Round and Round
Swindon, as we know, is famous – even infamous – for its roundabouts. Of course there’s the grand-daddy of them all, the Magic Roundabout. Such a rich vein of material is that particular jewel in Swindon’s roundabout crown that it has its own category on the blog. Better than that though, is that the imagined guide-book entry I wrote on it for my travel writing module, helped me to a 1st for the module and a 1st class degree overall. So huge thanks go to the Magic Roundabout for being such a great creative source!
But as any driver will tell you there are sooooo many more roundabouts in Swindon. Whilst they can’t all be as exciting/terrifying/world-famous as THE roundabout many of them are, nevertheless, quite interesting – if only by dint of what they are associated with and named for. With this in mind, myself and Jess Robinson, aka @Swindondriver on Twitter, recently went out – in manner of Winne-the-Pooh – on an EXPOTITION to photograph some of them and dig out a little of the history behind their names. When we started to look at this idea in more detail it became clear that, due to the rather large number of roundabouts in Swindon, we’d have to break them down into sets of some kind. So if you are sitting comfortably listeners – then I’ll begin – with roundabouts associated with Swindon’s industry – something that segues nicely into a post I did not long back (with lots of photos and input from @leefer on Twitter) about just some of Swindon’s industry.
After some discussion we figured the most interesting ones to focus on for the purposes of this particular post were the Supermarine, Vickers, Deloro and Renault roundabouts – all of them named for industries/organizations that were once close by to the location of the roundabouts.
It is perhaps surprising to know, indeed I didn’t realize until relatively recently, that Swindon has an interesting connection to aviation history – which is where Supermarine and Vickers come in. It may have been in 1912 when the first aeroplane, a Bleriot monoplane, visited Swindon but it was not so many years later that Swindonians found themselves thrust into the midst of both aviation industry and history when – in 1938 – South Marston was chosen as a shadow site* due to its good communication links and proximity to the skilled workforce of the Swindon’s GWR works. *As Swindon Web explain in one of their articles on the subject, shadow sites were sites intended to provide back-up to the leading aircraft factories in the event of war-time attack.
As the jolly useful Swindon Web website further describes, the factory was eventually to pass to Supermarine with the South Marston site becoming a shadow site of the Castle Bromwich site in the Midlands and the original Supermarine factory in Southampton. Though little is left of that factory – it now being an industrial estate and part of the massive Honda plant there are still echoes; the sports club that was once part of Vickers still retains the name. Additionally of course, there’s the Supermarine roundabout and further homage to the Spitfire is paid in the industrial estate in the area. As can be seen from the picture gallery there is a Spitfire Way with model spitfire and a Spitfire Cafe also with model plane. As is only fitting.
So where does the name Vickers fit with all this you may ask? Well, back to our old friend Swindon Web again for enlightenment. It seems that, by the 1950s, the South Marston factory was part of the Vickers-Armstrong (Aircraft) Ltd, Supermarine Division. There’s much more information on their article about what came off the production line, in particular about the Supermarine Swift. But the link between that and the model of Concorde you see in the pictures below is that, through the 1970s and 1980s, the South Marston site produced components for a range of Vickers products – and for Concorde. Supersonic Swindon eh? Hence the model you see in the pictures below. It would be nice though if someone gave it a wash and brush up… I do really miss Concorde coming over…
1) Supermarine, Vickers and Deloro – with Equity Trading centre
Deloro, or Deloro Stellite (Kennametal) is a specialist engineering firm – no longer manufacturing in its Swindon factory and now a distribution centre but again the name lives on in the roundabout sign.
So anyway having tramped around Supermarine and Vickers, had coffee in the Spitfire cafe, stopped for a peek at the nearby portrait bench on the South Marston cycle path, one of the figures on which is a Spitfire pilot, and chuckled at the sign for Equity Trading Centre which just looks so very, very random … etc….. we headed off to the other side of town to a have a look at the Spectrum Building still indicated as Renault on the roundabout sign and indeed I still refer to it as the Renault building – never the Spectrum building. But whatever you want to call it, this Norman Fostor designed and now listed building, is I think, fabulous. It’s certainly iconic anyway.
I have to say, and more than one person has commented on this to me, that by and large the roundabouts in Swindon are really very well kept. Whether it’s trees or aggregate and cordylines or whatever they do all generally look very good.
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