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.