Mechanics' Institution Trust

34 Faringdon Road sits below blue skies. The sandstone reflects the golden sun onto the green gardens in front.

A brief history of the Railway Village Museum

Step back in time at Swindon’s Railway Village Museum, 34 Faringdon Road, and find out how Victorian railway workers lived. We are volunteer-run and are always looking for more support. 

If you’re interested please email


A brief history of the Museum

In 1841 Swindon was chosen by the Great Western Railway as the site for its locomotive repair facility. Old Swindon did not have enough accommodation to cope with the large influx of skilled industrial workers from Scotland, Wales, London, Bristol and the north of England who came to the town for employment at the GWR Works. As a result, the GWR built the ‘Railway Village’ – an estate of 300 houses – for its workforce in the lowland area of New Swindon, near the canals.

The terraced rows of stone cottages were partly designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and were built by the company J & C Rigby of London, who were also constructing Swindon Station. The cottage that became the Museum was lived in by families from around 1846/7 until the late 1970s.

In 1966 Swindon Borough Council began renovating many of the properties in the Village, having bought them from British Railways. Given the importance of the railway industry in Swindon’s development, it was decided to turn one of the cottages into a ‘Living Museum’ and in March 1980 34 Faringdon Road welcomed its first visitors. In 2000 the Museum closed, but following renovation it reopened in 2017, now managed by the Mechanics’ Institution Trust.

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