Become a Friend of the Swindon Museumand Art Gallery

For only £15 a year, you can become a Friend and receive links to our Zoom talks. To become a Friend or find out more about us, go to the website We're currently hoping to encourage the council to reopen Apsley House. Please sign the petition:

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Presenting the Petition to Save Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

 This Thursday there will be a full Council meeting in the Civic Offices at 7pm where one of the items on the agenda will be a consideration of the petition 'Save Swindon Museum and Art Gallery' which was signed by over 4000 people. A reminder of what we said when the petition was started:

'We support the call by the Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery for the Swindon Collection of Modern British Art and the Museum Collections to be retained on show in Apsley House until they can be moved to a new home where they are on show to the public. 

We believe that the dispersal and mothballing of the collections would be highly damaging to Swindon’s bid for City status.

We reject the recommendations in the Cabinet Member Decision Note and call for a further report to be produced setting out all the options for the future of the collections and of Apsley House, for all funding opportunities to be investigated, and for a debate to be held in full Council  before any decisions are made'.

A further report was published setting out the options for the future of SMAG on 1 September, although there weren't any options; a reminder of what was in this second report can be seen by following this link:

Before the Scrutiny meeting we had a photo taken of the assembled people, and many came in to follow proceedings at the meeting on 13 September, they asked questions, and it seemed as though the council might be  persuaded that reopening Apsley House in the interim before the new cultural quarter is built, but they weren't. Here's the photo taken before the Scrutiny meeting:

 It would be great to have as many people as possible to come and support the reopening of Apsley House on Thursday evening. We are gathering at 6.40pm outside the Civic Offices, you don't need to come to the meeting, but it would be great if you could be there.

South Swindon Parish Council have submitted a proposal to reopen SMAG, here it is:

  1. Introduction

To investigate the opportunity for South Swindon Parish Council (SSPC) to amalgamate the Old Town Library service with the museum and art gallery based in Apsley House


2.             Report Details

2.1 Swindon Borough Council (SBC) have articulated their desire to dispose of Apsley House as a Borough Council asset.


2.2 SBC have announced that the Museum and Art gallery provision will not reopen within Apsley House and had initially proposed placing artefacts, displays and artwork in storage until such time as a new facility is ready in the proposed cultural quarter, post 2028.

2.3 Robust public opposition to the SBC proposal has seen a policy repositioning with regards to the accessibility of artifacts, displays and artwork . SBC have articulated that the 1st floor of the Civic building may be an alternative temporary location, subject to a feasibility study and budgetary / elected member scrutiny.

2.4 SSPC is proposing that discussion commence with SBC to investigate the feasibility of:


  • The Apsley House asset to be transferred to SSPC on a short term lease of between 7 and 10 years, The transfer to include £400K transitional fund currently reserved for Apsley House in order to complete current listed repairs and help maintain the building for the duration of the short term lease, with an option of an additional £100K based on survey results.
  • SSPC incorporating the Old Town Library Provision into Apsley House, therefore increasing footfall, utilising current Library staff and providing a revenue saving to the Parish in vacating the current premises 

2.5 It is the stated aim of SSPC through this proposal to work towards ensuring that Swindon has a functioning Art Gallery and Museum accessible to the people of Swindon and visitors to our town, whilst the Borough Council moves forward with aspirations to build a cultural quarter that would include an improved Art Gallery and Museum facility.

2.6 SSPC would envisage that the Library provision is mainly housed in the two ground floor front rooms of Apsley House with strategic bookcase deployment, integrating book selection relevant to the exhibit subject matter. It should be noted that these rooms are currently not part of the museum display offering.

2.7 South Swindon Parish Council would be better placed to apply for grants through various channels to contribute to the running costs of the facility in the medium term.

2.8 It would be understood that the exhibits remain the property of Swindon Borough Council.


2.9 If consensus is achieved to move forward with the above proposal, the asset transfer would be subject to the completion of a full building survey and condition report.

