Swindon in Wiltshire is home to the Bodleian Library’s book depository, the English Heritage National Monument Record Centre, the headquarters of the National Trust, and it is on the site of the former Great Western Railway works. The town runs a packed calendar of annual events, comprising everything from a literature festival and children’s fete, to a beer festival and gay pride parade. Swindonians have at their fingertips a great mix of art venues and museums. The most recent addition was the Shoebox Theatre, a fringe theatre and producing house with a focus on contemporary performance and new work, while the Arts Centre in the Old Town seats 200 and has music, amateur theatre, comedians, films, entertainment for kids and one-man shows on offer. Museums-wise, visitors can take their pick from the Richard Jefferies Museum, dedicated to the memory of one of England’s most individual writers on nature and the countryside, the Steam Railway Museum, the Swindon Collection, the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, or the Museum of Computing, the first computer museum of its kind in the UK!
As for a browse around the shops, the Brunel Centre and The Parade shopping areas provide an array of independent and High Street stores. The McArthur Glen Designer Outlet mall offers gorgeous designer goods at a fraction of their original price-tags (it’s well-worth the short drive out of town), while Regent Circus is a one-stop shop for all your favourite eateries. There’s also a number of public parks in and around Swindon – Shaw Country Park is currently being developed – and for fans of popular culture, the 2003 novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was actually set here in this part of the country.
Swindon is conveniently located between Bristol, Reading, London, Oxford and Cardiff, hence its reputation as a major transport hub. The town’s railway station is on the line from London Paddington to Bristol, while the M4 motorway is within easy reach. Swindon bus operators are Thamesdown and Stagecoach, and the town is one of the locations for an innovation scheme called Car Share, a joint venture between Wiltshire County Council and a private organisation, with over 300,000 registered members now using it.
Famously, the Nationwide Building Society and Honda are based in the town, along with BMW/Mini, Dolby Labs, international engineering consultancy firm Halcrow, and retailer WHSmith. Electronics business, Intel, has its European head office on the south side of the town, while energy companies, RWE Generation UK Plc and NPower, and a host of global pharmaceutical companies have their UK divisions headquartered here. Other notable employers include the national Research Councils, the British Computer Society, TE Connectivity, Reckitt Benckiser, Software Test Labs, and the town is currently the location of the UK Space Agency HQ.
The borough of Swindon has many primary schools, 12 secondary schools, two purpose-built sixth-form colleges and one independent school called Maranatha Christian School, which lies in Sevenhampton. New College and Swindon College cater for the town’s further education and higher education requirements, mainly for 16 to 21 year-olds, Swindon being the largest centre of population in the UK without its own university.
As for house prices, the overall average for Swindon is £239,371, with most house sales in the last year being terraced properties, which sold for around £202,643. Interestingly, property prices were up 4 per cent on the previous year, mirroring the trend of the last few years. In this way, Swindon remains a desirable place to live!