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Former Technical School Swindon Including Front Wall and Gate, Swindon

Description: Former Technical School Swindon Including Front Wall and Gate

Grade: II
Date Listed: 25 February 2014
Building ID: 1418756

OS Grid Reference: SU1537484274
OS Grid Coordinates: 415381, 184286
Latitude/Longitude: 51.5573, -1.7795

Locality: Swindon
County: Swindon
Postcode: SN1 3DF

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Listing Text


A former technical school of 1895, in Flemish-Baroque style built by Messrs Long and Sons of Bath, to a design by the architect and surveyor Thomas Ball Silcock (1854-1924) for the Swindon and North Wiltshire Technical Instruction Committee set up in 1891 by Swindon New Town Urban District Council following the Technical Instruction Act of 1889.

Reason for Listing

The former Technical School, including its front wall and gate, Victoria Road, Swindon, of 1895 by Thomas Ball Silcock, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural Interest: it is a good example of a late-C19 technical school by Thomas Ball Silcock, displaying good quality architectural detailing in a Flemish-Baroque style, thus making a strong and confident architectural statement;
* Historic interest: dating from 1895 it is a relatively early example of a purpose-built technical school, built following the Technical Instruction Act of 1889, in a town which has a strong, nationally important tradition of engineering prowess, being the home of Great Western Railway works;
* Intactness: its exterior and interior have survived largely intact.


In 1891 the Swindon and North Wiltshire Technical Instruction Committee was formed to administer the Technical Instruction Act of 1889 which permitted local authorities to levy rates to aid technical or manual instruction. Prior to this technical education in Swindon was provided by the Mechanics' Institute which had opened in 1855. The Technical Instruction Committee took over the classes previously run by the Mechanics’ Institute. In 1895 it opened the Technical School in Victoria Road, then also known as the Swindon and North Wiltshire Technical Institute, built to designs by the architect and surveyor Thomas Ball Silcock (1854-1924), in a Flemish-Baroque style. The building contractors were Messrs Long and Sons of Bath. The land on Victoria Road was offered by Major WV Rolleston, and both the Department of Science and Art, and the County Council grant aided the building works. A series of historic postcards and photographs of c1900 show the large, gabled three-storey brick school building dominating Victoria Road.

Shortly after its opening in 1896, and until 1952, the Technical Institute in Swindon also accommodated a Day Secondary School for boys. After 1897 girls were also admitted, and scholarships were granted enabling children outside Swindon to attend. The 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map published in 1900 shows an H-shaped building. In 1899 a workshop and laboratory had been added to the rear (now removed) and further additions were made in 1902. From 1905 to 1924 the number of pupils rose from 196 to 480. In 1926 the school or institute became a college of further education, which by 1928-9 had almost 2000 students. In 1949, in commemoration of George Henry Burkhardt, Headmaster from 1904 to 1932 and founder of the Old Swindonians Association, the Burkhardt Hall was opened on the first floor. In 1961 extensive new school buildings (now demolished) were opened by the Duke of Edinburgh, situated to the rear of the existing school. The school closed in 2006. A stained glass, First World War memorial window was moved in 2010 to Swindon College on North Star Avenue.

The architect Thomas Ball Silcock practised from the Octagon Chambers in Milsom Street, Bath. From 1896 the architect Samuel Sebastian Reay (d.1933) became his partner in the business. Silcock was a prominent public figure within the region: in 1900-1 and 1910-11 he was Mayor of Bath, and from 1906-10 he was a Member of Parliament for Wells. During the 1890s he was also a member of the Bath School Board and Vice Chairman of the Bath Technical Education Committee. Examples of his work include Old County Hall, Station Road, Truro, Cornwall (1890, Grade II), and the Congregational Church on Sandford Street, Swindon (1894, demolished c1970). Together with Reay he designed the Technical Institute on Junction Road in Bradford on Avon (1897), Claverton Down Gospel Hall (1898, Grade II), Newtown Junior School in Trowbridge (1900), and St Peter’s and St Mary’s Junior School, London Road, Marlborough (1904, Grade II).


A former technical school of 1895, in Flemish-Baroque style built by Messrs Long and Sons of Bath, to a design by the architect and surveyor Thomas Ball Silcock (1854-1924) for the Swindon and North Wiltshire Technical Instruction Committee set up in 1891 by Swindon New Town Urban District Council following the Technical Instruction Act of 1889.

MATERIALS: red local brick with decorative stone dressings. The pitched roofs have slate tiles and brick chimney- and ventilation stacks.

