Over the coming weeks I shall be reviewing some books of local interest, all available on the shelves of Swindon Central Library.
As the Swindon Society celebrates its 40th anniversary this year what better place to begin than with their superb selection of six publications. The Swindon Society was founded by the late Eric Arman following a series of lectures given at the WEA. Members meet every second Wednesday from September through to May at the Broad Green Centre, Salisbury Street, for more information visit the website on www.theswindonsociety.co.uk. Published during the 1980s/90s these popular books are available to view in the Swindon Local Studies Collection.
One book I return to again and again is Studies in the History of Swindon. Published by Swindon Borough Council in 1950 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of Swindon as a borough, this unassuming book begins with a look at the Prehistory of the Swindon area written by L.V. Grinsell.
H.S. Tallamy writes a chapter entitled The People of Swindon Before the Railway Age while H.B. Wells charts Swindon in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman appraises the town's architecture and writes his famous quote: 'There is very little architecture in Swindon and a great deal of building.'
The scholarly Victoria County History series, a publishing project founded in 1899, continues to expand. Last year saw the publication of Volume XVIII in the Wiltshire series which includes the local histories of Lydiard Millicent, Purton and other villages in the Cricklade area. Volume IX published in 1970 covers the Kingsbridge Hundred and Swindon.
For a very subjective view of the town in the mid 19th century flip through the pages of Swindon Reminiscences, Notes & Relics of Ye Old Wiltshire Towne by Swindon Advertiser founder, William Morris. Here you can read about The Troublesome Times of 1830 when the agricultural labourer revolted in the face of increasing industrialisation and new farming methods. And in 1841 the entrepreneurial Edwards brothers James and Thomas held a Bout of Backswording to celebrate their acquisition of large tracts of land in the Regent Street and Bridge Street area. Morris gives a blow by blow account of Backswording, a brutal 19th century sport which slipped into obscurity in the 1860s.
Somewhat frustratingly Morris never indexed his book, but help is at hand. Ask at the Local Collection enquiry desk for the library's own index.
Swindon Local Studies Collection can be found on the 2nd floor at Central Library, Regent Circus. The library is open 9.30 - 7.00 Monday to Friday; 9.30 - 4 Saturday and 11 - 3 Sunday. Telephone 01793 463238 for more information or visit the Swindon Borough Council website on www.swindon.gov.uk