A CHURCH based in the GWR pattern store will display old railway plans once it fully opens next year.

The Pattern Church, part of the Diocese of Bristol, welcomed a congregation to its first service at the pattern store building on Penzance Drive on Sunday.

The Grade II listed building, which until last year had been the Italian restaurant Bottelinos, was built in 1897 for Great Western Railway as a pattern store to keep engineering plans and designs.

The church’s Reverend Joel Sales told the Adver: “We had a great time on Sunday. It was a big celebration, the marquee was full. We had people of all ages, so it felt vibrant and fun.

“It’s just the beginning of a whole adventure but it was a really encouraging and fun start.

“Swindon has this rich history with the railway works, which is so much a part of Swindon.

“For us as a church to be in that building which is tied to that story is a real privilege. We’re hoping the church here can be a significant part of the town in the future.”

When the refurbishment is finished the church hopes to display the hundred or so wooden patterns still left behind since the building closed along with the railway works in 1986.

“We’ll display them at different points in the building when the work is finished to help tell that story,” Rev Sales added.

Work will start to transform the building itself in the new year. It is expected to be finished by the summer.

The new church hopes the building’s unique history will strike a chord with those looking for a faith.

“As a church our heart is to reach out to people who aren’t connected to a church,” Rev Sales said.

“For lots of people, when they’re interested in exploring faith they will look for a church with a steeple. But that can also be an obstacle.

“It is exciting to be part of a project where the Church of England is putting a stake in the ground and we’re saying we believe the church has a major role to play in the future as much as the past.”