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Swindon is situated in southern England in a fertile clay valley by the River Thames which marks the northern boundary. The southern boundary is the high chalk uplands hills. It was published in the Domesday Book as “Suindune’, a Saxon word which translates to “pig hill” or “the hill where pigs breed”. Domesday describes the place as a manor in Blagrove, Wlltshire. The population of the settlement was close to 600.

By the end of the 17th century, Swindon’s population 791, and by the late 18th century, locals worked a stone quarry, but Swindon identified primarily as a small market town which trafficked mostly in barter trade with a presence at the top of the hill called Old Town. It was also allowed to hold four annual fairs.

By 1801, there were 1,198 people living in Swindon. In 1810 the founding of the Wilts and Berks Canal followed by the 1819 opening of the North Wilts Canal ushered in more business and more people, with the population in 1831 growing to 1,742. But it was the arrival of the Great Western Railway in 1842 that changed Swindon from that small market town into a busy railway hub which would grow into one of the largest railway engineering complexes in the world. It started out with Swindon being chosen as the engine building and maintenance site in the region. The engine works opened in 1843, and within five years, 180 men worked there.

Workers were coming into Swindon from all over England. The town became so full of those workers that a village had to be built specifically to house the overflow. The village, about a mile north of town, got the first cottages in 1842. The addition of more and more cottages continued through 1847.On the heels of the railway and the sharply-increased population came the addition of such things as the cradle-to-grave healthcare centre which was eventually used as a template in the creation of the NHS.

Meanwhile, the older part of town was growing. St. Mark’s Church was consecrated in 1845, and the first shops opened. Houses were built on Bridge Street and on Fleet Street even as the newer part of town added more cottages. In 1801, the settlement was called New Swindon and the population of the settlement had grown to 1,198. By 1841, it had swelled to 2,495.

In early 1900, Queen Victoria signed a charter which made Old Swindon and New Swindon one town. At around that time, more than 14,000 men worked for the railway works in town. In 1901, there were 45,006 residents. The 2021 census recorded a population of 233,400.



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