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Façade of Brunel’s former Carriage Works to be given new lease of life

A historic Swindon building that was once the largest locomotive carriage works in the country and is now home to a business incubator and a desk co-working space is undergoing additional restoration work as part of work to breathe new life into the town’s Heritage Action Zone.

Built around 1876 as part of Brunel’s Great Western Works, the Carriage Works was a proud symbol of Victorian industrial innovation, but large parts had lain dormant for many years – until now.

Over the last few years, Swindon Borough Council has invested £7 million in two of the units inside the building to transform it into a thriving business incubator for creative and digital start-up businesses and a desk co-working space.

A further unit has been turned into the Royal Agricultural University’s new Cultural Heritage Institute, which will train the next generation of heritage managers and professionals.

An additional £4 million from the Government’s Getting Building Fund secured through Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) is also being spent on refurbishing Units 7 and 9 to deliver an Innovation Centre for Applied Sustainable Technologies for the University of Bath as well as a high-quality digital media facility that will be used by Create Studios.

However, the next phase of the project will concentrate on the exterior of the building and the creation of two new business units on the lower ground floor facing onto London Street.

Historic England has provided £174,893 in funding for the scheme, which will see the restoration of the exterior stonework and new glazing to the windows on both the lower and upper floors.

The lower ground floor units, which were in a bad state of repair, are currently being turned into usable units available for let next year.

Scaffolding has been erected outside the Carriage Works facing onto London Street and the pedestrian footpath is closed to allow the work to take place.

The funding from Historic England was awarded as part of the wider Heritage Action Zone programme of projects to deliver sustainable long-term regeneration to heritage buildings in the area known as The Works.

The work to bring the Carriage Works back to life forms part of a £100m programme of investment the Council is leading on to upgrade and enhance the town centre’s public realm, transport links and heritage assets, while work is also well underway to regenerate a 20-acre brownfield site off Fleming Way.

The majority of the investment is using Government funding, with the projects helping to increase land values in the town centre and attract investment in new amenities, offices and homes.

Councillor Matty Courtliff, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for culture, heritage, leisure and town centre experience, said: “Until now, the impressive restoration of the Carriage Works has been taking place outside of the public’s gaze, but this latest phase will be very visible and bring this part of the building back into everyday use.

“We are really excited to see what imaginative future businesses come forward to occupy the new units as we continue our programme of bringing our heritage buildings back into use for future generations to enjoy.

“The new units will also complement the forthcoming improvements to Station Road and the Sheppard Street underpass as we look to create a more welcoming environment for pedestrians to increase footfall between the railway station and Heritage Action Zone.”

Rebecca Barrett, Historic England regional director said: “We’re delighted to be playing a part in the transformation of the Carriage Works, one of several regeneration projects in the Swindon Heritage Action Zone.

“It’s exciting to see this historic building brimming with activity once again – home to new businesses and education facilities. The repair of the building’s impressive façade onto London Street is a real milestone.”