Town Gardens

Town Gardens is a traditional Victorian style park that remains at the very heart of the local community of Old Town and has a rich combination of historical and cultural heritage along with traditional landscape features.

The gardens have a secluded and peaceful atmosphere, largely due to the abundant tree canopy that screens the area from the surrounding residential streets and splits it into a series of discreet gardens. The park’s changing levels are linked by a multitude of paths, in part based on the topographical features and old tracks of the quarry workings. Many of the gardens are formally planted and there are numerous mature specimen trees.

Town Gardens is an excellent example of a pleasure gardens of the period and in 2000 was included on the “Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England”.

Brief History

Town Gardens were laid out on the site of a former Purbeck limestone quarry. The quality of the Purbeck stone quarried here gave Swindon an important industry for several hundred years prior to the arrival of the Great Western Railway.

In May 1894, the Town Gardens were officially opened to the public with further developments being carried out in 1902 and 1918. By the 1920s, the remainder of the gardens had been carefully and artistically laid out and planted, including a rose garden and bowling green adding to the attractions on offer.

Since taking on responsibility for Town Gardens, the Parish Council have completed a number of projects including the refurbishment of the main Quarry Road gates, the PC Webb Memorial Sundial, the VE Day Memorial and the installation of an historic 1930’s road sign.

Front Lawn

The main entrance into the Town Gardens from Westlecot Road is through a pair of wrought iron gates supported by brick pillars. The front lawn, with its scattered mature trees, cherry-tree lined path and colourful seasonal bedding, is the first feature that you see. This area is particularly colourful in spring and summer and is popular for people to relax and picnic.

The Band Stand

This is thought to be an original Victorian feature of the Gardens, though it has been refurbished on a number of occasions, the last time being in 2006. The octagonal late-nineteenth century bandstand with cast-iron columns and square clock tower, which is now a Listed Building, originally had a weathervane instead of the clock. At one time the bandstand had gas lights suspended from the roof on each side and more recently seasonal hanging baskets decorated the structure. In 1912 the Gardens were the venue for a benefit concert for the victims’ families of the Titanic.

The Band Stand is still used regularly throughout the summer months for traditional and contemporary band concerts and other community-based events and activities.

The Bowl

The art-deco style Bowl opened in 1936 and is one of only a handful of this type in the country. It is an amazing architectural feature and was restored in 1994 to celebrate the Gardens centenary year. The Bowl originally included in the design a small rockery / water cascade with an ornamental pond at the front (now concreted over). At the entrance to the Bowl arena is an entrance porch with iron turnstiles and brick pillars. It is known locally as the “Hollywood Bowl” and is now the venue for regular summer concerts and events. There are exciting plans to sympathetically renovate the building and the area around it to protect it for future generations.

The Café

The refreshment kiosk was built in 1915 as a trade stand for the Great Western Railway, and once travelled the country visiting large shows and exhibitions. It was placed in the Town Gardens around 1942 and is also a Grade II Listed Building. The café was renovated by the Parish Council in the spring of 2021 as part of its investment programme.

The Aviary and Pond

The present aviary was built in 1994 as part of the Town Gardens Centenary Celebrations, replacing an earlier timber / metal aviary that had stood near to this site since 1928. The birds have always been a very popular attraction for children, and this area was known as ‘Children’s Corner’ when the Gardens first opened.

The pond, dating from 1894, was originally an oval shape with a small island and fountain in the middle. In the 1930s the pond was changed to the shape that is seen today.

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden was laid out in the late 1920s/early 1930s and was built on the site of a former maze whose design, it is said, was based on a similar design at Hampton Court Palace. The maze lasted 18 years from 1910 to 1928. The rose plants are regularly replaced as part of an on-going programme using both traditional and modern rose varieties.

The Sundial in the middle of the garden was added in memory to local Police Constable Richard Webb. This was fully refurbished and re-dedicated by the Parish Council in 2021.

Features

Town Gardens is open daily throughout the year with the following features:

Cherry walk
Rose Garden
Refreshment Kiosk
Public Bowling Green
Bandstand
Aviary and pond
The Bowl (concert and events venue)
PC Webb Memorial Sundial and VE Day Memorial
Ornate wrought iron entrance gates and brick pillars
Public Art – Peter Pan statue, 1930’s historic road sign
Formal ornamental gardens

(with annual bedding plant displays as well as trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants)

Public Toilets

The Public Toilets at Town Gardens are open from 7.30am to 3.30pm Mon – Thurs: 7.30am to 12.30pm on Friday; 7.30am to 3.30pm on Saturday and Sunday

Park Opening Times

Town Gardens is open daily throughout the year although all the gates are locked at dusk; details of the park closing times can be found via this link.

How to get there

Town Gardens is located in the Old Town area of Swindon. To find the Town Gardens, follow the road sign from Bath Road and the main entrance gates are in Quarry Road and Westlecot Road with an additional entrance from Goddard Avenue.

Please note that roadside parking is severely limited, and it is recommended that the public car park in Bath Road is used (SN1 3LS), only 250 metres from the gardens. A number of other public car parks are also available in the Old Town area.

Booking the Parks for Events

The Parish Council is committed to keeping the parks open for all visitors free of charge. However we do consider hiring sections of the park out to companies and community groups. For more information please visit our private bookings page.