Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
The Swindon Museum and Art Gallery is in the Old Town area of Swindon. In 1930, Apsley House, which until then had always been a family house, was adapted to house the Museum Collection. The elegant staircase, decorative plaster work and stained glass details which originally graced family rooms have now become familiar to many visitors to the Museum and Art Gallery.
The Museum and Art Gallery has been housed together in this building for many years so it is little wonder that the name Apsley House has become largely forgotten. There remains however, a faint reminder for those with sharp eyesight, for the name is inscribed on the old gate posts, which formed the original entrance from Bath Road. Though that access is now blocked by railings, those stone posts remain and will do for a long time to come.
The aim of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery is to safeguard, enhance, exhibit and celebrate Swindon’s collections for visitors, now and in the future.
The Museum was founded by Charles Gore in 1919 as a place to display his extensive geological collections. Gore was the first curator of the museum and the collections were built up following the fashions of the time, focussing on broad themes rather than local connections. He acquired natural history, egyptological and ethnographic collections, along with archaeological materials. Through time the collections have become more focussed on Swindon and the surrounding areas and we hold objects dating from prehistory to the present showing the development of the area and the people who lived in it.
In 1941 the art collection was established by an impressive donation of 21 works by a local businessman HJP Bomford. This collection has been built on and today Swindon Museum and Art Gallery owns a modern art collection of outstanding quality and importance. In addition we also hold an excellent collection of studio ceramics and a number of local artworks.
Open from 10am during school holidays
Closed: Sun, Mon, Tue
Some workshops and talks incure a fee
The Museum and Art Gallery is spread over several floors with no lift facilities, please contact us in advance if you have any access difficulties so we can plan ahead for you.
Housed in a listed building in Swindon's Old Town, the Swindon Community Heritage Museum and Art Gallery displays exhibits of local history, archaeology and geology. It tells the story of Swindon's jurassic past, its connections with the Roman Empire as well as the more recent social history of this thriving town. There is also a programme of temporary exhibitions taken from the museum collections. Unusual exhibits include a 4.5m (15ft) Indian crocodile, an Egyptian mummy of a 12-year-old boy, a unique Roman lead casket and glass urn and the Garrards collection of record turntables. Swindon's remarkable art collection is housed in the Swindon Art Gallery, which is adjacent to the Community Heritage Museum in Bath Road, Old Town, Swindon. It was established by local benefactor, H J P Bomford, during 1944 from a generous donation of works. These works form the nucleus of the collection and include many of the major British artists of the day such as Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, L S Lowry, Paul Nash and many others. Through an imaginative purchasing programme, the collection now has a reputation as one of the best of British 20th Century Art outside London. A more recent acquisition was Laundromat Locomotion, consisting of 12 photographs by Turner Prize short-listed artist, Steven Pippin. Artists in the collection include Terry Frost, Howard Hodgkin, Gwen and Augustus John, Maggi Hambling, Ivon Hitchens, Christopher Le Brun and Lisa Milroy. There is also a significant collection of studio pottery, with works by David Leach, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper among others.
Archaeology, Archives, Coins and Medals, Costume and Textiles, Decorative and Applied Art, Fine Art, Music, Social History
Hide and Seek: Drawings by Eileen Cooper RA
- 20 June — 10 September 2016 *on now
A remarkable collection of unique works on paper spanning almost 40 years, and complimented from a selection of hand-picked drawings from the Swindon Collection by Eileen Cooper RA.
Cooper’s practice as a painter and printmaker is underpinned by highly individual drawings, which reveal her working methods and strongly autobiographical preoccupations. Celebrating themes including sexuality, birth, family, creativity and identity, Cooper’s distinctive imagery has afforded her much recognition and critical acclaim.
- Family friendly
Wiltshire’s story in 100 Objects
- 27 July — 19 September 2016 *on now
This wonderful touring exhibition inspired by Wiltshire Museums tells the story of Wiltshire in 100 objects. Supported by the Arts Council England and managed by Wiltshire Museum, the project showcases the varied nature of objects held throughout Swindon and Wiltshire by its museums. These museums range from military collections, industrial sites, art galleries, heritage centres and small village museums as well as national collections.
The 100 objects are diverse and each gives an insight into the rich history of Wiltshire.
There are objects from Swindon’s GWR works, works of art by Swindon artists and from Swindon’s important collection of Modern British Art.
There will also be objects associated with iconic places such as Stonehenge and Avebury and famous people such as the photographer, Fox Talbot and the authors, William Golding and Richard Jefferies. There are objects celebrating the success of Wiltshire businesses and people, for example the medals awarded to Harris Company Ltd of Calne at the World Fairs in Paris in 1889 and 1900, the gold medal presented to John Britton by Frederick William IV of Prussia and the certificate awarded to Cricklade Station staff in the 1950s. Some objects represent the everyday lives of Wiltshire people in the past for instance the smock belonging Bill Standerwick, a dairy farmer from Mere and also from Mere; the receipt for nursing services in the days before the National Health Service while others tell difficult stories such as the copy of the last letter of Thomas Hilliker, hanged for arson in 1803 and the diary from a German Prisoner of War held in Devizes from 1944-1946.
- Family friendly
From Where I’m Standing
- 21 September 2016 — 28 January 2017
This is an exciting, inspiring and informative exhibition which provides a new perspective and context for the Swindon Collection and that overturns expectations about ceramics.
Featuring work by some of the finest ceramicists in the West Country, including Sarah Purvey,
Jo Taylor and Sasha Wardell, they have been invited to show their art alongside a work of their choice from the Swindon Collection of modern British art.
Swindon’s important collection of modern art, featuring Lucien Freud, Ben Nicholson, Howard Hodgkin and Maggi Hambling includes a ceramic and sculpture collection with works by Hans Coper, Lucy Rie and Ian Hamilton Finlay.
- Family friendly
Swindon Museum and Art Gallery