‘There is very little architecture in Swindon and a great deal of building,’ John Betjeman famously wrote in 1950. ‘But Swindon is more interesting than many towns which are more beautiful,’ he also observed.
Our series of aerial photographs of Swindon ends with a view of Regent Circus – but when exactly was it taken?
It was first thought that this collection of photographs dated from the late 1950s – however eagle eyed Advertiser readers have revealed that a couple are considerably earlier.
Evidence of demolition work already under way in Regent Street might help readers date this photograph.
The adoption of the 1952 Town Development Act saw Swindon enter a new era – new industry, new housing and a new town centre.
In A Swindon Retrospect 1855-1930 local author Frederick Large remembers when green fields separated Old and New Swindon with Regent Street a mere farm track leading down to the canal.
Regent Circus “was part of the farm, with a large cowyard and stalls for the housing of cattle where the Town Hall now stands.”
The first few cottages along this track were built in the 1850s and by 1865 the enterprising householders were trading from their front rooms in the newly named Regent Street.
Once a busy traffic through road, Regent Street was pedestrianised in 1965.
The imposing Baptist Tabernacle (1) was built in 1886 to replace the chapel in Fleet Street, by then too small to accommodate the growing congregation. Demolished in 1978. the Bath stone columns and facade returned to Swindon in 2007 and are due to be reinstated close to the original site. Also caught on camera, could this be Dorothy House (2), once home to subsequent Tabernacle caretakers?
The Savoy Cinema, (3) designed by WR Glen, staff architect for the UK ABC chain of cinemas, opened in 1937. During its 54-year history the cinema was also known as the Cannon. It closed in 1991, later reopening as a Wetherspoon themed pub, appropriately called The Savoy.
From new estates on former farmland to views of the original old market town on the hill, this look across Regent Circus completes our series of aerial photographs. If you have any photographs of Swindon landmarks long gone, we’d like to hear from you. Please write to Aerial Memories at the Swindon Advertiser, 100 Victoria Road, Swindon SN1 3BE or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. The Baptist Tabernacle – this imposing landmark was built in 1886, and demolished in 1978. There are hopes that part of the building will be resurrected in the town centre.
2. Is this Dorothy House? This is the building that may have been home to subsequent Tabernacle caretakers.
3. The Savoy cinema, which which opened in 1937, closed down in 1991, and is now a pub.