Although he died in 1894, examples of William Affleck’s work can still be seen on the streets of Swindon today.

Born in Gateshead in 1816, the son of practical engineer Robert Affleck, William served his apprenticeship at Hawkes & Son, a large engineering works and iron foundry at Gateshead before joining the prestigious Lambeth-based engineering firm of Maudsley & Field. Leaving Maudsley’s to take up an appointment at the GWR in Paddington, in around 1843 Affleck moved to 33 Exeter Street, Swindon and a job at the GWR Works.

In 1853 Affleck struck out on his own, establishing a foundry and engineering works in Prospect, Old Swindon on land previously owned by James Strange. The business flourished and the 1861 census records William 45, a machinist and coal merchant, employing 17 men and three boys. William and his wife lived alongside the works in Prospect Place with their growing family.

Like all good Victorian businessmen, William quickly became involved in civic duties, serving as a member of the Old Swindon Local Board. William made his will on July 4, 1894 just weeks before his death. He appointed his eldest son Robert as executor along with his accountant Enoch Smith of Sandringham Villa, Eastcott Lane, and John Joseph Jervis, manager of the Gas Works in Queen Street. William’s will gave his executors permission to “sell the whole of the premises known as the Prospect Engineering Works together with all the shops, machinery tools and goodwill of the business and the dwelling house and appurtenances”.

Keeping it in the family, William’s two sons Frederick Samuel Hahnemann Affleck and Theodore Sykes Affleck bought the business for £3,000.

William Affleck died on July 29, 1894 at Manor Farm, Ashbury, where he had spent the last weeks of a long illness. His obituary in the Advertiser described him as “another of Swindon’s men of mark – as well known and liked a man as it is possible to be found.” Five years before his death he was presented with a portrait purchased with the proceeds of a subscription raised by tradesmen.

His funeral took place at Christ Church on August 2 and was attended by numerous Old Swindon tradesmen including W Reynolds, boot manufacturer and local builder Thomas Turner. The service was conducted by the Rev CF Goddard (curate in charge). Affleck’s wife Maria died 18 years later and is buried with him in the cemetery at Christchurch.

Examples of Affleck’s ironmongery are still around today and can be spotted about town by the observant pedestrian. Drain covers survive in the George Street and Birch Street areas while the one photographed was snapped in Crombey Street.