2.10 SSPC and SBC should seek to include The Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in discussions 

3.             Proposal

  3.1 That the Parish Council resolves to inform SBC of an expression of interest from the Parish Council pertaining to the potential short term transfer of Apsley House for the purpose of re-opening the facility to the public at the earliest convenience

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Trip to Russell-Cotes: A Century of British Art

 This exhibition at Russell-Cotes Museum and Gallery in Bournemouth starting on 1 October celebrates the Centenary of the formation of Bournemouth Arts Club 1920-2020. I've added the image of 'Spray' by Harold Williamson, used in their promotion of this exhibition.

 Dr Gill Clarke, Curator of this exhibition has brought together many of the works exhibited at the 1957 exhibition, and recently showed me the catalogue where the works from the Swindon Collection are listed; they are kindly being loaned by Swindon Museum and Art Gallery for inclusion in this exhibition. Dr Gill Clarke has kindly agreed to meet us at the exhibition on Thursday 14 October.

Here are the pages of the catalogue, photographed at odd angles, but you can see the annotations as well which make it all the more special:

You'll recognise a few of our favourites in there, including Michael Ayrton, only just back from The Lightbox at Woking.

We were due to visit the exhibition at this time last year, I'm sure it'll be worth the wait, Russell-Cotes is such a fabulous place to visit.

Friday, 10 September 2021

Cabinet Decision on 8 September

Despite our best efforts, the 'Options for Swindon Museum and Art Gallery' were unanimously voted through by the 10 Cabinet members on 8 September meeting.
What can anyone do now?
You can attend the Scrutiny meeting on Monday 13 September at 6pm, where the decision can't be overturned but they can vote to return the decision to cabinet. Best to arrive at 5.45pm to allow time to sign in.
People can just turn up at the meeting, and the Chair, Jim Robbins will try to get everyone's questions answered in the public questions section, but those who have registered will be guaranteed a question.  There is 15 minutes set aside for questions, if you want to ask a question, you can do so providing you send it in before 4.30pm today, 10 September.
 Can we ask questions on the night without registering to attend the meeting?  Yes you can but it is better to ask the questions beforehand as you get provided with an answer and can then ask a supplementary question giving you two opportunities to get a question answered. 
To register ring Douglas Campbell on 07779413886, or email   that's Vicky Yull.
The larger the crowd attending Scrutiny, the better, so please consider coming along, it shows we are concerned by these decisions being made.

A reminder of what was agreed can be seen by following this link: 

There's very little detail in the plans of costings, and concerns of heritage professionals are being dismissed. Basically the agreement last night gave the go ahead for Apsley House to remain closed, be emptied of its collections and sold as 'surplus to requirements'.

If this goes ahead, we won't have a museum and art gallery in Swindon until the new Art Pavilion is built at Kimmerfields and the museum is relocated to the Town Hall which could be 10-20-30 years hence. I've included a link below to the plans for the new Cultural Quarter, released in March 2021, as a reminder of what we have to look forward to at Kimmerfields.
I say in the interim, let's keep Apsley House open.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Saturday's Rally ahead of 8 September Decision

 Last Saturday after the so called ' Consideration of Options for Swindon Museum and Art Gallery' was published, a link appears below:

 The Save our Museum and Gallery, SoMAG group decided to hold another rally outside Apsley House, there aren't any options in the report and no consideration was taken of the views of our group by either council officers or Councillor Jandy, responsible for the future of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and Apsley House.

Lots of people came along to show support, and surprise that the council could shut one venue before another was ready to display the collections. I have used other people's photos of the rally, thank you to those who supplied them via social media:

Maybe this is the best one? Here are more:

There was an Advertiser write up of the rally here.

This morning the petition to Save Swindon Museum and Art Gallery was handed in at the Civic Offices. We have well over 4000 signatures, and the petition continues because we haven't declared victory because there hasn't been one yet. If you haven't yet signed, here's a link:

Here's a copy of today's press release:

More than 4000 people have signed the petition urging Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet not to make a decision about Apsley House tomorrow evening <c Wed 8 Sept>.


Members of Save Our Museum and Art Gallery group (SoMAG), who launched the petition, presented it to Swindon Borough Council this morning.

Linda Kasmaty, of Save Our Museum and Art Gallery group (SoMAG), said that arguments by council officers that Apsley House should remain closed for financial reasons simply don’t stack up. There is no evidence of what it would cost to reopen the museum and art gallery or to carry out the repairs the officers claim are needed.

