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1871-1890

This was a period of rethinking priorites leading to plans which would shape
the Mechanics up to the start of World War I.

One of the initial purposes of the building was to provide canteen facilities
for the men. With the construction of the Carriage Works alongside London Street
in 1877 a new canteen made this redundant. At the same time the works expanded
and more housing appeared in the form of streets of red brick terraces built by
local builders. Fleet Street, Bridge Street and Faringdon Way became lined with
shops leading to the decline of the Market Hall.

However, at the same time the popularity of the library saw an ever
increasing number of readers and books. Plans had been prepared in 1878 for a
new theatre on the site of the market hall, but this project did not proceed,
presumably due to the high cost involved. By the 1880’s the Institution was
providing technical and artistic further education to some 500 students and was
now literally “bursting at the seams”.

By the late 1880’s two decisions had been reached. Firstly to abandon the
market and rebuild an extension on the site. Secondly, to hand over technical
education to the newly responsible Wiltshire County Council. The New Swindon
Improvement Company was transferred from official shareholders to Trustees. As a result of this, a new extension to the Institution was planned and a new
Technical College built in Victoria Road between New and Old Swindon.

The Architect chosen for the extension was Brigtwen Binyon of Ibswich who had
recently won the competition for the Swindon Town Hall and was designing several
schools for the education authority. The brief was for an extension containing
facilities such as reading room, smoking room, billiards, bagaelle, chess and
draughts, ladies reading room and extra dressing rooms for the existing theatre
and hall. Also included was a new lecture room, council room and Secretary’s
office.

From 1889 a number of improvements were being made to the original building.
A gallary was introduced to the hall and a new flight od stairs introduced in
both towers replacing the old spiral staircase. A new ground floor wing was
built flanking the west side of the building.