Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Looking down on the GWR Gas Works in the 1950s

This 1950s aerial photograph of Swindon is dominated by the GWR gas works on Iffley Road, where the company made its own gas in what was believed to be the largest, privately owned plant of its kind in the world.

The gas installation operated around the clock with gas or retort workers employed in three shifts.  During WWII enemy aircraft had the gas works firmly in its sights.  Although narrowly missing the works during an air raid on August 17, 1942, several houses on Ferndale Road were bombed.

After Westcott Place built in the mid 1840s, Rodbourne and Gorse Hill were the next significant developments built to house the ever increasing GWR workforce.

In 1890  Even Swindon and Gorse Hill, with a combined population of more than 6,000, were incorporated into the parish of New Swindon.  Iffley Road was built around this time with neighbouring Harcourt Road following in 1905.

By 1895 parts of the Gorse Hill Farm estate were being developed and by the turn of the century Florence, Whiteman, Poulton and Beatrice Streets were under construction.

Ferndale Road dates from the late 1880s and was named by incoming homesick Welsh railway workers after a village in the Rhondda Valley.  Roads north of Ferndale Road date from the 1930s while Pinehurst Road, built in 1924, snakes through fields, open green spaces and allotments which remain more than fifty years later.

Ferndale School, built for the growing population north of the railway track, opened in 1907.  In 1926 a new building for the infants opened on the site and the school was further extended during the interwar years.  In 1946 the complex was reorganised as separate junior and secondary schools.

Today the Great Western Way arterial road scythes through the former gas works skirting the Hawkesworth Trading Estate, named after Frederick Hawkesworth, the last Chief Mechanical Engineer at the GWR (1941-49).

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