by Jo Sullivan, New Centre Project Assistant
A decision is made
On 16th September 2008, the BPMA’s Board of Trustees chose the former Chain Testing Works at the Churchward Village site in Swindon, Wiltshire, as the intended site of BPMA’s New Centre. This was the culmination of a detailed examination of options and potential sites (of which over 20 were visited) for the BPMA’s plan to provide a new facility for its archive and to restore full physical access to its museum collection.
The choice was made after a long and considered site search, including London and other regional centres such as Birmingham and Bristol. Swindon is a town with a great deal of potential, it has enthusiastic and ambitious leaders who in early 2009 announced a £200 million town centre regeneration scheme. It is home to a large national and international business community and this is built on excellent transport links. Swindon is 60 minutes by rail from London Paddington and has regular trains from Bristol, South Wales, the South West and the Midlands. It is 60 minutes from Heathrow and other airports are easily accessible.
Churchward is just outside the main centre of Swindon and is a 10 minute walk from the station. It is home to the National Trust UK Headquarters, as well as the English Heritage National Monument Record Centre and STEAM (a museum which attracts 100,000 visitors per year). It also houses a designer outlet village (McArthur Glen) which gets close to 3.2 million visitors per year.
Work to the BPMA’s potential home would run alongside the development of residential, business and hotel accommodation nearby, all part of a plan conceived to make the most of an already attractive site.
There would be on-site parking, and greatly improved disabled access, unlike anything we could possibly provide in London.
The building offers 43,000 sq ft of ground floor space and there would be a possibly of further increasing the floor space by the use of mezzanine levels.
The building is Grade II Listed and described on the English Heritage ‘At Risk’ register as “a rare example of a railway chain testing house built in 1873”. Some of the machinery in the floor inside is Grade II*, as it is the last complete example in situ, and the BPMA would be keen to make a focal point of this.
The BPMA’s New Centre promises many exciting features for researchers and visitors both old and new. It will be a combined museum and archive, offering the best in access to all the wonderful material the BPMA has to offer.
The Royal Mail Archive will have its home at Swindon, with state of the art storage facilities and a superb public Search Room for researchers, designed to the highest possible standard. We will provide the most up-to-date equipment but continue BPMA’s excellent face-to-face user service.
The BPMA’s New Centre will have space to exhibit our museum collection, opening up this part of our holdings fully for the first time since the National Postal Museum in London closed in 1998.
There will be areas for exhibiting from our philatelic and wider holdings and for temporary exhibitions. We would hope to produce interesting programmes for the local community of Swindon, as well as something appealing to visitors from far and wide.
We aim to offer facilities for events, meetings and school visits, a conservation studio, and to house partners on site as well. We will provide flexible space for those that need it; space for our Friends to meet or space to host an event for societies and interest groups.
There will also be a dedicated educational area, providing a physical base to add to BPMA’s already proven success in offering first class educational provision.
For further information, comments or ideas on the project please contact:
020 7239 2306