Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Swindon's Regeneration : Frozen In Time

You know a place is special when it gives off an atmosphere, a feeling that you can't quite put your finger on. These combine to convey the importance, effectiveness and the weight of a place.

With the crane still and the clock frozen at 11 minutes past 5.

 I had that feeling the instant I stepped into the Long Shop, the last remaining building on the old rail works site in Swindon without a use. The air had a thick smell of engine oil, no doubt the smell has seeped into the structure since it's opening in 1847. The thick walls and floor gave the place that cathedral-like peacefulness, there was no sound of traffic, or of passersby. A couple of times a train ran past and the calm was briefly interrupted.

The sunlight was streaming through the south-facing windows, giving a regular pattern on the dust-covered floor. The Long Shop originally closed for business in 1986 and is frozen in time. Stopped clocks are complimented by the locker-rooms which still have rail workers names on them.

26 years since Davies and Jones used these lockers in the former British Rail Long Shop

The owners of the Long Shop and the majority of the former Works site are Henderson Global Investors (who own the management company for the Outlet, McArthurGlen) and at the end of the month their plans for a £35 million extension of the centre into the Long Shop will be decided.

After so long, this place that hangs heavy with the memories of the past, will be visited by millions of people into the future.

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