“The council admits it has allowed Apsley House, a Grade II listed building which it owns, to fall into serious disrepair, but there is no evidence that professional surveys have been carried out, and no up to date costs for repairs have been produced,” said Linda.

“The council is also suggesting using the Civic Offices as an alternative to the art gallery. Yet the last time the council considered using the Civic Offices to house the paintings, it dismissed that idea because it would cost £1.8m.

“In all conscience, members of Cabinet cannot take an informed decision on this, because they have not been given the information they need. We are urging members to do the intelligent and responsible thing, and tell their officers to go back to the drawing board.

“Swindon’s art and museum collections belong to Swindon people, not to the local authority. The least residents can expect is that the full council has an opportunity to see the results of professional surveys and costings, and make a decision based on the fact.”


The petition states:


“We support the call by the Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery for the Swindon Collection of Modern British Art and the Museum Collections to be retained on show in Apsley House until they can be moved to a new home where they are on show to the public. 

“We believe that the dispersal and mothballing of the collections would be highly damaging to Swindon’s bid for City status.

“We reject the recommendations in the Cabinet Member Decision Note and call for a further report to be produced setting out all the options for the future of the collections and of Apsley House, for all funding opportunities to be investigated, and for a debate to be held in full Council before any decisions are made.”

Frank Quinton Exhibition - Last Day Wednesday 8 September

 I think it's true to say that many people in Swindon have been to see John Stooke's exhibition of Frank Quinton's work and bought the book to accompany the exhibition, but in case some people haven't done so, I wanted to say how wonderful the exhibition is, and to encourage people to go along tomorrow if they can do so.

The exhibition is held in a retail unit next to Marks and Spencer on the top floor of the Brunel Centre. John Stooke has managed to borrow approximately 60 works to display and produced labels explaining quite a bit about each painting. There are some paintings owned by Swindon Borough Council which are featured in the book, but which weren't available to be loaned for this exhibition. Strange when the mantra is currently 'more art to more people' from SBC. 

Graham Carter wonderfully encapsulates my feelings about the exhibition and treatment of Swindonians by SBC in the Swindon Advertiser on Monday. When John initially approached Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to ask if he could hold the exhibition there to coincide with the publication of his book, he was told all available spaces were booked up for 2-3 years hence. I wonder what has happened to the exhibitors who couldn't exhibit? The list of exhibitions scheduled for 2020 still appears on the doors of Apsley House. 

But to the photos of paintings, starting of course with Frank's rendition of Apsley House from an interesting viewpoint, taking in the 1960s extension:

Both well established trees are in situ, and the extension seems to fit well with the older part of the building. Blaylocks is on the left, and still there. You'd rarely see the junction looking so quiet, and I think, judging by where the people are standing, this was before the time when the footpath was moved from beside the road to in front of the building.

Above view of Edmund Street just down form the Beehive at the rear of the houses. They are very impressive, mostly HMOs now.
This lovely painting is of the Hermitage built in 1830, it was demolished in 1994, to be replaced by the new building, an old people's home.
There's a sad story behind this photograph of the painting of the Sir Daniel Arms, it was owned by Doreen Scott, wife of Jim Scott, great Quinton fan. John photographed it, and then went back to pick up the painting for scanning, the house was empty, sadly Doreen had died and house clearance people had thrown the painting into a skip!
This terrace of Regency style houses along Bath Road were favourites of Franks.
And this might possibly be my favourite painting in the exhibition, it features the Edwardian row of shops in front of Swindon College. The juxtaposition of the two architectural styles and of course the fact Swindon College is no longer there, make it a great painting.

Finally, a photo of the opening night of the exhibition, what a treat it was to get together and talk about the paintings and catch up with people not seen for ages, all in one place.


Monday, 30 August 2021

The Future of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

 The Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery are committed to the reopening of Apsley House in Bath Road as soon as possible, until a viable option for housing the museum and art collections can be found. Currently there are plans to build a Cultural Quarter on the Kimmerfields site near the railway station, but this may be 10-20 years hence. In the meantime, in a town with a population of at least 220k, and rising, to lose our museum and art gallery would be a significant loss to the town, and others who visited Swindon to see the collections.

