Secret Swindon

Secret Swindon by Angela Atkinson
Amberley Press, 2018
95 pages, includes bibliography, paperback
ISBN 9781445683386

The aim of this colourful publication is to prove that Swindon is so much more than you might think; a multi-layered, unique and vibrant town. As a reader you are invited to discover things you never knew, aided by ‘Did you Know’ fact boxes to guide the way.

secret swindon

The book begins with an interesting synopsis of the history of the town before the railway. The stories of Swindon’s major families, writers such as Richard Jefferies, Edith New, Swindon suffragette and houses now lost figure here, alongside secret locations and tips on how to while away a happy hour in the town on a historical theme.

Travel back with the GWR and the amazing feats of its employees to create a healthcare system and some wonderful works of culture; also included are the origins of the Mechanics Institute and Swindon’s aviation history for good measure. Modern Swindon is not overlooked, with architecture, the magic roundabout and the strength of today’s cultural activities being investigated.

Angela’s style is witty, snappy and easy to read, weaving information with a conversational tone reminiscent of her origins as a successful blogger.

The content is a lovely mix of old and new on a multitude of topics that goes to the heart of the character of the town. The images reflect the content and complement the text well.

The aim of the book has indeed been met. It will prove an eclectic revelation to both Swindonians and non-Swindonians alike.

Julie Davis
County Local Studies Librarian

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Posted in Communities | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wiltshire Project

You can take part in Ted Homer’s Arts Council/HLF project to discover more about heritage and tradition in Wiltshire. Visit Ted’s website to find out more.

Wiltshire project


Posted in Communities, landscape, local history | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WWI Belgian Refugees

Are you interested in the history of Belgian refugees in the UK during the First World War? Have you been involved in researching them in your local area? Maybe you have a family story that you’d like to share? If so, the ‘Tracing the Belgian Refugees’ project would love to hear from you.


The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and run by colleagues at the Universities of Leeds, Antwerp and UCL. In Autumn 2018 they are launching an online database with which we will be able to trace and record Belgian refugees who came to the UK in order to improve our knowledge and understanding of their experiences and legacies.

The database will be open access and populated via crowd-sourcing. This means that those who have found information on a Belgian refugee will be able to enter this information into the database themselves. To find out more, visit their website get in touch via email, or follow them on Twitter: @FWWBRefugees.

Posted in battles | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Local Studies Looking for Help

Looking for advice or inspiration for your work? In recent years LSG has helped by organising training and propagating material through our journal, blog posts and tweets, but now we want to do more by putting together a local studies toolkit. Our aim is to…. To produce a freely accessible online resource that could guide […]

via We want to write a Local Studies Toolkit & we need your help. — Local Studies Group Blog

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Local Traditions at their Best – Beating the Bounds

via Beating the Bounds 2018

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bratton Iron Works

P2494 - Bratton




Bratton History Association has just published an 80 page booklet entitled ‘Bratton Iron Works: An Illustrated Record’ describing the rise and fall over 160 years of the agricultural engineering firm of R & J Reeves & Son that was based in Bratton – on the prominent site that is now the village green.

The author, Dennis Gardner, has collected a great deal of information over the years since closure – photos, catalogues, leaflets, written documents and artefacts, as well as personal memories from some of the ex-employees still living nearby (mostly now passed on). The Bratton History Association encouraged Dennis to present a good deal of this material in written form, and this new publication, full of pictorial detail, is the result – a really good read, even for the non-technically minded!

Copies are available from Westbury Heritage Centre, Hillworth Stores (Bratton) or from the Association, at £9 each.

Bratton memorial

Bratton Iron Works Memorial

Posted in Society Members | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

History is Revealed at Bremhill

I had a room full of interested attendees for my first History Revealed day. For those of you who are familiar with our Interpretation courses at the History Centre, this is a variation on a theme. I would like to extend the scope of this type of event which to date has been reliant on […]

via History is Revealed… at Bremhill — Local Studies Group Blog

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Data Protection Regulations for Local History Groups

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR 2016) and the Data Protection Bill (2017)

Why GDPR and what does that mean?
• Why? Increasing volume of digital data and new ways of
processing it means greater risks of abuses of human rights
• GDPR = EU regulations about processing the “personal data of
natural persons” due to come in force 25 May 2018
• See:
• Good overviews: +
• The regulations can be modified by individual EU members and UK
currently has a bill in parliament:

•‘Personal data’ means any information relating to an identifiable
individual – the definitions of sensitive personal data have been
widened to include genetic and biometric data
•‘natural person’ means anyone who can be identified by any
reasonable means (eg by name, identity number, geographical
location etc)
• We are assuming ‘natural person’ relates only to living
individuals as at present but there is a slight risk it could be
widened by Parliament – watch this space!

