CELEBRATIONS to mark the 175th anniversary of the birth of the railway works in Swindon are moving full steam ahead after a day of events across the town.

Modern-day primary schools transformed into Victorian schoolhouses and a special heritage stamp was issued by Royal Mail for the occasion.

176 years ago Daniel Gooch penned a letter to Isambard Kingdom Brunel recommending Swindon as the location for an essential railway works for the Great Western Railway.

This Thursday marked 175 years to the day that construction plans were formerly approved by the GWR board, heralding the birth of a new railway town.

Schools across town held assemblies and hosted visitors from organisations including Swindon Heritage in recognition of the important date in Swindon's history.

Pupils at Bishopstone Primary School had a day to remember as they stepped back in time to learn what life was like for children in their position all those years ago.

Dressed in full Victorian costume, the pupils re-enacted the story of Gooch and Brunel at a special assembly before a day of themed activities and classes.

Headteacher Emma Lindsay said: “We started with the assembly and then they were split into two groups, the boys did drill outside and the girls did singing.

“This morning they’ve made bread, peg dolls and a Victorian spinning toy, at lunchtime there will be no football, instead they’ll be playing Victorian games.

“They seem to be really enjoying themselves and learning at the same time.

“Our school is 167 years old, almost as old as the 175 year point, it’s an ideal setting to teach the children about what things would have been like.”

The effort to engage primary school children is part of the plan put together by the Swindon 175 group to mark the anniversary year.

Another one of their initiatives came to fruition on Thursday with the revealing of a commemorative stamp by Royal Mail Heritage bearing the words Swindon 175.

STEAM was chosen as the perfect venue to unveil the stamp.

It features a picture of a Dean Single Locomotive from the GWR’s Achilles Class, which was built at the railway works in Swindon between 1891 and 1899.

Coun Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member responsible for STEAM, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled STEAM has been chosen to issue Royal Mail’s Post and Go stamp of the Swindon-built locomotive and the design is absolutely stunning.

“The stamps are fantastic memento, whether you’re a collector of stamps or are just looking to send a postcard from the museum.

“I would urge the people of Swindon to show their support of STEAM and buy a stamp today and join us in celebrating Swindon175.”

The stamps can be purchased from the kiosk at the museum on Kemble Drive from Friday.

The ever-present railway theme that runs through the year’s events will be revisited next month when the iconic hooter used to call the people of Swindon to work at the railway yards will sound again for the first time in 30 years.

Swindon Advertiser:

  • King George V at STEAM