Friday, August 29, 2014

Swindon Heritage - Autumn 2014 edition

The team from Swindon Heritage will be launching the publication of the Autumn edition of the magazine at the Richard Jefferies Museum tomorrow.

The farmhouse at Coate was the home of Victorian naturist, novelist, poet and journalist Richard Jefferies and throughout the day Dr Mike Pringle will be conducting tours of the property. Mike will also be signing copies of his own book Swindon - Remembering 1914-18, the story of how Swindonians served in and survived the Great War.

Read about Kate Tryon in the Autumn edition of Swindon Heritage. An American artist and Jefferies devotee, Kate wrote an account of the first of her three visits to Jefferies Land to accompany a series of paintings, some of which will be on display at the museum tomorrow.

Visitors are invited to join the Bluegate Poets annual open day and barbecue, which begins at 3pm. Come and make a day of it at the Richard Jefferies Museum, Coate.

Mike Pringle

Richard Jefferies
Kate Tryon

Coate Farm

Reservoir House, Coate

The Lawn

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Swindon in the Great War

The people of Swindon marked the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War across the town in a variety of events this week.

On Monday August 4 Dr Mike Pringle (pictured below) launched the publication of his book Great War Britain - Swindon: Remembering 1914-18. A professional in the arts and heritage sector, Mike follows in the footsteps of headteacher WD Bavin who in 1922 was commissioned by Swindon Corporation to write Swindon's War Record. Read more about Mike's book in The Link Magazine.

Tuesday was a busy day for Swindon in the Great War volunteers who welcomed Swindon Mayor Teresa Page to open their exhibition - One Town's War - at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, Bath Road, Swindon. The exhibition, created by volunteers and funded by an HLF grant, features exhibits and artefacts donated by Great War historians Mark Sutton and Richard Fisher. The exhibition will run until January 31, 2015. The Museum is open Wednesday to Saturday 11am to 3pm.

On Friday evening a free, public viewing of Steven Spielberg's War Horse, adapted from a children's novel by Michael Morpurgo, was shown on the big screen at Wharf Green and on Saturday August 9 the Brunel Centre hosted a series of Great War events in and around the shopping centre.

And in conversation with Alastair Greener of SwindonWeb, Mike talks about Swindon during the Great War. Among the topics he discusses is the work of Old Town furnishers Gilberts who provided furniture for Chiseldon Camp and the story of two incredible Swindon women. Mary Slade MBE and Kate Handley headed a team of volunteers who collected provisions for the men of the Wiltshire Regiment. They later went on to support Swindon men taken prisoner of war. Read more about these women in Swindon in the Past Lane and visit the exhibition to see evidence of their work.

Commemorations continue next week with a local history exhibition in the Radnor Street Cemetery Chapel and guided cemetery walks on Sunday August 19. For further details see below.

Dr Mike Pringle - Swindon: Remembering 1914-18

Swindon in the Great War - One Town's War exhibition

Swindon in the Great War - One Town's War exhibition

More from One Town's War - exhibition at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

More from One Town's War - exhibition runs until January 31, 2015.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum - Teresa Page, Swindon Mayor; Sophie Cummings curator at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and  Great War  historians Mark Sutton and Mike Pingle - Calyx Picture Agency

Swindon Society photographic exhibition

Swindon Heritage magazine

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bruce - the famous fund raising dog

Bruce travelled 12,000 miles by rail and raised more than £890 for charity, mostly for the Swindon Victoria Hospital, in a life that spanned just ten short years.  Awarded 16 gold and silver medals and a solid silver collar, Bruce the famous fund raising dog has gone down in local history, but what about his owner.

Thomas Arthur Beal was born on January 31, 1878 at 5 Read Street.  His father, also named Thomas, was a railway coach body maker in the GWR works, and on his 14th birthday Thomas junior joined him in the railway factory, beginning a seven year apprenticeship in the Turning Department.

By the time of the 1901 census Thomas was boarding with a family in Portsmouth where he worked as an electrical engineer fitter, but it would not be long before he returned to Swindon. In 1905 he married Jane Rice and set up home in Nelson Street, living with his new wife, her 12 year old son and, presumably Bruce who was born the same year.

An obituary was published in the Evening Swindon Advertiser when Bruce died in July 1915 - "Mr T.A. Beal of 16 Nelson Street, Swindon, informs us his well-known collecting dog, Bruce died last Friday morning, after three months illness, suffering from an ulcerated stomach.  Two veterinary surgeons have attended the animal, and did all that was possible to save his life." The report continued - "He will be greatly missed on Hospital Collection days and especially by the children, with whom he was a great favouriteBy his death Mr Beal has lost a valuable pet.'  Bruce was photographed many times but Thomas only appears in one picture taken by William Hooper.

Thomas died in 1957, not at the Victoria Hospital for which he and Bruce had raised so much money, but at St Margaret's Hospital built on the site of the former workhouse at Stratton St Margaret.  Whether he owned any subsequent dogs remains unknown, but Bruce would have been a tough act to follow.

Images published courtesy of P.A. Williams and Swindon Local Collection.