Principles – very similar to existing ones
under DP Act 1998
Personal data must be:
• Processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner
• Collected for specified explicit and legitimate purposes and not
further processed in a manner which is incompatible with them
– further processing for archiving purposes in the public
interest, scientific or historical research purposes is
• Adequate, relevant and limited to what is required for the
purposes concerned
• Accurate and kept up to date (where necessary)

Personal data should be:
• Kept in a form where individuals can be identified no longer than
necessary (but may be kept longer for archiving or research
• Processed in a manner which is confidential, secure and avoids
accidental loss or theft – bodies holding personal data are
accountable for what happens to it
• Data subjects have a right to access their own data free of
charge and know why it is being processed

GDPR and children
• Children under age of 13 are not able to give consent for
• Children age 13-15 need parental consent as well as their own
• Children 16 and over can give consent

Key innovations
• Privacy impact assessments for new systems (eg a new
computer system) are now needed – systems should be
designed to minimise DP risks
• Publicize purposes for processing data (eg put a notice on your
website as to what you collect and why)
• Consent must be meaningful – need to explicitly opt in, and
must be able to leave mailing lists easily
• Right to be forgotten (but this doesn’t prevent archiving!)
• Tougher regime and higher fines for breaches (up to 4% of
global turnover or 20 m euros whichever is greater)
• Large organisations need a Data Protection Officer who can act
as whistle-blower – this won’t apply to local history groups

What does it mean for most groups?
• You will need to tell your members and anyone whose data you
hold what you are holding and why – a notice on your website
should be fine. Make sure any forms (inc online) used to gather
data include a data protection statement.
• If you get asked what you hold on a named individual you will
need to tell them but you only need to search computer
databases – you don’t need to worry about manual records
(public authorities are different – we do)
• You have an exemption from the need to rectify, delete or erase
data under the purposes of “processing for archiving purposes
and for scientific or historical research and statistical
purposes” – this applies to data you may have collected for that
purpose, not your own membership data

If you buy a new computer system to hold personal data you
need to carry out a data protection impact assessment

The good news!
• Don’t be scared of GDPR!
• The ICO is keen for ‘business as usual’ – reform rather than
• Further, more detailed guidance for archive services will be
coming from TNA once the bill has become law – at present this
is all subject to change… we will pass on details if they are
relevant but the ICO website can help in the meantime

Claire Skinner

Principal Archivist, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Posted in local history, Society Members | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Westbury Heritage Society News

Posted in local history, Society Members | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michael Wood on Alfred the Great and the Battle of Edington

On the evening of Thursday 16 November 2017 the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre was delighted to welcome renowned historian and television presenter, Michael Wood, as our guest speaker. Michael travelled from London to present a special one-off lecture to help celebrate our 10th anniversary as a History Centre, and the 70th anniversary of the archive service. It was very well attended by almost 180 people. All the profit from the talk went to support the work of the History Centre thanks to Michael generously waiving his fee.

Principal Archivist Claire Skinner with Michael Wood

Michael brought out the importance of archives for society through assisting our collective memory and understanding of the past. His colourful slides and video clips brought the shadowy Anglo-Saxon era to life. (Michael did his postgraduate research on Anglo-Saxon history and still retains a passion for it – he is due to publish a book on King Athelstan in 2018.)

Michael laid out the background to the Battle of Edington, which took place the second week of May 878. He explained how after a surprise attack at Christmas by the Danes at Chippenham, King Alfred hid in the Somerset marshes at Athelney, building a fortress there. Alfred called a levy at Ecgbryhtesstan (Egbert’s stone) which Michael attributes to Penselwood in Somerset. Alfred was joined by men from Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire, and quite possibly Dorset as well. The next day they moved to Iley Oak, just south of Warminster, and thence to Ethandun or Edington, in Wiltshire, where they made a surprise attack on Guthrum and the Danes. Michael argued that the conventional belief that the battle took place on the hillside overlooking the settlement is incorrect, and that the archival sources would indicate instead that the battle took place actually within the royal settlement, possibly on the site of the old vicarage of Edington. (Edington was one of Alfred’s family estates and he left a manor called ‘Ethandune’ to his wife in his will.) This needs to be followed up with archaeological investigation such as geophysical surveys to see if evidence of the battle can be found.

After the Battle Guthrum became baptised as Athelstan, and agreed to a treaty with Alfred in which the Danes would leave Wessex and return to East Anglia. In 879 they left Chippenham and went to Cirencester, and the year after to East Anglia. In 886 Alfred and Guthrum made a treaty which defined the boundaries of their kingdoms, and tried to establish peaceful commerce between them.

Michael ended his talk by discussing Alfred’s legacy and the fact that he is the only monarch remembered today as ‘The Great’. There are many myths and legends associated with Alfred, such as the burning of the cakes, which can turn Alfred into a bit of a figure of fun, but Michael reminded us that behind these myths lay a shrewd and intelligent military leader who promoted a revival in learning using texts written in English as well as Latin.

This immensely enjoyable and fascinating lecture was followed by a Q & A session and a well-earned vote of thanks from Councillor Richard Gamble. After that one or two lucky people managed to get Michael to sign copies of his books, before he was whisked off to catch his train back to London!

Claire Skinner, Principal Archivist, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Posted in battles, local history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment