A new book about the cultural heritage of the West Country has ranked two Swindon writers among the area’s finest.

Alfred Williams and Richard Jefferies have been singled out for lofty praise in The West Country: A Cultural History, published by Signal Books (paperback, £12).

“Swindon should be proud of these two great men and do its best to promote their work,” said John Payne, the book’s author, who is from Bath.

And, while many might consider John’s hometown to be the cultural epicentre of the region, he said Swindon should recognise the rich heritage on its own doorstep.

Separate sections on both Jefferies, who died in 1887, and Williams, who died in 1930, are included in the book, giving them the same prominence as major authors from the West Country, such as Thomas Hardy and Daphne du Maurier.

“So far, Swindon has chosen not to give due honour to these two great writers, which I find puzzling,” said John.

“It sees itself as a proud former railway town, which is all well and good, but if we compare, say, the strong local following in the Nottingham area for DH Lawrence, its recognition of Alfred Williams is just not good enough.

“He deserves much better, and so does Richard Jefferies.”

Both Jefferies and Williams wrote for the Advertiser during their careers, but have otherwise never received sufficient local recognition to match their national reputations.

Jefferies was one of the great English nature writers said John.

“The way that he has been taken up by later writers such as war poet Edward Thomas and Henry Williamson, author of Tarka the Otter, who both penned biographies of Jefferies, bears witness to the continuing interest in his work,” John said.

John reserves special praise for Life In A Railway Factory, the warts-and-all account of working conditions and attitudes that Alfred Williams published in 1915 after a quarter of a century of employment in Swindon Railway Works.

“It is one of the first and best accounts of the realities of industrial time and discipline,” said John.

“But Williams, who was born in South Marston and lived his whole life there, also wrote about the surrounding area with great skill.”

And John has a message for those who have branded Swindon a cultural desert.

“That’s ridiculous. With its Arts Centre, its literature festival and its wonderful Steam museum, it is a thriving centre of heritage and the arts, but I wish it would show a bit more pride in its famous sons.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Dr Mike Pringle, the director of the Swindon Cultural Partnership.

He said: “I couldn’t agree more, and I welcome John’s comments, which echo what a growing number of people are saying in Swindon.

“We are already working with Swindon Borough Council on some ideas associated with Alfred Williams and the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate, because we agree that, in the past, Swindon hasn’t done enough to celebrate aspects of its heritage that it should be so proud of.”

l A new society has been formed to promote and celebrate the life and works of Alfred Williams. The Alfred Williams Heritage Society is bidding for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and will be officially launched next month, but its new website is already live – www.alfredwilliams.org.uk.