THE biggest local news in the second full week of July, 1967, extended to 380,000 square feet and sat on 17 acres of development land.

WH Smith, having outgrown its Art Deco distribution centre in London, opened a vast replacement on the Greenbridge Industrial Estate.

The opening ceremony consisted of Swindon mayor Alderman HG Lewis unveiling a commemorative plaque, watched by dignitaries including the town’s MP, Francis Noel-Baker.

A day earlier, an Adver reporter toured the building and wrote: “History will be made on the Greenbridge Industrial Estate tomorrow.

“History will be made for Swindon, and for the largest bookselling and newsagency concern in the country.”

The new centre cost £3.5m, initially employed 450 people and was the largest building on the industrial estate as well as the most modern structure of its kind in the country.

To give a clue to the sheer size of the place, we ran a photograph of a member of staff riding an electric scooter of a kind sometimes seen in spy films as the favoured transport of people working in supervillains' underground lairs.

It was captioned: “Even walking has been replaced by automation at the WH Smith supply centre. Stationery stock manager Mr H Burton is shown here travelling around on a mini-trike – an industrial motor scooter.”

Another form transport was even more associated with villain’s lairs in the 1960s, not to mention pop festivals, classic TV series The Prisoner, Carnaby Street, young people with flowers in their hair and many other symbols of the decade. One even made an appearance toward the end of Carry on Camping, driven by a hippy.

Known as the Mini Moke, it was a doorless, roofless car which looked a little like a like a military Jeep shrunk in the wash, and an example featured in a Chiseldon wedding.

The bride was the former Miss Jenny Ormond, who was from the village, while the groom was David Housego from London. The couple were driven from Chiseldon Parish Church in the Moke.

Another sign of the times was the growing desire among visionary planners and social scientists to banish as much traffic as possible from our town and city centres, allowing pedestrians to roam in safety.

As with so many innovations, Swindon was at the forefront.

We announced: “Swindon Town Council have confirmed the closure to traffic each Saturday of Regent Street and Bridge Street as far as Fleet Street.

“Their request for the closure, made 12 months ago, has been approved by the Minister of Transport.”

One councillor, strongly in favour of pedestrianisation, had told colleagues at a meeting: “At the moment, no-one could possibly describe Saturday shopping conditions in these two streets as being pleasant or even comfortable.

“By mid-morning the whole length of this, our main shopping thoroughfare, has become choked.

“Mothers with perambulators and people with dogs add to the confusion, and against this surging tide motorists and bus drivers slowly struggle to make their escape in Regent Circus.”

Two months later, Swindon became only the third location in the country to experiment with traffic-free days on its main shopping street.

It was such a success that permanent pedestrianisation followed.

Regent Street businesses advertising in the newspaper that week half a century ago included The Rifleman, one of the town’s oldest inns, which is now a buffet restaurant.

In 1967 it was part of the Berni Inns chain, and the menu included schooners of sherry at 2s11d, or just short of 15p in decimal currency, and a feast of grilled rump steak with French fries, watercress, tomatoes, a buttered roll and either ice cream or cheese and biscuits.

The total cost was 11s6d, which equates to slightly less than 60p.

Although many of our stories had a modern slant, there was still place for some old fashioned human interest pieces.

A local mum was delighted to report that all three of her children had received accolades.

We said: “Mrs Anne Elmer, of Tydeman Street, Swindon, is the proud mother of three prize-winning daughters. Her youngest, 13-month-old Angela, won the title of best baby in a Lower Stratton baby show to add to two other first prizes she had previously won.

“Angela has been following in the steps of sisters four-year-old Caroline and two-year-old Janice, who also won first prizes when they were entered in baby shows at Swindon and Stratton St Margaret.”

For a feature on old crafts, we visited the Cricklade studio of acclaimed potter Ivan Martin, whose work commands high prices among collectors to this day.

Years later, when he retired, he would confess to having played a joke by planting some over-fired pottery pieces on the site of a local archaeological dig because the archaeologists hadn’t been having much luck and he felt sorry for them.

The fragments were duly cited as evidence of hitherto unknown ancient trade between Britain and Europe…