Wednesday, July 19, 2017

TRIP - a magnificent part of Swindon's rich railway heritage and culture

As Swindon schools prepare to begin the summer holiday at the end of this week, the debate continues about the validity of a long six week break at the end of the school year.

The tradition harks back to our agricultural past when children were required to work in the fields, earning a much needed additional income for their family. Today things are a little different and the long summer break is said by some educationalists to disadvantage children and set back their learning. School holidays are an expensive time to travel but parents potentially face fines for taking their children out of school during term time. Perhaps there is an argument for readjusting how we do things.

While firms such as Honda still shut down for a fixed number of holidays across the year, nothing compares to TRIP when the mighty railway works closed for its annual break.

'Swindon changed its ways and adapted itself to accommodate TRIP, so significant was it for the town's economy and social well being. The council called special meetings, the shopkeepers changed their half day closing, the local paper even closed its offices and did not print an edition on TRIP day, the schools started summer holidays early, local employers adapted their holiday arrangements in keeping with TRIP. The impact on the town was huge', Rosa Matheson writes in her book TRIP - The Annual Holiday of GWR's Swindon Works.

The origin of TRIP began in 1848 when some 500 men, women and children enjoyed a day trip to Oxford where they were escorted on a tour of the colleges and other places of interest by members of the British Association.

By 1892 TRIP had evolved into a nine day unpaid break, beginning on the first Friday in July. By then the number of men employed in the works was about 10,000 and the population of New Swindon was more than 27,000. In that year 18,248 people took off on their annual holiday. The town emptied.

The Works closed on March 26, 1986 bringing the end of an era. 'The Great Western Railway Co., Swindon Works and TRIP are a magnificent part of Swindon's rich railway heritage and culture,' writes Rosa. 'While they are gone, they still live on in the memories of Swindonians, especially in the hearts of ex-Works railway families.'

Rosa's book is a treasure trove of memories and family photographs from another age and is packed full of fascinating facts and figures.

TRIP - The Annual Holiday of GWR's Swindon Works by Rosa Matheson published by Tempus.

Photographs courtesy of William Hooper and Local Studies, Swindon Central Library.

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