Carriage Works regeneration hits key milestone

A significant milestone in the ongoing regeneration of Swindon’s Carriage Works has been reached with the completion of the Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) Cultural Heritage Institute (CHI).

Carriage Works Swindon
Picture caption (left to right): Cllr Dale Heenan (Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, Culture and Heritage); Dr Geraint Coles (RAU’s Director of the Cultural Heritage Institute), Cllr David Renard (Leader of Swindon Borough Council); Jamie Harwood (Swindon’s Operation’s Director at Beard Construction)

The keys to Unit 11 of Brunel’s Grade II listed Carriage Works were handed to the university by council officers on 9 Oct 2020.

The regeneration of the Carriage Works, located off Bristol Street, builds on the Council’s commitment to finding sustainable uses for its heritage sites, assisted by Historic England through the Heritage Action Zone.

And, following the coronavirus pandemic, ‘Swindon’s bouncing back’ is the clear message from the Council and business leaders as the town begins to step up its economic recovery.

The CHI is a purpose built postgraduate and professional training hub for the RAU, aimed at increasing the number of trained professional within cultural heritage industries, which form an important part of the local and national economy.

The institute offers a suite of new courses in subjects relating to sustainable, heritage-led regeneration and management. The project has been delivered by Swindon Borough Council and the main contractors, Beard Construction, have been working hard on site since July last year.

Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, Culture and Heritage, said: “The completion of the Royal Agricultural University’s Cultural Heritage Institute is fantastic news and a key milestone in the regeneration of Brunel’s Carriage Works, one of Swindon’s most iconic heritage assets.

“I would like to take this opportunity to formally welcome the university to Swindon – I am sure they will have a long and happy tenure delivering lectures from the heart of Swindon’s own railway history.”

Vice-Chancellor of the RAU, Professor Joanna Price, said: “We are delighted that the work to transform Swindon’s Carriage Works into the new Cultural Heritage Institute (CHI) is now complete, particularly with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic this year.

“The CHI is an important strategic project for the RAU and means we will be able to provide wider access to higher education courses in archaeology and heritage management – key subjects vital to filling a national skills gap.

“Heritage is a growing business sector contributing billions to the UK economy through regeneration, tourism and consultancy, and through the CHI we aim to provide students with the right skills and insight to lead successful careers in this exciting industry.”

The conversion of the Carriage Works, designed by Metropolitan Workshop, includes a new standalone structure in Unit 11 of the West Shed – creating offices, seminar rooms, a library and lecture space over two floors.

Jamie Harwood, Swindon’s Operations Director at Beard, said: “Beard is a family-run firm with roots in Swindon going back more than 125 years, so it is a privilege to work on such an iconic local building as the Carriage Works.

“It is apt that the new facility will be devoted to providing cultural heritage training. The building itself is an important part of Swindon’s history and thanks to the redevelopment, it can also play a big role in the town’s future.”

The Council-led development is a major part of the Borough’s regeneration plans for the Carriage Works. The Council has so far committed £7m to the project.

Further phases of the regeneration are now in the developed design stage, with construction due to start on site early 2021.