QUEEN'S PARK, SWINDON
Heritage Category: Park and Garden
List Entry Number: 1001549
Date first listed: 08-Aug-2001
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Swindon (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: SU 15651 84276
Municipal park laid out for the Borough of Swindon in two phases in 1949-53 and 1959-64 by the Borough Architect, J Loring-Morgan and Maurice J Williams, General Superintendent of Parks and Allotments.
The site for Queen's Park was first identified by Swindon Borough Council's draft planning scheme of 1937. In the 1940s, a Planning Subcommittee chaired by the town planner and architect W R Davidge produced a report entitled Planning for Swindon 1942-4 in which various pieces of derelict land in Swindon were identified as possible sites for public parks and recreation areas. This included the site for Queen's Park (in the report referred to as Central Park): the disused claypit and Brick and Tile Works situated in Swindon New Town. Shortly after the Second World War part of the site was bought by the Borough from various private owners following a Compulsory Purchase Order. Subsequently the Borough Architect, J Loring-Morgan and Parks Superintendent, Maurice J Williams (1910-88), a horticulturist, were asked to make plans for the new park which was to include a Garden of Remembrance. The latter was opened on 15 November 1950 by Princess Elizabeth and commemorates those men and women who were killed in the Second World War (film, WRO). Landscape works continued in the western part of the park which was formally opened on 30 May 1953 by Sir Noel Arkell, High Sheriff of Wiltshire to commemorate the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II, and the park was named after her. In 1960, as part of Swindon Borough's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, additional land to the east was purchased and two new entrances were created. Works continued until 1964, and included the construction of rock gardens, a rose garden, a terrace with pergola, and a large conservatory called the Show House.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Queen's Park, a site of c 5.5ha, is situated in the southern part of Swindon New Town, on land enclosed to the north by Groundwell Road, to the east by Drove Road, and to the south by Hunt Street. It is located in a residential area with mainly terraced housing dating from the late C19 to early and mid C20. The south-west boundary is marked by a steep bank, a legacy of the site's former use as a claypit, which slopes down in a north-easterly direction towards a lake.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES The park has four entrances. The oldest entrance, designed by J Loring-Morgan, is situated on Groundwell Road to the north of the site and was completed by 1950. It has decorative wrought-iron gates, hung between red-brick gate piers with attached walls which curve around a semicircular forecourt paved with concrete slabs. In each wall is a rounded opening with a wrought-iron screen through which one has a view of the Garden of Remembrance to which this entrance gives access. In the forecourt are two raised flower beds attached to the walls, following their curve. The beds are constructed of brick and have concrete copings. A stone plaque, attached to the north-east side of the entrance wall in the forecourt, commemorates 'Maurice J Williams, creator of Queen's Park' stating, 'If you would see his monument look around'. There are two more plaques on the south side of each gate pier (inside the Garden of Remembrance): one commemorates the opening of the Garden of Remembrance by Princess Elizabeth on 15 November 1950 during the Jubilee Year of the Borough, and the other is dedicated to those men and women who were killed during the Second World War.
The second entrance, completed by 1953, is situated at the junction of Durham Street and Lincoln Street, in the far north-west corner of the site. It is of a similar design, though less elaborate, to the Groundwell Road entrance: cast-iron gates hung between square-shaped red-brick gate piers are linked to a pair of railings and brick walls which follow the curve of the pavement along the public road. On the south-west wall a plaque commemorates the opening of the western part of the park in 1953. Attached to the walls are two flower beds which follow the curve of the walls.
The two other entrances form part of the second phase of the park's layout and are situated on Drove Road, in the far north-east corner of the site, and York Road to the north. From Drove Road a c 20m long footpath runs in a westerly direction into the park. The eastern section of this approach is tarmacked and flanked on both sides by lawns screened with mixed trees and shrubs. Halfway along the length of the footpath, cast-iron gates hung between brick gate piers, flanked on either side by mature weeping willows, mark the entrance to the eastern part of the park. The path to the west of the gates is paved and flanked on both sides by an herbaceous border. The Drove Road entrance was opened in 1960 by the then Mayor, Councillor Miss E C M Millin. The entrance in York Road, completed in c 1962, has decorative galvanised steel gates hung between red-brick gate piers which are attached to a section of galvanised steel railings to the west and a section of stone wall to the east. The latter links up with the rear wall of the Show House (see below).
There are two smaller, secondary entrances along the south boundary of the park which lead down to the lake; these are currently (2000) out of use following the closure of the perimeter path around the lake.
PRINCIPAL BUILDING The Show House, a glasshouse designed in 1960-3 by J Loring-Morgan, stands alongside the north boundary, with its main front to the south. The original ground plan shows a rectangular central area with attached wings on either side (drawing, 1963). In the late 1980s the west wing was demolished, and following storms in 1990-1 and 1991-2, the building was damaged and subsequently its roof and glass were removed. Currently (2000), the brick frame and footings of the building remain, with the boiler house and parks depot attached to its east intact. The central area, which formed the main part of the conservatory, has raised brick flower and display beds decorated with decorative stone rockwork. The floor is paved with multi-coloured precast concrete slabs. The east wing, the former Tropical House, is also paved with precast concrete slabs, and has an octagonal-shaped pond which could formerly be heated. The site of the former west wing is now (2000) covered by a wooden refreshments kiosk. Formerly this was the Cacti House, home to a cacti collection donated to the Borough of Swindon in 1950 by a Mr W Dale. The building contained a mural depicting a desert landscape painted by the Swindon Sketch Club.
PARK The park can be divided into two parts: the Garden of Remembrance and the lake in the western half of the site; and the formal terrace south of the Show House, the Glade, and the site of the former Rose Garden, covering the eastern half of the site.
The Garden of Remembrance is situated in the far north-west tip of the site and forms a formal approach to the rest of the park. From the entrance on Groundwell Road a straight path, c 3m wide and paved in precast concrete slabs, runs in a southerly direction towards a raised terrace with central steps. The central path is aligned on the spire of Christ Church which is situated to the south of Queen's Park, creating a long vista now (2000) partly obscured by trees. The path is lined with benches (donated to Swindon Borough in the late C20), and is flanked on either side by a rectangular-shaped lawn, with in the centre a diamond-shaped flower bed. The lawn is screened to the west and east by a raised rose bed built of brick with concrete copings. The steps at the far south end of the central path which lead up to the raised terrace are flanked by low, square-shaped brick piers with ball finials with rectangular-shaped rose beds on either side. In the centre of the terrace, which is also paved with precast concrete slabs, stands a stone base which formerly held a bronze statue of a girl (drawing, c 1950); the statue is now (2000) gone. From the far south-east corner of this terrace a small path leads to the lake to the south, which with its informal layout creates a contrast with the Garden of Remembrance. The path leads to a small balcony with galvanised steel railings (c 1953) which is situated on the roof of a small, white-painted building that stands at the north end of the lake. From the balcony there are extensive views over the lake and towards the steep bank along its south end. The lake was created from three existing ponds, probably former claypits, and has two small islands planted with a variety of trees and shrubs.
