Saturday, April 21, 2012

Looking down on the County Ground in the 1950s

This bird's eye view taken in the 1950s illustrates the frenzy of Victorian building that created New Swindon as the town grew to keep pace with developments at the GWR works. Just visible above the rooftops is the line of Regent Street, with the Town Hall and the Baptist Tabernacle at Regent Circus.

The Broad Street area of the town was built around 1900 with streets named after prominent Liberal politicians - Gladstone, Graham, Rosebery and Salisbury - possibly influenced by Swindon's own local Liberal Levi Lapper Morse.

St. Luke's, a sister church of St Mark's, opened in 1903 in temporary accommodation. A new church, designed by W.A.H. Masters in the style of the 15th century, was dedicated in 1911.

The 21 acre County Ground site opened in 1893. Fifteen years later Kelly's Directory describes the complex as comprising 'a bicycle track of 3 laps to the mile, and in addition to the space devoted to football and cricket, there is a Galloway racecourse and a polo ground.' 

In Swindon Town's first season at the County Ground crowds averaged 3,000. However a record breaking 6,000 were on the terraces on Saturday October 17, 1896 to watch Swindon beat their old adversary Reading 4-1. Goal scorers were Richie Cox and Joey Murray with David Skea getting two past the Reading goalkeeper.

Kingsdown brewer Thomas Arkell became one of Swindon Town's earlies creditors when he lent the club £3000 in 1896 to build a stand on the north side of the pitch.

The neighbouring cricket ground already had its own architectural masterpiece. The cricket pavilion, designed by W.H. Read and E.H. Pritchett, cost £850 in 1893 with dressing rooms for the competitors costing a further £450. The two storey building boats seven bays with a cast iron arcade of slim columns and was awarded a Grade II listing in 1986.

The Regents Sports Club photograph taken in 1918 in front of the Cricket Pavilion and St Luke's Church are published courtesy of Swindon Local Studies Collection.  For more views of Swindon visit their website on

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