Monday, January 23, 2017

Holocaust Memorial Day - Friday January 27, 2017

Matt Holland from Lower Shaw Farm writes about arrangements in Swindon for this year's Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday January 27, 2017.

The theme for this year is “How can life go on?”

First, at 12.00 noon, there will be a short (20 minutes) wreath-laying ceremony by the Cenotaph, Regents Circus. Following this, at 12.30 pm, there will be a gathering for readings and reflection at the Friends Meeting House, Eastcott Hill, Swindon.

NOTE: For this event, and in the spirit of the day, we welcome talks or presentations from individuals and groups. If you would like to speak or read at this gathering or know someone else who would like to, please contact the undersigned, beforehand or on the day. We welcome everyone who would like to speak.

At this latter event, we expect to be together for approx 1 hour. As well as words and quiet time, there will be light lunchtime refreshments, including sandwiches and hot drinks, provided by Friends, whom we thank.


Holocaust Memorial Day was first marked in the UK in January 2001, and is now established as an annual day of remembrance on 27 January each year.

Local authorities, faith and community groups, and individuals have been asked to take a lead in developing local memorial events and appropriate activities. We do so in Swindon.

The aim of this day is to mark not only the Holocaust but also numerous other human rights tragedies around the world, including persecution and wars, past and present. Its aim is also to help raise awareness in young people.

This day also provides an opportunity for all of us to renew our commitment to building a strong and caring community in Swindon, which embraces people of all faiths, beliefs, backgrounds, languages, and nations.

Further information, and a more national perspective, about Holocaust Memorial Day, can be found at

If you have any queries or suggestions, please contact

Matt Holland, Organiser

Telephone No: 01793 771080 Email address:

Photographs: Holocaust Memorial Day 2012

Friday, January 6, 2017

Swindon's Heritage Assets

Council Leader David Renard stated in his column in the Advertiser this week that 'the council works very closely with heritage groups within the town' but there are many volunteers who would refute this assertion.

Cllr Renard was answering claims that Swindon Borough Council neglects heritage assets following the disastrous fire at the Coate Agricultural Museum on New Year's Eve. 

He concluded his column with the following statement: 'Unfortunately, the passage of time does not make it easy to bring these buildings back to their former glory, but that does not mean we should not try. Letting our heritage fall by the wayside is not on our agenda.' Well sadly Cllr Renard, many of us feel it is.

Save Swindon’s Heritage, a new facebook group formed following council tenant GLL’s announcement to develop part of the historic Health Hydro, a Grade II listed building, has registered more than 720 members in just 9 days.

The listing of buildings came out of a WWII measure to record important buildings in possible danger from enemy bombing, but it would appear that in Swindon it's not an aerial attack we have to worry about but something a little closer to the ground.

It was the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act that came up with the concept of a list of buildings of special historical or architectural importance. Buildings built between 1840-1914 have to meet a stringent criteria before inclusion on the list is granted.

Perhaps the greatest protection offered to a listed building is that its future fate is in the public arena. An owner must receive permission for any intended alteration and this allows for a public debate. Comments and objections must receive due consideration before planning decisions are reached.

A register of locally listed buildings is available for consultation at the council planning department and Central Library and online at Listed Buildings in Swindon.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the British Listed Building register established to protect buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. In Swindon we have more than 650 buildings on the register with 53 scheduled monuments and three registered parks and gardens.

If you want to know more about the listing of historic buildings come along to a talk by Martin Newman at Swindon's Central Library, Tuesday January 17 at 7.15.

Lydiard House - Grade I

Central Community Centre, former Medical Fund Hospital -  Grade II

Health Hydro - Milton Road Baths - Grade II

St Mary's Church, Lydiard Park - Grade I

Coate Agricultural Museum following a fire on New Year's Eve

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Charles II and those Lydiard Park birds

Charles II celebrated his restoration to the throne by engaging in a bit of home improvements on the Tudor built St James's Palace, London and a makeover in the surrounding parkland with a new canal some 2,560 ft long and 125 ft wide.

In 1664 the Russian Ambassador to Charles gave the king a pair of pelicans to grace the new canal and 400 years later the tradition of pelicans in the park continues.

But not to be outdone Sir Walter St John also made a contribution to the monarch's new park from his country home at Lydiard with a gift of some Muscovy ducks.

Although Sir Walter had fought on the Parliamentary side in the Civil War and had been considered somewhat backward in kissing the hand of the recently restored king, you could say Sir Walter was almost 'family.'

When Charles returned to England from exile he was accompanied by his favourite (well she was then) mistress Barbara Palmer, later to be created Countess Castlemaine. Barbara was Walter's great-niece, the grand daughter of his sister Barbara Villiers, and gave birth to five of Charles' illegitimate children.

But that wasn't the only St John/Stuart connection. Charles' best friend was the naughty playwright and poet John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. John was Sir Walter's nephew, the son of his sister Anne and her second husband Henry, Earl of Rochester.

And it doesn't end there. In 1677 Charles and Barbara's daughter Charlotte Fitzroy married Edward Lee, the newly created Earl of Lichfield, and Sir Walter's great nephew, the grandson of the same sister Anne.

There's still a lot of birdlife on the lake at Lydiard Park today, including a magnificent family of eight swans. 

Lydiard House is now closed for the winter months, but look out for the return of the Behind Closed Doors series of talks and tours, which proved so popular in the 2016 close season.

Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine, whose portrait hangs in Lydiard House.

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester whose portrait hangs in Lydiard House.