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Taking a trip through Old Town in pictures
12:34pm Tuesday 18th September 2012 in News
THE images of Old Town shown here are among almost 200 in a new book called Swindon Old Town Through Time.
It’s the latest work of prolific local author Mark Child, 69. The former librarian’s other books include Swindon An Illustrated History and Hometown History Swindon, as well as volumes about everything from Church architecture to the evacuation of Dunkirk.
The new book features historic images of dozens of Old Town scenes, drawn from collections including those of Swindon Library and the Swindon Society. They’re often accompanied by present-day shots taken from the same vantage points.
“I just chose the pictures that I wanted to put in there,” said Mr Child, “and then I went and – where possible – shot them as they are today.
“I wanted to give them a focus – if you don’t do that, people have no idea what they’re looking at. The town has changed so much in many areas. You need to say, ‘This is what’s there now’.”
The most striking examples of this include a picture taken of a supposedly Medieval building which once stood at the top of Victoria Road at its junction with Albert Street, and which was knocked down 50 years ago. Beneath is an image of the small parade of shops occupying the site today.
There is also a photograph of the Goddard family’s mansion in The Lawn. It is shown alongside a modern picture taken from the same spot – the vanished building are squat stone pillars that once formed part of the garden landscaping. An old picture of the Victoria pub shows that it once boasted a balcony.
There are ‘then and now’ comparisons of Drove Road, the Corn Exchange, Newport Street, Wood Street, Goddard Avenue, the Arts Centre and dozens of other locations.
He doesn’t always approve of the changes, and isn’t shy about saying so. He writes in the introduction: “Some dreadful decisions have been taken for Old Swindon since the 1950s: unnecessary road-widening schemes and car parks construction; building projects in the hands of speculative developers; and obfuscation that has clouded the potential for regeneration projects.”
In spite of this, he is no advocate of time standing still. “I just think it’s important for the past to be remembered,” he said, “but I don’t think it should be preserved in aspic and I have never believed that about old buildings, either. I believe they should all be found a modern or contemporary function – there’s no point in saying they should be put to the same use because in many cases, particularly the Mechanics Institute, all the functions served at the time of its demise are now served by other agencies.”
Mr Child, who is married to Lorraine, has been interested in history since boyhood. He worked at Swindon Reference Library under Harold Jolliffe, the man said to have influenced Swindon culture more than any other person. He later moved to WH Smith, and has been a published writer since the 1960s.
Swindon Old Town Through Time (ISBN 978-1-4456-0945-4) is published by Amberley, price £14.99. It will be followed by companion volume Swindon Central Through Time.
Mr Child will be appearing at the Pen & Paper Bookshop in Victoria Road from noon to 2pm on September 29.