IT HAS taken 30 years and a 180-mile round trip but the stones that once made up one of the town's landmark buildings are back where they belong.

The Baptist Tabernacle in Regents Circus was demolished in 1978.

But now salvaged parts of the 19th Century building have returned to the Science Museum in Wroughton from Northampton, ahead of being built into a new shopping complex in the town centre.

"It is nice to see the stone back," said Swindon Council leader Roderick Bluh.

"I did see the stones all jumbled up in Northampton.

"But to see them here, sorted, in boxes, and being put into slots, has been quite a moment for me.

"Of course now it's just a gigantic jigsaw puzzle for someone to start putting back together."

Although the Tabernacle was demolished in 1978, the portico, at the front of the building, was saved by artist Stanley Frost.

He planned to rebuild the tabernacle's six columns, its roof, façade and stone wall surrounds at his home near Malmesbury.

But his idea was thwarted by planners so he sold the stone to Neil Taylor, who planned to use it on his house in Northamptonshire.

He came up against the same problems and so stored the stone.

In 2004 Coun Bluh heard about the demolition of the Tabernacle and looked into its history.

He then traced all 200 tonnes of the removed stone to Mr Taylor.

Coun Bluh contacted Mr Taylor to see if he wanted to sell the stone.

In 2005 he said yes' and last week the authority agreed to fork out £360,000 for the stone.

The cash will be repaid at a later date by developer Modus, which plans to use the stones in its redevelopment of Granville Street.

When the stones are put up again, it will stand just feet from the site of the original tabernacle, despite having travelled more than 180 miles in the intervening 29 years.

"I wanted to get the stone back because I thought it could be an important symbol in the regeneration of Swindon," said Coun Bluh.

"But all along I have thought that to bring this off would be nothing short of a miracle.

"A lot of people weren't convinced by the idea when it was talked about.

"But I firmly believe that if you have a vision, if it's a strong vision and other people buy into it, it shows what can be achieved."