VISITORS to Swindon this week in 1976 included two veteran entertainers who had helped to sustain the nation’s morale during World War Two.

Charlie Chester - or Cheerful Charlie Chester, as he was known to millions at the height of his fame - had started his showbusiness career as a stand-up comedian before becoming a major radio star in the 1940s.

The following decade saw him become an early television star, although he was best known and loved for his radio work and broadcast almost until the end of his life in 1997.

His visit to Swindon 42 years ago was at the invitation of the Lions Clubs of Swindon, Highworth and Wootton Bassett, who needed a celebrity attraction for a charity event at the Polo Ground.

Charlie’s duties included drawing a raffle whose top prize was a choice between a new caravan and £600 in cash.

Swindon’s other visiting veteran star was Tommy Trinder, a comedian who had been a national celebrity since the 1930s, having learned his trade in the music hall variety shows which were hugely popular in the days before radio ownership was widespread.

Like Charlie Chester, he had made countless wartime broadcasts which helped to keep the nation’s spirits up.

Also like Charlie Chester, he was in Swindon at the request of the Lions.

We said: “Comedian Tommy Trinder has become fashion-conscious.

“At least it seemed like it at Swindon’s Oasis Pleasuredome. The funny man opened Marks and Spencer’s touring autumn-winter fashion show with wisecracks which had the 1,100-strong audience in stitches.

“The show, which features M and S sales assistants as models, travels around the country raising money for charity.

“ Last night’s display was arranged with the Swindon Lions Club, and the proceeds went to the Thamesdown Hydrotherapy Pool.

“Mayor of Thamesdown, Coun Les Gowing, presented a cheque for £400 to the Pool Association.”

Tommy Trinder died in 1989.

Two homegrown famous faces also appeared in the Adver that week. One was that of Diana Dors, who was interviewed on a BBC1 West TV show called Waugh Talk.

It was presented by journalist Auberon Waugh, son of Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn.

The other was Diana’s fellow Swindonian and former childhood sweetheart, the zoologist, author and TV personality Desmond Morris.

Although most British people recognised him instantly thanks to programmes such as Zoo Time and best-selling volumes of popular science including The Naked Ape, rather fewer realised that he was also a committed - and respected - surrealist painter.

A forthcoming exhibition of his work at the Arts Centre was all the excuse we needed to request an interview, and he was happy to oblige.

An avid painter since the age of 16, he had first exhibited in his home town nearly 30 years earlier, only to have his work met with widespead incomprehension if the Adver letters page was anything to go by.

He returned time and time again to what he called his biomorphs - strange life forms inhabiting an equally strange world. “The more fantasy there is in my paintings,” he said, “the less there is in my writing. We are all part reality and part fantasy, we have intellectual moments and emotional moments.

“The two sides make up a balanced personality.

“People don’t have to give up their creative side, but they feel it isn’t really important. That’s tragic. I think it’s desperately important.”

In Old Town, a church was on offer for £1,000, provided the buyer was wiling to dismantle it and take it away.

St Mary’s in The Mall was and is a daughter church of Christ Church. The modern St Mary’s is next to the Goddard House sheltered housing complex, and both have stood since the late 1970s.

Its predecessor, according to the church website, was built on the site in 1924. It was put up for sale in 1976 to make way for the new complex.

The vicar, Canon Derek Palmer, said: “St Mary’s is an old wooden building which will have to be demolished anyway to make way for an old people’s home. But we feel it would be a waste to see the old church building destroyed. It could be dismantled and re-erected on a different site.”

The church was equipped with a pipe organ which was for sale separately at £500.

We can find no further mentions of the old church building or its organ in our archives, and wonder whether any readers can tell us about their ultimate fates.

In another history-related story, we sent a reporter and photographer to cover the moment when stonemason Mr J Packer replaced the old canal milestone proclaiming ‘Semington 26 miles’ in its old town centre location.

It had been stored while the Brunel Centre was built.