FILM-maker Martin Parry is putting the final touches to a unique 90-minute documentary charting the founding and growth of Swindon around the Great Western Railway Works.

His film Railway Town, which incorporates the earliest known footage of “the works” – and thus of Swindon – will be premiered at the Wyvern Theatre on Monday, April 25 and tickets are now on sale.

Martin, who will be taking the documentary to TV companies and later releasing it on DVD, wrote and produced the film to tie in with this year’s Swindon 175 celebrations, which mark the founding of the railway works in 1841, and thus the birth of modern Swindon.

He said that such a film had to be made in any case in order to fill a gap in the town’s history.

“No-one has made a film about Swindon, as such. It’s something that needed to be done,” he said.

Having founded the Western Film Archive in 1988 to “collect, preserve and make available audio visual material” from the Swindon area, he was in the perfect position to make such a documentary.

He also digitises and uploads footage from the town’s pioneering community television station Swindon Viewpoint and dipped into its unparalleled library of local film to help make Railway Town.

Martin, whose previous work includes the 1989 documentary Fire and Steel, a DVD which is still a steady seller at the STEAM museum, said: “That was about the railway works from the viewpoint of those who worked there.

“Railway Town is about Swindon itself – the town that grew-up around the Great Western Railway factory which began life 175 years ago.”

Swindon was a hill-top market community before modern Swindon’s “founders” Daniel Gooch and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, of the GWR, decided to build a railway factory on low grade farmland a mile-and-a-half away from the ancient settlement.

Railway Town traces the emergence of “New Swindon” and the town we know today from its remarkable beginnings as “wild west” settlement to the closure of the works in ’86, complete with controversies, triumphs and set-backs in-between.

Martin, of Central Swindon, used photographs dating to the 1860s, engravings as far back as the 1840s and footage from early 20th Century – the oldest being 1913 – as well as shooting new film.

It took several months of intense work and, with the premier six weeks away, he is still working on a finalised version.

Martin, who read a dozen books on the town’s history before writing the film, added: “I really enjoyed the research. Hopefully it’s all been worth it.”


  • The premiere of Railway Town is at 7pm on Monday, April 25. The screening will be followed by an intermission then an hour of panel discussion on Swindon Past and Future with questions and comments from the audience. Tickets are £7 and available from Wyvern Box Office