We have a heart for Swindon’s Art

In partnership with Born Again Swindonian

February. The month of love. The month in which we celebrate St Valentine’s Day. Now as you know, this We Are Swindon site is all about showing the love for all aspects of our town every day – not only on one particular day. But for Valentine’s Day we decided to show some extra-special love for Swindon’s art offerings.

Of course, a big part of that is the wonderful collection of paintings and ceramics owned by Swindon and housed in the Museum and Art Gallery in Old Town. You can find out a bit more about that by visiting the showcase page for the Friends of the Museum and Art Gallery here. But on this page, we want to focus on Swindon’s public art.

Swindon’s public art for all to enjoy

Our town has a liberal scattering of sculpture and other public art across its length and breadth. In Old Town we have the ram on the site of the cattle market, Peter Pan in Town Gardens and, not so far from Old Town, The Wish Hounds.

In the centre of Swindon you’ll find a gorilla and a turtle in Queen’s park. And of course, the Golden Lion in the town centre and the wonderful mural down on Cambria Bridge. Oh – and let’s not forget the last survivor of Ken White’s murals – the Golden Lion Bridge Mural.

To find out more about Swindon’s public art go the amazing  Born Again Swindonian blog:

Public art sculpture  
Sheepish public art in Swindon 
The Wish Hounds Sculpture  
Turtle Storm Sculpture Swindon 
Cambria Bridge Mural 

We have a heart for Swindon’s Art – gallery

Swindon’s very own Spitfire sculpture

Swindon is famous for its railway heritage, but what not many realise is that what this really meant was that Swindon was full of very skilled engineers who could actually turn their hand to just about anything. Which is why, in the Great War 1814-18 precision engineering companies like Garrard moved into the town, and the railway works produced huge artillery pieces and other armaments as well as locomotives.

Second World War

In the second world war, the engineering took another turn, with the production of aircraft, including the Master, for training pilots, and the huge Stirling bomber. Towards the end of the war the town also become so expert at repairing Hurricanes, Spitfires and Seafires that it started full scale production, manufacturing Mark 21 Spitfires. After the war, the town continued to make planes, including the world-record breaking Swift, and components for all manner of craft from the earliest hovercrafts to the supersonic Concorde.

We have a heart for Swindon's Art

To celebrate this aspect of Swindon’s history, artist Mike Pringle was commissioned by British Land to create a sculpture at the Orbital shopping centre, and chose the famous Spitfire wing shape for the artwork.

Mike said: “There is so much more to this town than people see, or know about, so I just wanted to shout about one of the other great things that has been done here. The Spitfire is such an iconic part of our history, and here in Swindon it was built by the women of the town, and we produced RAF pilots here too. So they are also included in the sculpture. If you look at the ‘back’ of the piece, you will see glass panels attached to the two parallel uprights. This is to symbolise the railways – looking like two rails on sleepers – out of which the aviation engineering expertise arose.”

We have a heart for Swindon's Art
We have a heart for Swindon's Art

Mike also designed a number of display panels for the shopping park, which tell the history of aviation in Swindon and, if you look carefully, you will also find, near the site’s visitor centre, a series of five benches round a circle. This is based on the five bladed propeller which was unique to Swindon Spitfires, but also looks remarkably like the symbol for the town’s other icon, the Magic Roundabout!

A big We Are Swindon thank you to local historian and artist Dr Mike Pringle for his help on this feature and all the amazing work he does for Swindon.

Mike also built the St George giant that you can see below! You can see a clip of him parading through our town centre in 2011 on the We Are Swindon YouTube channel here.

We have a heart for Swindon's Art
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All the above should be familiar to most of you. But what’s less well known is that there’s an entire collection of public art pieces dotted around West Swindon. As Angela Atkinson, AKA Born Again Swindonian, says in her guide book.

Angela has written on her blog about these sculptures in more detail then the book had room for and you can find all that here.

We have a heart for Swindon's Art
We have a heart for Swindon's Art

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