Sunday, January 12, 2014

Geoffrey Drew - Architect

Following my post yesterday about the Clarke sisters and 57 Victoria Road, Brian Carter has contacted me with the story of another occupant of this once elegant property.

Thanks, Frances, for an interesting story featuring a building to which I have a personal connection.

My reason for photographing it in 1983 was that the first floor was then the offices of Architect Drew. This was the business of my late father-in-law, Geoffrey Drew (and his secretary - my mother-in-law - Elisabeth Drew).

Geoff was born in Southampton in 1928, was evacuated to Corfe Castle during World War II, and started his working life in Ipswich. Later, he went into partnership in a business in Bristol. This brought him to Swindon for the first time in the 1960s (his first job in the town was working on the original BHS shop in Swindon town centre).

He set up a satellite office in Swindon and liked the place so much that he spent the rest of his life in Bishopstone, and married my future mother-in-law in 1972.

He set up in business on his own in 1981 - briefly in Newport Street, before moving to 57 Victoria Road. In about 1999, they vacated those premises and worked from home in Bishopstone.

Sadly, Geoff died in 2006, aged 77.

I'm quite sure that he didn't know the story of the Clarke sisters, which is a great shame. As an architect, he was naturally interested in buildings and their history. But he was even more interested in people and their stories. I'm certain that he would very much have approved of the Clarke sisters.

And had be been the right age to have ever met them, then I know he would have supported and encouraged them.

Despite not being born in Swindon, Geoff considered himself an honourary Swindonian. He was an active member and past president of Swindon Rotary Club and a keen Swindon Town fan - being a season ticket holder for many years.

His other passions were railways and aircraft. Having been born in Southampton, the Southern Railway was in his blood, but he was also very fond of the Great Western Railway and a member of the GWR Preservation Society at Didcot. He was especially pleased to have seen the first Spitfires making test flights above his home during his childhood. Not surprisingly, the love of aircraft (though not of flying) stayed with him all his life.

In the Swindon area, Geoff left a legacy of countless buildings which he designed. Most of these were private houses, but he also designed the occasional commercial or community building. These included the Focal Point building near Swindon Bus Station and the Church of Christ the Servant in Abbey Meads.

Brian Carter (Carter Collectables)

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