Join the Trust →

"This Is Our Heritage"

A publication which was crucial in winning the II* heritage listing for Swindon’s Mechanics’ Institution has been made available on this website, as a file which can be downloaded for use by schools or anyone else interested in the most thoroughly researched statement of the Mechanics’ role in Swindon’s fast-paced story.

This_is_our_Heritage“, written by Trevor Cockbill, was first published by the Mechanics’ Institution in 1997. All 100 copies were quickly sold via local bookstores and our members’ newsletter “On the Line”.

The document was written for use as a public lecture which Trevor delivered at the Coleview Community Centre on 11 July 1996. The Mechanics’ Preservation Trust decided in 1998 that the heritage listing probably did not reflect a full understanding of the physical character of the building, let alone the social significance of the organisations and activities which were associated with it.

Besides the Institution itself, The GWR Medical Fund Society first met in these premises, until the Milton Road premises were built in the 1890’s, evolving over the course of 100 years into a service which inspired the framers of the National Health Service in 1948. The first New Swindon Town Council meetings were also held here, perhaps until the Town Hall in Regent Circus was built in 1891.

Because these and other achievements were not reflected in the original listing from 1970, (and because the flytower was not recognised as a stage, nor the hall as a theatre of some national significance), we submitted “This Is Our Heritage” to the national government Dept. of Culture, Media & Sport and asked them to review the listing, which was then set as Grade II.

Trevor’s story turned the scales in favour of Swindon’s most important and prominent building in February, 1999, when the DCMS awarded the much elevated ranking of II(*) to the Mechanics’s, placing it among the top 6% of all listed buildings, and establishing its significance in the national story, not just Swindon’s.

Only 2 months later, Swindonians mourned Trevor Cockbill’s passing; but not before he had seen the star and understood the impact it could make to the fate of his beloved Mechanics’, which he had known from childhood.

Hopefully, anyone who reads this publication will understand why the Trust still hopes to see the Mechanics’ available once again to the people of Swindon as a hive of community activity, and a prime focus for local identity.

This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to "This Is Our Heritage"

  1. adrian vaughan says:

    The Mechanics Institute represents all that was best in Swindon. The learned lectures that were given there weekly, the earnest study opf real subjects like engineering, chemistry, mathematics, working people improving them,selves through study and improving the greatest railway in the world at the same time. The years of neglect of this very great building, home of a very noble ethic of work and learning, shows how low the leaders of the modern world have sunk. Please save it and turn it back into a centre of learning and the pursuit of knowledge – just because learning is the most civilised thing a person can do.

  2. Bryan V Hardwick says:

    As an apprentice at the training school in Dean Street in 1972/73, myself and many of the other apprentices would spend evenings in the Mechanics’ playing snooker. We were not allowed to buy alchol! although we managed it sometimes. I was unhappy to see the state the building had been reduced after the closure of the works. It is good to see that something is now being done to bring it back into use. It is a shame that the new use appears to not include anything to do with it’s history or original perpose.

  3. Alan says:

    The Mechanics’ Institution is not just an old historic building. It is key to where Swindon came from and also to where it should aspire to be. Those lost years of idle waiting have not been in vain. The time has come for Swindon to rediscover it’s heart. The time has come for the Mechanics’ to wake up from it’s slumber. That time is NOW.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *