Regeneration project sees Brunel’s Carriage Works brought back to life

By Ben Carey on 23 March, 2023

The second phase of a project to regenerate Brunel’s historic Carriage Works is nearing completion.

Built around 1876, as part of the Great Western Works, the buildings were once the largest carriage works in the country, standing at the very forefront of Victorian industrial innovation.

Swindon is seeking to revitalise Brunel’s legacy with a mixed-use development within walking distance of Swindon station and the town centre.

Phase two includes an Innovation Centre for Applied Sustainable Technologies, created using £4 million from the Government’s Getting Building Fund secured by the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP).

A further £895,000 was secured by Create Studios from the Towns Fund and Arts Council to create a high-quality digital media facility.

Swindon Borough Council has already invested in two other units inside the Grade II listed building to transform it into a thriving business incubator for creative and digital start-up businesses, alongside 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.

Work has also been taking place on the exterior of the building, including 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, through the Swindon Heritage Action Zone, 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 ready for occupation later this year.

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

The next stage of the redevelopment is currently in the design phase. It will include street-facing units as well as the Bristol Street car park-facing elevation.

Councillor Matty Courtliff, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and Town Centre Experience, said, “I’m very excited to see this latest phase of the Carriage Works being completed.

“So much work has gone into this and it’s great to see this historic building, which was once at the forefront of Victorian imagination, being repurposed as a 21st century hub of innovation, knowledge and creativity.

“Whilst many residents may not get to see the inside of the building, the exterior works will brighten up the area and help highlight the amazing heritage we have in the town centre.”

Rebecca Barrett, Regional Director at Historic England, added, “It’s great to see the Carriage Works being transformed into an attractive new home for so many businesses.

“It’s the perfect future for a building long associated with innovation and enterprise.”