St Mark’s, Church Place – Swindon
In 1840, the Directors of the Great Western Railway had decided that a church was an essential building in the new town which they had built at Swindon to serve their railway works. So they allocated half an acre of railway land for this purpose although there was some opposition to the company paying for the building. Eventually one of the directors, George Gibbs, a partner in the banking firm of Antony Gibbs, donated £500 and another £5000 was soon raised to enable a competition for the design of the church to be launched. In spite of Sir George Gilbert Scott’s reservations, Scott and Moffatt were still entering competitions in the hope of ensuring a constant flow of work, and with Swindon, although they had strong opposition in William Butterfield, they won. Work started in 1843 and it was completed two years later at a cost of £8,386, which included a school to the east of the church, and a vicarage to the west. All three buildings had the railway along the north side of their plots and a public park on the south side, with the workers housing in tight-packed rectangles to the east. It was a tree-less landscape with the church and the vicarage completely unscreened from the vast works on the other side of the railway.
St. Mark’s, Swindon, was built in the Decorated Style, with a north-west spire, aisles, a south porch and a proper chancel. It is a highly sophisticated design for its period, and obviously owes much to Scott’s study of old churches. However much Scott may have liked the Lincolnshire churches, it does though seem strange that he should replicate one in Wiltshire. The tower and the spire are strikingly similar to Holbeach, and the clerestory and roof also resemble Holbeach. In spite of this, the scale and regularity of the nave and the thinness of the tracery, makes the church an unconvincing medieval design.
Cattell, J., and Falconer, K., Swindon: The Legacy of a Railway Town (H.M.S.O., London, 1995), pp.19, 52, 61.
St Mark’s Vicarage, Church Place – Swindon