Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Brief Tour of Literary Swindon

Swindon. It's known primarily for being the home of the Great Western Railway works and Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), and also for the so-called "Magic Roundabout", which is in reality a diabolic pentagramic portal into the Outer Abysses of Insanity and Chaos from which even H.P. Lovecraft himself would shrink in terror.

On Oct. 7, 2010, the Bodleian Libraries officially opened the new Book Storage Facility (BSF) in South Marston near Swindon. This new and much-needed book storage facility was even featured in an Architectural Digest. This is a "good thing" for Swindon, which seems to be strangely absent from my Rough Guide to Great Britain. Maybe this and some other pieces of literary tourism will help put this city at the heart of Wiltshire on the map!

Swindon was home to the author, poet and naturalist, Richard Jeffries (1848-1887). Jeffries' most beloved book, Bevis, about boyhood in rural Wiltshire, is set near Jeffries own home near Coate Water in Swindon. Coate Water is now a park, and one can visit the lake where Bevis and his companions played at pirates. The old oak tree is also still there, and is marked with a plaque. Jeffries' home has also been turned into a museum, which is open from May to September, and is also the current meeting place for the Blue Gate Poets, Swindon's literary society.

Swindon also provided the backdrop for Jasper Fforde's fabulous alternate-literary reality Thursday Next Series. While I have yet to spot all of the Seven Wonders of Swindon (I think that the statue of Lola VaVoom near the bus station has been taken hostage or sold off for scrap metal), it certainly inspires one to take a walk and explore the streets of downtown Swindon! Certainly, the Swindon Public Library (Central Site) is also worth a visit, with its grand sweeping staircase and its exhibits of historical books and documents on the third floor!

Finally, a visit to Swindon is not complete without visiting the famous Swindon Dalek Trap, cleverly disguised as a pedestrian underpass...

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