The lake is partly surrounded by a walk which starts at the Durham Street/Lincoln Street entrance in the north-west corner of the site. Formerly the path continued in a southerly direction all around the lake, and linked up with the two entrances along the south boundary of the park. The path and entrances were closed off however in the late 1990s following a landslide on the steep bank along the south side. The remaining section of path along the west boundary is flanked to its west by a raised bank which is laid to lawn and planted with a variety of trees and shrubs. The section of path to the north of the lake runs past the small building with viewing balcony, and is lined on the lake side by large stones. The section of path situated at the east side of the lake is flanked to its east by an open area scattered with stones, possibly the site of a former rock garden. From here a small path of crazy-paving leads up into the wooded area situated behind it and links up with another path that leads eastwards to the Show House. Further south along the lakeside path is a metal sculpture of a gorilla, moved to this position in 1994 from Princess Street. In front of the sculpture, on the lake side, is a small 'beach' scattered with large stones to sit and play on. From here the path turns and runs eastwards to the Show House. Immediately south of the Show House is a rectangular-shaped terrace, lined to east, west, and south by a pergola made of wooden beams which rest on concrete piers. The terrace has a formal layout with small, symmetrical, square-shaped lawns and rectangular concrete flower boxes (Plan, Queen's Park - Modified Terrace Layout, c 1960). It is paved with precast concrete slabs laid in a decorative geometric pattern. Four flights of steps, two in the centre and one on each of the corners of the terrace along the south side, lead to the pond below, which is bordered by two platforms. On each of the platforms is a concrete bench attached to the retaining wall of the terrace. Set in the centre of this retaining wall is a decorative fountain feature carved in Portland stone which spouts water into the pond, flanked on either side by the central steps and platforms. The southern bank of the irregular-shaped pond is laid to lawn containing a few large stones, similar to those situated around the lake. Formerly there were many more of these scattered around the pond, creating the setting for the former 'alpine meadow' which was planted by the Parks Department under the supervision of Maurice Williams (Plan no 2, c 1960; photograph, 26 April 1962). At the south-west corner of the pond stands an abstract sculpture on a brick pedestal, introduced in the last quarter of the C20. In the far western corner of the pond the water leads to a small stream that cascades over a rockery into the lake to its west. A footbridge that runs over the stream and rockery leads to the main path to its north, with the Show House to the east and the lake to the west. The bridge, made of concrete with a steel balustrade along its west side, offers fine views of the rockery and the lake to the west, now partly obscured.
From the terrace to the south of the Show House there are fine views in a southerly direction to a large open lawn of c 1ha called the Glade in the south-east part of the site. The Glade has some fine specimen trees, and is screened to the south, east, and west by a mixed belt of trees and shrubs. On the north-east side of the Glade lies a rectangular-shaped sunken lawn, the site of the former Rose Garden. The lawn is surrounded by a path paved with concrete slabs and screened on all sides by a double beech hedge which creates a perimeter walk; gaps in the inner hedge give access to the sunken lawn area.
'Park plan is taking shape', Evening Advertiser, 25 August 1961 '120 men provide the colour for Swindon', Evening Advertiser, 11 May 1962 'Swindon Parks' pride and joy', Evening Advertiser, 14 May 1962 'Preparing for summer crowds', Evening Advertiser, 24 May 1963 'A gardener trims the grass ...', Evening Advertiser, 10 August 1963 'The quiet waters of Queen's Park ...', Evening Advertiser, 13 August 1963 Monthly News Sheet of the Swindon Borough Council, (July 1963) K Hudson, An awkward size for a town (1967) K Walter, A History of the Queen's Park Community Area, (unpublished MS notes 1997) [copy at Swindon Reference Library]
Maps OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1884-5, published 1886 2nd edition surveyed 1889, published 1900 3rd edition surveyed 1922, published 1923 1942 edition
Archival items Index of signed plans for Queen's Park Development, 1944-74 (G24/105/1), (Wiltshire Record Office) J Loring-Morgan, 4 plans and drawings showing proposals for the Garden of Remembrance, pre-1950 (G24/705/6), (Wiltshire Record Office) Programme of the 'Visit of Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth to Swindon on the 15 November 1950' (G24/169/2), (Wiltshire Record Office) Borough of Swindon, Bye Laws - Queen's Park, 1959 (G24/123/35), (Wiltshire Record Office) J Loring-Morgan, 25 plans and drawings related to the Queen's Park Development, 1959-63 (G24/705/8), (Wiltshire Record Office) Minutes of the Parks, Market and Cemetery Committee, 1950-63 (G24/100), (Wiltshire Record Office) Photographs, early 1960s (Newsquest (Wiltshire) Ltd, Swindon) B/W photograph of the Show House and pergola, nd (Bath Newspaper Ltd)
Description written: September 2000 Amended: October 2000 Register Inspector: FDM Edited: November 2002
This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Register. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 1 September 2017.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 4971
Legacy System: Parks and Gardens
War Memorials Register, accessed 1 September 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/24160
This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.
End of official listing