By Robert Hiscox

I was asked in 2013 to help Swindon Borough Council achieve its ambition to build a new museum and art gallery.  I accepted as I was intrigued by the challenge to transform the town.

After much consultation and study, a location was chosen in the heart of town in an area next to the Wyvern Theatre which had been designated as the new Cultural Quarter.  This was and remains a central feature of the Masterplan for Swindon.

The Old Town was a typical Wiltshire market town on the hill when in the 1840s Isambard Kingdom Brunel bought 150 acres below to build his engines as Swindon was halfway between Bristol and London.  I was given a tour and shown how little thought had gone into building between the old and the new towns when they were joined together.  I absolutely agreed with the Masterplan’s idea of a Cultural Quarter in the centre of town to give it a heart and a link between Old Town and the development around and beyond the station.

That was the spur, with the added bonus of housing the current museum’s splendid collections of art and archaeology in an iconic building which would draw visitors from far and wide.  The evidence of economic boost to other towns through building a new museum and gallery was compelling. Indeed, a strong cultural infrastructure is essential to ensuring continued economic growth and regeneration.

Swindon is surrounded by beautiful countryside and has incredibly good rail and road connections with give easy access to millions of people.  But living nearby I seldom used to visit the centre of town, and I know of companies who have not based their businesses in the town despite its great advantages due to the lack of cultural life and ambience.

The capital investment by Swindon Borough Council into this new museum and gallery would be rewarded handsomely by increased economic activity to the benefit of all, but especially to the council (which belongs to the people of Swindon) which owns a considerable property portfolio.  Business rents and rates will increase, shops and restaurants will flourish with visitors and locals revelling in the smell of great coffee, the taste of delicious food and the sensory delights of beautiful and interesting things to see and experience.

The revival of the town will encourage future investment in other heritage assets and re-position Swindon as a thriving cultural concern – a place where people will love to live, work and visit.

Come to the current museum to see the model of a possible new design and imagine a thriving square in the heart of Swindon with the new building providing a vibrant community centre, encouraging a real sense of pride to the people of Swindon and great pleasure to visitors from far and wide.

Robert Hiscox
Chair, Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust