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Thursday, 30 June 2022

The sale of Apsley House

 I'm aware the blog has been fairly quiet on the future of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery recently, this post is intended to update you on where we are now. Apsley House, the former home of SM&AG has now been emptied and Swindon Borough Council have agreed to sell it. Aware of the vital role it does play in the Swindon community, the Friends applied to make it an asset of community value, and this was agreed. At last night's talk on 75 years of listing, Martin Newman of Historic England led us through the history of listing and reminded us that Apsley House was one of the first buildings to be listed in Swindon:

Interestingly, the 1960s gallery extension was also listed later.
The Swindon Advertiser has published three articles about the sale which is attracting a lot of interest unsurprising really bearing in mind the importance of this building:

What is the future of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery? In March, SBC applied for planning permission for a change of use of  the first floor of the Civic Offices, to temporarily open the museum and art gallery there until the Cultural Quarter is built on the Kimmerfields site. Currently you can see some paintings and ceramics in the entrance to the Civic Offices and Committee Room 3, on Monday-Friday 9-5pm.

Friends committee members are meeting with Cllr Matty Courtliff, Cabinet member for culture, heritage, leisure and town centre experience, on a monthly basis to keep them updated and enable discussions about the shaping of the future of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Trip to Fresh Air Sculpture Exhibition

A group of Friends visited the Fresh Air Sculpture exhibition set in the grounds of Quenington Old Rectory on the evening of the 9th of June, and were warmly welcomed by organiser Lucy Abel Smith and her husband, David. It's amazing to think that this exhibition has been running biennually for 30 years, making this the 15th exhibition. It would have been held in 2021, but Covid restrictions made that impossible, so it is especially wonderful to be able to attend as a group this year.

The Pool Gallery is a good place to start the tour. I loved the blue tits made by Emily Lawlor from vintage china and bought one which is now hanging/flying in my kitchen. From there, I began wandering round the garden and adjoining field and took a few photos of sculptures which attracted my attention:

I think this was my favourite exhibit, although I wouldn't necessarily want it in my garden, it's very clever, and presumably if you bought it, Sara would install it in your garden onto a suitable tree or shrub. It's called 'Cornucopia' by Sara Budzik
I liked this series of ribbon and stainless steel structures which hang in trees, they're by Edith Meusnier and called 'Dans L'Intervalle
I was a bit concerned that birds might fly into them.
This piece, 'The End is Nigh; Apophis' is made from wood, hinges and stainless steel bolts, made by Ben Rowe, it's sits well in this woodland setting.
From the intimate garden setting, the sculptures continue in the field reached by crossing the river
The piece below, 'Lotus and the Pearl of Wisdom' by Jessica Gill is a really striking piece, beautifully positioned by the river
Pete Moorhouse produces sculptures that rework traditional Islamic designs producing beautiful sculptures like this one called 'Zahir'
I haven't included many photos of Friends, but thought I'd include this one I took of Lesley and Gwyneth who very much enjoyed their time at the exhibition
And here's Neil trying out the bench which he said was very comfortable. It was made by Matthew Burt and commissioned by Lucy to be used in a contemplative place 
The final piece in my selection from so many great sculptures is titled 'Virus (Large)' by Joanne Risley, it's very beautifully constructed, and does resemble the microscopic photos we have seen of the Covid virus.
There is so much information about Quenington Old Rectory in the magnificent catalogue, too much to mention here, I hope you have access to one, if not, you can borrow mine. I'd like my final photo of this splendid copper beech, possibly among those trees planted 250 years ago, to recognise the wonderful work done by Robert, just putting his wheelbarrow away when we arrived at 6pm. The gardens are open for Rare Plant Fairs, and well worth a visit in their own right.
Thank you once again Lucy and David for your warm welcome when we came to visit, and for continuing to make such a difference to the lives of so many people.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

The Lydiard Archives

 Our May talk via Zoom was given by Sarah Finch-Crisp, Chair of Lydiard Park Friends on the Lydiard Archives. They are a unique digital collection of objects, records, reports and ephemera documenting the thousand year history of Lydiard House and Park, managed by the Friends of Lydiard Park, an independent charity formed to protect, conserve and educate people about the beautiful historic estate with its Palladian house, ancient church, walled garden and rolling countryside. It was fascinating to hear so much of the history of this beautiful place, and how much work the Friends have put into raising the profile of Lydiard estate and attracting finance to maintain it.

How did the Lydiard estate come to be owned by the people of Swindon? Two families, the Bollingbrokes and the St.Johns were unable to maintain Lydiard estate in the 1950, and like many stately homes, it seemed Lydiard House would be demolished, however David Murray John ensured this didn't happen, the then Swindon Corporation bought the house and 147 acres of land for £4500 in 1943, ensuring it could be enjoyed by future generations. In 2015 its future was uncertain when Swindon Borough Council wanted to privatise the estate, the threat to its future was overcome when 750 people attended Lydiard Park Academy to keep it in public ownership. 

Sarah gave a fascinating insight into life in and around this area of Swindon by a fabulous PowerPoint presentation, I took 24 photos of the computer screen during the talk and will add 22 of them here to give you an idea of the sort of things Sarah talked about.

It is probably better to click on the links above because the writing here is a bit small, but gives you an idea, hopefully of the range and scope of the talk.
Sarah talked firstly about the many things that the Friends of Lydiard do.
As a member, I can say that they organise a lot of interesting activities
I attended the Christmas social pictured below
Below some of the publications from the last 50 years
Below an example of the work undertaken by volunteers.
A photo of the rally at Lydiard Park Academy in 2015. I was there, the strength of feeling was amazing 
And then moved on to examples of the sort of thing in the Archives
Starting with their goals
and the sort of things they work with
Photos of the Bollingbrokes and tea on the lawn at the turn of the last century
School photo from 1928
Below a photo of a medal awarded to Earnest Titcombe for best school gardens in 1890
A thousand year old oak tree felled in 1945 with some schoolchildren posing for scale
Greenhill Carnival Queen in the 1950s and Malcolm Titcombe in the insert
Photos of Miriam Titcombe, village Constable with her walnut truncheon
Below the Gough brothers in the 1930s
There's lots to be learned from reading diaries written at the time
A photo of Lydiard Park Social Club in the 1950s
The military required Lydiard Park during 1943-48, it became a German prisoner of war hospital, and after the war, the huts erected on the site were converted in the 1950s and 60s as homes for local people
These photos show Roy Webb putting up replacement wallpaper in 1983

All that remains is to thank Sarah Finch-Crisp again for the wonderfully informative talk and direct readers to visit the house, church and grounds and support them in any way you can.