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The former Swindon Steam Laundry

A Grade II Listed Building in Central, Swindon

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Latitude: 51.5654 / 51°33'55"N

Longitude: -1.7838 / 1°47'1"W

OS Eastings: 415084

OS Northings: 185193

OS Grid: SU150851

Mapcode National: GBR YQV.VZ

Mapcode Global: VHB3F.1XBB

Entry Name: The former Swindon Steam Laundry

Listing Date: 23 April 1986

Last Amended: 12 March 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1355881

English Heritage Legacy ID: 318823

Location: Swindon, SN1

County: Swindon

Electoral Ward/Division: Central

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Swindon

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Swindon New Town

Church of England Diocese: Bristol

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Part of a former cheese factory owned by the Aylesbury dairy Company dating from the 1870s, converted into a steam laundry in c1891 to a design by Ellis Herbert Pritchett, with late C20 alterations.


MATERIALS: brick with painted Bath stone dressings and pitched slate roofs.

PLAN: the building occupies a corner site with Aylesbury Street, and has an L-shaped shaped footprint of two parallel blocks with gables facing Station Road. The single storey block to the east, was used from 1891 as the gas ironing and finishing room to the steam laundry. The two story block to the right incorporated the mangling, drying and ironing room, with the airing room and small women's mess and cloak room situated on the first floor.

EXTERIOR: the gabled left hand side of the main elevation facing Station Road has four bays, with segmental-headed windows with timber multi-pane casements (all windows are now boarded up) and decorative rectangular chamfered panels below. The gable above has a chamfered string outlining its triangular shape and a central keyed oculus for ventilation, the keys extended to meet at the centre. The left corner of the building is emphasised by a stone pilaster topped with a ball finial on a pedestal. The matching two storey right hand gable facing Station Road is also four bays wide, though taller and narrower. It has similar window and panel detailing to both floors, set between end pilasters, and a gable with a central oculus, again for ventilation. At ground floor level is a later inserted door.

The return elevation to the right has segmental-headed windows, now blocked at ground floor level, with the remainder blind with under the roof line painted letters which appear to read: 'THE SOUTHERN LAUNDRY'. A later window has been inserted at first floor level. The long single storey side elevation facing Aylesbury Street has eleven bays, with alternating shorter and taller segmental-headed windows, one of them converted into a loading bay.

To the rear, the left hand gable of the building shows evidence of earlier openings now blocked. The right hand gable, projecting further forward, has two large rectangular openings with late C20 metal shutters.

Please note that the line of the rear elevation as marked on our map may not be accurate, as the Ordnance Survey base map has not yet been updated to reflect the recent (2012) removal of the late C20 rear extension of the building.

INTERIOR: None of the machinery associated with (steam) laundering survives. The internal layout, predominately open plan, is intact, as indicated by the surviving late C19 floor plans. The rooms have open, wide span cast iron roofs, with a number of cast iron columns surviving at ground floor level in the former mangling, drying and ironing room.


The building started out as a cheese factory, built between 1841 and 1876, and was owned by the London based Aylesbury Dairy Company, founded in 1865. The factory supplied dairy products to London via the Great Western Railway, situated opposite. In 1876 the Company commissioned the Swindon based architect William Herbert Read to draw up proposals for a small extension to the factory with a mill & butter dairy. It is not known whether this was ever built (it is now no longer there).

In June 1891, after the cheese factory closed, its contents were sold through public auction, and subsequently the building was converted to become the Swindon Steam Laundry Company, owned by Robbins and Renshaw (Kelly's Directory Wiltshire, 1895). Plans of 1891, signed by the Swindon based architect Ellis Herbert Pritchett of Bishop & Pritchett Auctioneers & Architects (Kelly's Directory Wiltshire, 1895), with the proposed alterations marked in red, show an L-shaped building that follows the footprint of the cheese factory shown on Read's block plan of 1876. Pritchett's plans show two parallel ranges, one of single storey height and one of two storeys, both with pitched roofs. To the rear was a delivery and distribution yard, lined with horse boxes, a ‘Carpet Beating Room’ and an ‘Open Van Shed’. From here the dirty laundry was to be delivered to the ‘Receiving and Sorting Room, with its adjacent ‘Office’ and ‘Board Room’, then passed to the ‘General Wash House’ with its adjacent boiler room which had a tall chimney. The clean laundry was then brought to the ‘Mangling, Drying and Ironing Room’ on the ground floor, and/or the ‘Airing Room for Flannel & Woollen Goods’, which occupied the entire first floor. This was flanked to the rear by the ‘Women’s Mess Room’ and ‘Hats and Cloak Room’ (early C20 photographic evidence shows that the Laundry employed mostly women). Once the laundry had dried, it went to the ‘Finishing Room’ and then the 'Packing Room' on the ground floor before being re-distributed.

By 1942, as indicated on the Ordnance Survey map published in that year, the rear yard appears to have been filled in. In the c1960s (prior to it being listed), the building remained in use as a commercial laundry, and was altered and extended to the rear, incorporating the site of a former row of terraced houses along Haydon Street. This resulted in the loss of the rear of the steam laundry including the distribution yard with the boiler room, chimney, parts of the General Wash House, the Receiving and Sorting Room, and the Office and Board Room. The 1960s extensions that replaced this part of the C19 building, have recently been demolished with Listed Building Consent (November 2012).

Reasons for Listing

The former Swindon Steam Laundry merits listing at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

ARCHITECTURAL INTEREST: it is a rare and early survival of a C19 cheese factory, and later C19 industrial scale steam laundry, displaying good quality architectural detailing and external decoration.

HISTORIC INTEREST: it illustrates the early development of the food processing industry following the introduction of refrigeration techniques and the expansion of the railways, with its later use as a large, industrial scale steam laundry adding to its special interest.

INTACTNESS: despite the loss of the rear part of the building in the 1960s, the main rooms survive and continue to illustrate the industrial processes that took place here.

GROUP VALUE: the building, forming part of the 1870s expansion of Swindon New Town and standing in a prominent position opposite the Railway Station, forms an important group with the Grade II listed former Great Western Hotel.

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