Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Looking Down on Regent Street
'There is very little architecture in Swindon and a great deal of building,' John Betjeman famously wrote in 1950. 'But Swindon is more interesting than many towns which are more beautiful,' he also observed.
The adoption of the 1952 Town Development Act saw Swindon enter a new era - new industry, new housing and a new town centre.
In 'A Swindon Retrospect 1855-1930 local author Frederick Large remembers when green fields separated Old and New Swindon with Regent Street a mere farm track leading down to the canal. Regent Circus 'was part of the farm, with a large cowyard and stalls for the housing of cattle where the Town Hall now stands,' Large writes.
The first few cottages along this track were built in the 1850s and by 1865 the enterprising householders were trading from their front rooms in the newly named Regent Street. Once a busy traffic through road, Regent Street was pedestrianised in 1965.
The imposing Baptist Tabernacle was built in 1886 to replace the chapel in Fleet Street, by then too small to accommodate the growing congregation. Demolished in 1978 the Bath stone columns and facade returned to Swindon in 2007 and were once due to be reinstated close to the original site but sadly regeneration plans were hit hard by the subsequent recession and the stones are still in storage.
The Savoy Cinema, designed by W.R. Glen, staff architect for the UK ABC chain of cinemas, opened in 1937. During its 54 year history the cinema was also known as the Cannon. It closed in 1991, later reopening as a Wetherspoon themed pub.
From new estates on former farmland to views of the original old market town on the hill, this look across Regents Street completes my series of aerial photographs.
Lower Eastcott Farm - this old farmhouse stood on what is now Corporation Street and was the site of first the electricity plant and then the bus depot.
An Edwardian view of Regent Street
A William Hooper view of the Baptist Tabernacle on Regent Circus
For more views of Swindon visit the Swindon Collection.