PLAN: the three-storey building has an H-shaped plan with a central entrance hall at ground-floor level, where twin stairs lead to the lower ground floor and the first floor above. The former classrooms and workshops on all floors are situated to the front of the building, accessed from a corridor along the rear, with larger rooms to the north and south end of the building.

EXTERIOR: the gabled front elevation facing Victoria Road is highly decorative. It has five bays, the outer bays projecting forward. The central bay, projecting slightly forwards, contains the main entrance to the building. This is accessed via a foot bridge from Victoria Road which leads to a perron (platform) with low swept brick walls with stone parapets. Large panelled doors with a lunette window above are set within an elaborate portico with engaged Gibbs surround, topped with a decorative frieze with central cartouches and swags, topped with urn finials. The portico is flanked by large oculi windows with glazing bars, accentuated with keystone detailing. Above the plat-band at first floor level is a tall tripartite window with sashes, the outer ones arched with the central one with a flat head. Above it is a modillion cornice topped with a Dutch-style gable with a central scalloped tympanum and swags above with the words: 'TECHNICAL SCHOOL'. The whole is crowned with a bell-shaped pediment to the gable. The two recessed bays (the one to the left with the date stone of 1895) to either side, have tall segmental arched tripartite sash windows, flanked by sashes to either side. That to the centre of the first floor is a full Venetian style window. The projecting end bays have sets of two arched sash windows, with those to the upper floors flanked tow either side by recessed full height panels with swags to the top, set under the Dutch-style gables.

The gabled south end of the building has a segmental arched entrance flanked by segmental arched sash windows at lower ground floor level. Above are four segmental arched sashes with plat-band above. The top floor has tall twin round arched windows set into the Dutch-style gable, flanked by flat headed sashes to either side. The gabled north end has segmental arched sash windows at lower ground- and ground floor level. The top floor has a central flat headed sash window flanked to either side by large arched windows each set within the Dutch-style gable.

The rear of the building is plain. It is six bays wide, with the central two stairwell bays, and the two end bays projecting forward. The elevation has a mixture of irregularly placed windows throughout except for the tall window lighting the stairwells. The far left hand bay is blind, with that to the far right with blocked openings. The raised, covered walkway that was attached to the building and linked it to the school buildings of 1961, has recently been removed (its outline remaining visible), as have the later rear extensions to the building that were added in 1899 and 1902.

INTERIOR: Due to severe water ingress, the top floor of the building has become unsafe and could not be accessed (2014). The ground floor contains a large open entrance hall with glazed screens to the lobby and the corridor, and has two offices to either side of the main entrance. The hall has two tall Tuscan columns on square pedestals, with to the centre of the rear wall, between the stairs, a round arched niche now boarded up (and formerly holding a stained glass First World War memorial window). The artist is unknown. Photographs of the window in situ show a boy in school uniform holding the Union Jack with an angel behind and the symbols of learning at his feet, with above and below the words 'GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS - 1914 IN MEMORIAM 1918'. The lower part of the window carries the names of former pupils who lost their lives during the First World War.

To either side stairs lead to the lower ground floor and the first floor. The stairs have decorative cast iron balusters and wooden swept handrail, and are lit by decorative tall leaded windows (the lower part of the right-hand window now replaced). That to the right has a lift shaft inserted to the centre of the stairwell. Large panelled doors with broad architraves, steel ceiling beams, and alcoves survive to the majority of the former classrooms and workshops. The glazed screens with double doors in the corridors survive, though some of the doors have been replaced. Throughout, the building has decorative parquet floors and tall skirting boards. The corridor at lower the ground floor level has cast iron heating grills to the floors.

At the north end of this floor is the Burkhardt Hall, a 1949 remodelling of a former workshop. It has deep panelled lining to the door surround, and a raised lecture podium with panelling to the base of the rear wall at the far end of the room. A marble commemorative plaque with a bronze profiled relief of the former headmaster reads: ‘GEORGE HENRY BURKHARDT MA MS PRINCIPAL & HEADMASTER 1904-1932 FOUNDATION PRESIDENT OLD SWINDONIANS ASSOCIATION – ERECTED BY THE OLD SWINDONIANS ASSOCIATION 1949’.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the south front of the building is enclosed by brick, stepped dwarf walls with curved stone parapets. A section at its north end has recently collapsed and a section at the far south end appears to have been recently removed to allow vehicular access to the building site behind the school. Brick piers, now truncated, but until a few years ago topped with ball finials, mark the entrance to the brick, arched footbridge leading to the perron and main entrance to the school. The walls were formerly topped with decorative cast iron railings, and decorative gates, with now only that to the far north end surviving.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.