Mechanics' Institution Trust

The Cricketers Swindon, formerly the Cricketers Arms Public House, is a Grade II listed building located in Emlyn Square. It sits facing the south-east corner of the Mechanics Institute at the heart of Swindon's historic Railway Village.

The Cricketers Swindon

What is the Cricketers?

The Cricketers Swindon, formerly the Cricketers Arms Public House, is a Grade II listed building located in Emlyn Square. It sits facing the south-east corner of the Mechanics Institute at the heart of Swindon’s historic Railway Village.

Historically operating as a pub, The Cricketers takes its name from the nearby GWR Park, which contained a popular cricket field for the workmen of the Railway Village.

The Cricketers Swindon in the GWR railway village
The Cricketers Swindon in the GWR railway village

History

The Cricketers was constructed as part of the western phase of the Railway Village in 1846/7. It started life as one of eight shop premises designed to face Emlyn Square and service the workforce of the Great Western Railway Works and their families.


The building operated as a public house with first floor accommodation from 1859 until its closure
in 2015 where the building has been vacant ever since.

What is the Cricketers Project?

The Trust acquired the Cricketers building on a 125-year lease from Swindon Borough Council in 2019. Since then, we have obtained a number of grants which have allowed us to start both external and
internal restoration work.

The Trust received £200,000 from Historic England to fund external repair works, a phase which
included the replacement of external windows and checks to the building’s structure and
foundational stability; this work concluded in September 2023.

We have also received a £250,000 grant from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and
Communities which will contribute towards the Cricketers’ internal restoration. Work has now commenced on this internal phase, with repairs underway in the building’s plant room, lounge, and cellar.

Future Plans

Community Space
In the short term, the Trust will reopen part of the ground floor of the Cricketers to the public,
offering its space and facilities for private hire and community use.

Visitor Centre
The Trust will then consider whether it is viable to operate part of the ground floor as a visitor centre which can also support an internet café or workspace.

Artist Studios and Gallery Space
The first and second floors of the Cricketers were historically used as a home by the pub owners with
a function room and rooms to rent. In the long term, there are plans for apartments; In the
short-term, the Trust intends to use both floors for creative purposes. Current plans include artist
studio space, a gallery and model making workshop.

When will the Cricketers reopen?

The Trust estimates that the Cricketers will be able to welcome its first visitors in late 2024, subject
to the successful completion of each respective phase of the project. It is likely that the building will
become fully operational in 2025 if grant funding allows.


Why does the Cricketers Project matter?

As a Grade II listed building, the Cricketers is an important part of Swindon’s world-renowned railway
heritage, and is a crucial piece of the Railway Village’s rich history and prosperous future.

Since 2017, Swindon Borough Council has commenced vital restoration work on the historic Carriage
Works
building which runs from Bristol Street to London Street. Originally built around 1876 as the largest carriage works in the country, and a testament to Victorian industrial innovation, the building is
slowly being transformed into a centre for twenty-first century knowledge, innovation, and
creativity.

The restoration of the Cricketers will complement the reuse of the Carriage Works by creating a
vibrant public space for socialising, creating, and relaxing, in support of the fantastic businesses and
organisations which have made the Railway Village their operational home.

The regeneration and reuse of the Cricketers is therefore a crucial component of the Council’s wider plans for the revitalisation of central Swindon, and will assist in rejuvenating the area for residents and visitors alike.

The Trust also considers the restoration of the Cricketers a crucial step in the long march to save and
restore the Mechanics Institute, with the creation of a thriving Cricketers and Carriage Works
exerting pressure on key stakeholders to restore the Mechanics for the people of Swindon.

The Cricketers itself showcases the historical significance of Swindon’s journey from rural backwater
to industrial behemoth; and demonstrates a sustainable pathway for the revitalisation of Swindon’s
historical assets for the 2020s and beyond.

The Cricketers Project consequently matters because it represents, and embodies, the interconnected relationship between the memory of Swindon’s past and the opportunity of its future.

“The Cricketers restoration converts ‘talking the talk’ into ‘walking the walk’. It shows, given the right
support, Swindon can deliver.”
– Bob Wright, Chair of the Mechanics’ Institution Trust


On Born Again Swindonian

Angela Atkinson, AKA Born Again Swindonian, has written about the Cricketers, the GWR park and even the Railway Village as a whole on her blog. Why not check it out?

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