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By 1866, Swindon (the old town on the hill) and New Swindon (the new town below) were both growing rapidly and had formed local government ‘boards’, though they were still two separate towns.
By the end of the century, old Swindon was swamped with new housing and shops as a result of the railway and the two places were becoming one town, and needed to organise their public services together. So in 1900 Queen Victoria gave a town charter to the combined towns, as a single town simply named ‘Swindon’.
This called for an important new building – the Town Hall in Regent Circus, halfway between the Railway Village and the Old Town Square, to house the Council offices. Today this expanded building houses the new Central Library, which began in the Mechanics’ Institution, and the nationally recognised Swindon Dance – with the Council offices now located on Euclid Street. In 1895, the Wiltshire Technical College was built on Victoria Road to expand Swindon’s technical education which had also been developed in the Mechanics’.
Today Swindonians still refer to ‘Old Town’ and ‘New Town’, but they share the same local council; indeed, the town has expanded to take in surrounding rural areas and developed vast areas of housing since 1900.
Swindon’s story is founded upon people coming to live and work here from other places, first from the UK and later the whole world, and is still a fast growing place today – welcoming new people, new houses and new businesses, reflecting the changing times into the 21st century. Swindon today has over 130 first languages spoken, much higher than the national average.
Hopefully soon, the Mechanics’ Institution will once again help link all parts of the Swindon community together, with a shared sense of citizenship, as it did so well so long ago.