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Monday, 25 May 2015

Talk on Brightwen Binyon, architect of Swindon's Town Hall

Michael Gray, RIBA, a highly illuminating talk on this Manchester born architect at the museum on Saturday 16 May; coming as it did at the end of the Swindon Festival of Literature I nearly didn't go out and find out about Brightwen Binyon. However I was glad I had done so; Michael Gray is an excellent speaker, and was able to bring Binyon alive to the audience, describing him as 'an arts and crafts architect with a continental influence'
 Here's a photograph of Binyon at 35:

I'll add a few of the notes I took about this architect who designed Swindon Town Hall, the schools in Dixon St, Birch St, now demolished, and Sanford St.
Binyon was born in 1846 to a Manchester Quaker family, and was named, as was the custom, using his mother's maiden name as his first name. After going to school in Kendal, he joined the practice of Alfred Waterhouse, a specialist in Gothic architecture, aged 17.  Shortly afterwards embarking on a Grand Tour, cut short by lack of money, he worked for 4 years on the Manchester Town Hall, and then went away, producing beautiful watercolours of inspiring buildings. On his return, he met the 12th Duke of Hamilton and designed his stables at Easton Park, this didn't sound very special,so I thought I'd look these up, and found this was a grandiose hunting stable for 50 horses, now demolished. By 1879, he had his own practice, designing furniture and wallpaper, and may have been the first person to use dado rails, although I think they were made of brick.
He remodelled the Grove in Harrow in 1877, and designed the Swindon buildings in 1880. Having been built in 1854, the Mechanics Institute was no longer fit for purpose by the 1890s, so Binyon was commissioned to build a new one, at a cost of £14000, in fact he enlarged rooms and added an extension.
There was a competition to design the Town Hall, there were 25 entries, a lawyer was given the job of choosing the successful plan, he chose Binyon who was cheapest at £7000. He was given an extra £400 to enlarge the clock tower to make it higher than the Corn Exchange!
And here's the watercolour of the Town Hall with its elongated tower:

 Binyon was based in Ipswich, a Suffolk quiot champion who gave us some of our splendid buildings. I was left wanting to know more, and I hope that we hear more from Michael Gray in the future.
I took a few photos which I'll add::
Here's Helen Miah, introducing the talk:
 And Michael Gray talking:
 I've included this one because I like the juxtaposition of Michael Gray and Michael Ayrton's 'Caged Birds'.
I'm hoping that we can hear more from Michael Gray another time, we had a slight follow up in the Beehive afterwards, but I didn't take notes!

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