There have been several articles in the Swindon Advertiser on the proposal not to reopen Apsley House,  put the collections in storage, and sell the building, since this was proposed at the end of June 2020. The latest article published today, commentis on the repairs needed to Apsley House: 

I thought I'd have a look and find the last photographs taken in the gallery, they were taken at a lunchtime talk given by Katie Ackrill on 28 February 2020. They are a reminder of what a lovely facility we have in the 1960s extension to Apsley House which houses the art gallery, and of course the magnificent paintings, some of which were initially donated by Jimmy Bomford and many others purchased with the help of Richard Morphet who said the following about the proposed closure of the museum and art gallery:

 'Swindon's renowned collection of British art has been built steadily over many decades as a key resource for the people of the Borough and region. It is of great significance to many people and through its quality has developed a national reputation, works being requested regularly for loan to major exhibitions in Britain and overseas. The collection brings together fascinating works made by local artists over many years with art of international importance. Successive curators have displayed works from this rich collection in lively and thought-provoking groupings that provide enjoyment that is available to the whole community, benefiting its health and wellbeing. The need for increased display space has long been recognised. For the collection to be placed, instead, in storage of unknown duration would deprive both Swindon and visitors from further afield of a vital source of inspiration. I advised on Swindon's art acquisitions from 1966 to 2006. I would be deeply shocked were the collection to become inaccessible to the community for whose benefit it was built.'

If you haven't done so, please consider signing the petition to reopen Apsley House:

Meanwhile some photos of the last lunchtime talk:

Katie Ackrill above talking about 'Presence on White' by William Gear
and here's 'Night Sky' by Jack Smith, one of the initial paintings donated by Jimmy Bomford in 1960, cleaned and restored with donations from the Friends.
A big favourite of many, Sir Terry Frost's 'Grey, Red and Black Verticals, 1962. A gift of the Contemporary Arts Society in 1976
And here 'Once' by Richard Smith purchased in 1972 with the Support of the V&A Purchase Grant
And here's what we really miss as well, being able to look at a painting and discuss it with a friend.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Celebrating Michael Ayrton: A Centenary Exhibition

 On a recent visit to the Lightbox in Woking, I was struck once again by what a fabulous place it is, and how smoothly it appears to operate. I love their philosophy: 'At The Lightbox gallery and museum, we strive to put art and well being at the heart of everything we do'.They have three collections, the most significant being The Ingram Collection; two catalogues showing works in the Ingram collection are available from the shop, and are great to look at.

I'd specifically gone to see their Michael Ayrton exhibition: 'Celebrating Michael Ayrton: A Centenary Exhibition. Apart from the subject matter, what really attracted me to the exhibition was the fact that 'Roman Window' by Michael Ayrton was their featured painting in all their advertising.

There's the poster, with 'Roman Window' on loan from Swindon Museum and Art Gallery featured as THE image.
The gallery is light and airy, and had a long plinth down the middle for the sculptures, Roman Window can be seen at the end of the gallery with someone looking at it.
I picked out a few paintings to include, the one above is 'Cycladic Shore at Dusk' 1961
This was stunning 'The Red Chair (Portrait of Elizabeth)' 1954. Elizabeth was Ayrton's wife.
We're familiar with this painting on loan from Swindon
This painting 'Catalan Caged Birds' has been loaned to Swindon and often appeared in exhibitions in the gallery at Apsley House.

'Pond at Bradfields' 1953 is a charming painting of a child, who I think may have been a step child inherited when he married Elizabeth. 

Elsewhere there was an exhibition entitled: Night Shaking with the Ingram Collection', these 2 pieces were fabulous. The first by Dora Carrington, 'Iris Tree on a Horse' c 1920, 'one of the few depictions of a woman on a horse portrayed in such dynamic action'

This is 'Ghost Boat' 2003 by John Behan, the shadows it cast were tremendous.
So that was my recent visit to the Lightbox, as you will have seen from the poster above, the exhibition only runs until 8 August, this Sunday, but it's well worth a last dash there.

A link to the talk by Justine Hopkins about Roman Window appears below:

The information with the exhibition was good, I've included it here: