. You dig into how they did it and you realise that these people weren’t just your average man in the street. They were geniuses of their day.”

Noel suspects the town’s industrial heritage might have influenced something for which Swindon has been criticised down the years.

“Swindon has always been knocked for knocking down old buildings, getting rid of famous buildings, neglecting buildings and this kind of thing. This stems, I think, from the fact that the early people who ran the local boards in Swindon, the Old Town Council and the New Town Council, came from the railway.

“They were senior people from the railway whose only vision in life was to the future and in advancing and going forward, so anything which was already there was not relevant to their future plans. Therefore everything was in a forward direction and anything which was from the past would have been deemed superfluous and not needed any more, because it didn’t fit the picture of the future they were trying to create.

“That’s my theory, anyway.”

Noel, originally from Eynsham in Oxfordshire, is the son of a lorry driver and a housewife.

Technical college in Oxford was followed by a career in industry. He would set up his own firm in his early thirties.

At 27 he did a night school A-level in archaeology, a subject he’d become interested in entirely by chance.

“I used to work down in Market Lavington, down past Devizes, and I used to drive through Avebury every day on the way to and from. One day I noticed that there were some archaeologists digging a hole in the ground, and so I stopped my car and had a chat with them.

“They invited me to come back the following week, stuck a trowel in my hand and said: ‘Do you want to have a go?’ “I’d moved to Swindon in 1992 and suddenly appeared in this railway town. People always talk about the railways, and I arrived just after they’d closed the factory, five or six years earlier. I got interested in the history of Old Swindon and New Swindon.

“When I first came to Swindon the Outlet Centre hadn’t yet been built, so there was this big derelict site there. I lived very close to that. I would walk over there, have a look and try to imagine what was in there before.

“You dig into the history with groups like the Swindon Society and they show you these amazing photographs of 14,000 men walking to work, going into work and creating these incredible machines. You can’t help but be fascinated by what happened.”

Noel also discovered a personal interest which has helped to chart the history of forgotten local businesses.

“I was in an antique shop, probably in Marlborough. There was a ginger beer bottle with the word ‘Swindon’ on it. You don’t often see things with the word ‘Swindon’ on it unless it’s a signpost leading either to or from the town, so I thought it was interesting and purchased it for about five quid.

“Once you’ve got one you wonder whether there are any more. Then you look and you start to get more involved and before you know where you are you’ve got the best part of 60 flagons, two hundred ginger beer bottles and about two hundred glass codd bottles – they’re the ones with the glass marble in the top – all with ‘Swindon’ written on them.

“I’m trying to create a definitive record of everybody who produced a bottle with their name on it, including chemists’ shops, early stationery shops with their inks, grocers’ shops, that sort of stuff.”

His collection is detailed on a website, swindonbott

Noel’s involvement with Swindon Heritage began when he read an Adver article about the new magazine some years ago.

The idea for the plaques began with the organisation’s guided historical walks in Radnor Street cemetery, where many interesting figures lie.

“I think there are a lot of people who are so busy living their day-to-day lives in Swindon that they have lost the connection with what made Swindon and the people who made Swindon.

“It’s very easy to knock Swindon and say, ‘Well, we’ve knocked all the old buildings down and there’s nothing here, there’s nothing here, there’s nothing here’. Well, I think it’s time the people of Swindon put something back in to show what was here and who was here.

“Swindon Heritage has taken it upon themselves to do that, very much in the spirit of things like how the Mechanics Institute was started. It wasn’t started by the council or the railway, it was started by the people of New Swindon. I think that time is here again, where people need to do things and not sit back and wait for the council or the Government to do things. It’s time for people to take responsibility, bring back their own heritage and put it on display.”

The blue plaques are crowdfunded, and further information about Swindon Heritage’s work can be found at