The Honda plant became well known to anyone who got on to the M4 at Junction 15, with large signs to the gates from the A419, so significant was the site

And it was a massively significant player in keeping Swindon’s economy going and growing when the Japanese car factory arrived in 1985.

Until then, Swindon was world famous as an engineering town - but for the railways, not cars.

The GWR works founded in the 19th century had continued and Swindon was a centre for British rail engineering. But that works was closed in 1986.

Honda had opened its Swindon plant in 1985 – it meant there was a ready-made employer for the skilled engineering workers of the town, as well as giving a boost to dozens of companies in the borough and wider area who formed the company’s supply chain.

And the site itself in South Marston was another part of the town’s proud industrial heritage.

Originally an airfield built in the early years of the Second World War with an aircraft factory that produced training aircraft initially and then made the world-famous Spitfire fighters for Vickers -Armstrong-Supermarine until 1961.

The name lives on in the Swindon Supermarine football club that plays its home games just north of the Honda plant.

The main runway is still visible on the site from the air and every car built by Honda between 1985 and 2021 has been given its first test drive down the runway that saw Spitfires, Seafires and a host of other aircraft taking off into the sky.

The A419 drivers who became so familiar with the signs can thank Honda for the upgrade to the dual carriageway at Blunsdon Hill, bypassing the single-lane road.

This allowed better access to both the M5 and M4 for lorries carrying the Jazz, Civic and CRV models to showrooms across the UK and Europe.

On February 19 2019, Honda first announced its decision to close the South Marston plant.

When the coronavirus came to the UK in March 2020, the South Marston factory halted production until April 6. Covid-19 cases were confirmed at the site in July. Congestion at the UK's ports prompted another pause at the plant in December 2020, and a shortage of parts caused two brief shutdowns last January.