The Museum and Art Gallery on Bath Road, Old Town, is so small that it can only show a fraction of the amazing collections that Swindon owns. As a result, the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust is now bidding to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a contribution towards a landmark new building in the town centre. In the meantime, experts at the museum are lifting the lid on just some of the objects that tell us the long and colourful story of Swindon and how it shaped the community we are today

IF you think you know all there is to know about Swindon, try testing yourself at the Made in Swindon gallery on the ground floor of the Museum and Art Gallery on Bath Road.

This is the gallery that celebrates some of the companies and products that contributed to the growth of our town, and shaped its identity. One of the first things to hit you is the diversity of pieces – from Garrard’s record desks to the original sign from McIlroy’s (which was such a grand department store that it even had its own ballroom, complete with chandeliers and panelling from the cruise liner Mauritania. A boy band called The Beatles once performed there).

But the gallery also boasts some smaller, yet no less interesting, pieces.

This week’s object is a teapot, part of a set of crested or heraldic china that was donated to the museum in 2008.

Crested china had become all the rage in the 19th century. The new railway network, in which Swindon played such a significant part, opened up the possibilities of travel for pleasure to people who previously could only have dreamed of visiting far-flung parts of their country. And where there is tourism, there’s money.

A major producer of high quality china, called Goss, soon caught on to the potential profit in souvenirs, and began churning out crested china that travellers could take home to remind them – and their friends – of their newly acquired sophisticated holiday habits. Other potteries quickly followed suit.

If you don’t remember life before Easyjet or Ryanair, loading up with holiday memorabilia may sound odd, but if you remember when catching a plane was considered exotic, you might even have a Spanish flamenco dancer doll somewhere in the back of the wardrobe that served a similar purpose.

The interesting thing about “Goss”

china, as it became ubiquitously known, is that although much of it was produced as a blank in Staffordshire, with town crests added later, it still tells us much about the place it represents.

Take our teapot, for example.

The crest of Swindon, with the motto ‘‘salubritas et industria’ or ‘health and industry’, reveals a lot.

There’s more than a nod to the fact that what we now know as Swindon originally had its base in two very separate areas – Old Town, up on the hill, and New Town, which owed its existence to the Great Western Railway works.

The crescents are the motif of the Goddard family who were Lords of the Manor from 1563 to 1927, first living in a Tudor mansion and later a fine 18th century house in The Lawns off High Street. The castles represent the Villet family, owners of the Eastcott estate south of the hill, where New Town was built.

The mitre in the bottom left corner symbolises Bishop Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, who was granted the Manor of Swindon by his half-brother of William the Conqueror following the Norman Conquest. And the winged wheel represents modern Swindon, and its contribution to the new swift travelling, which of course itself gave birth to the trend for the crested china.

The locomotive, Lord of the Isles, heads the crest and the arm proudly holding two golden hammers represents the prosperity resulting from the industry for which our town has always been renowned.

The Made in Swindon gallery refresh was part of the 2014-16 Heritage Lottery Funded project Hidden Potential: Understanding, Centralising, Caring for and Sharing Swindon’s Stored Collections.

n You can find out more about Swindon’s story at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.

To back the bid or give feedback on the plans for a new museum and art gallery, complete the form at or email