SWINDON’S historic Railway Village has been named England’s favourite conservation area following a public vote.

The accolade from the Civic Voice Society was bestowed on the area after it received a thousand more votes than the closest winner out of 18 sites across England.

The area was nominated alongside 249 across England, and shortlisted by the society down to the final 18 at the start of October.

A frenzied social media campaign by the civic society and local people in Swindon then ensured it got into the top spot a week before the winners were due to be announced.

Angela Atkinson, who collected the glass trophy at the organisation's conference in Birmingham on behalf of Swindon Civic Voice yesterday, told the Adver: “It’s a clear demonstration of people’s passion for heritage in Swindon. We couldn’t have achieved it without the public’s help.

“What a groundswell of support! Just being nominated was an achievement itself. I’m in a bit of a daze.

“People were just so keen for us to get this, a small number of people were reminding people 20 times a day and it did the trick. So thanks to them

“It can only be a positive thing to take forward, for the railway village and for the town.”

The village was built shortly after the Great Western Railway works established in 1841 to house the workers and their families.

The Mechanics Institution and medical fund hospital are part of the railway village and were were identified this year as being nationally significant for providing a blueprint for the NHS after a visit by its founder Nye Bevin who remarked on its facilities for the workers.

“Those people didn’t just build a railway, but a community,” said Angela.

“That’s what makes the Railway Village special. They brought families from all corners of the country. It’s really quite an astonishing story and it should be recognised, and be known to people moving to Swindon now.”

The vote was the result of support from all parts of Swindon.

Swindon Borough Council has been criticised in the past by heritage groups in the town for its lack of enthusiasm to preserve areas of historical and cultural interest.

But said Angela: “They have worked with us on this. It’s about collaboration, we all have to help each other.”

“We need to build on this with the community and the council.”

The Railway Village managed to beat the Port Sunlight conservation area, another example of a model industrial village in Merseyside and the Georgian city centre in Lichfield, which came second and third.

The vote was part of The Big Conservation Conversation by the Civic Society to raise awareness about areas of historic interest and encourage communities to celebrate and protect those at risk.

To find out more about the railway village visit the Mechanics Institution Trust, based in Emlyn Square, or the Swindon Civic Voice website at swindoncivicvoice.co.uk.