1918: A Dream of a letter to the Editor
A letter written to the Swindon Advertiser in August 1918 describing a dream of what might happen in 10 years time: When the derelict canal would be filled in and the area renovated to form a leisure & recreational area.
To the editor of the "Swindon Advertiser"
Returning to Swindon on a Summer's evening in 1928, after ten years' absence, I was agreeably surprised at the alterations that had taken place during the ensuing period, more especially to the portion of the Town once occupied by the Wilts and Berks Canal, or as it was commonly termed the "cut". On either side of Fleet Street I found a pair of handsome wrought iron gates. Turning to the right I found myself in a small, but well laid out, bowling green, where a number of devotees of the ancient game - associated with the famous Drake and Plymouth Hoe - were enjoying a little recreation.
Further on my attention was attracted by a large crowd of interested spectators watching a game of skittles or ninepins. On making enquiries as to the cause of so much excitement I was informed that the match now in progress was the final tie of the Swindon Workers League, between teams representing the local branch of the Workers Educational Association and the Swindon Brotherhood. My time being limited, I was unable to await the result, so retracting my steps in the opposite direction, and, crossing the road, beheld in the midst of an open space covered by velvety turf an imposing monument of granite, some twenty feet high.
Approaching nearer, and reverently raising my hat I read the inscription thereon: Erected by the inhabitants of Swindon to the memory of the brave lads who at the call of King and Country left this town to take their part in the great European War, and who lost their lives in the struggle for Liberty and Freedom.
Continuing my ramble I passed under John Street Bridge, now scarcely recognisable beneath its mantle of ivy. A transformation had indeed taken place here. What was once an unsightly expanse of stagnant water, full of rank weeds and the receptacle of all kinds of garbage, was converted into a pleasure garden and boulevard. In the centre was a bandstand surrounded by tastefully laid out flower beds full of variegated blooms. Evergreen shrubs flourished in profusion, comfortable seats were placed at intervals along the winding gravel paths, a fountain throwing jets of cooling water high in the air made up a picture most pleasing to the eye. A number of men were enjoying a pipe of peace and well earned rest after their day's toil, whilst tired mothers released for a time from their domestic duties were discussing with their neighbours the chances of the respective lady candidates at the forthcoming municipal election.
In a part of the grounds nearest Wellington Street a group of youngsters were disporting around a maypole, filling the air with their merry laughter. In close proximity was another group of elderly children, morris dancing in good old English style. Shelters of artistic design were placed here and there while near to the main entrance in Regent Street underground lavatories for both sexes had been built.
As I left the scene, I thanked Providence that the people of Swindon had at last seized the opportunity before it was too late to transform a desolate waste into a beauty spot. Only a dream, but it could be a reality if -
W.J.R., Swindon, August 1918