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You are in: Wiltshire > About Wiltshire > Places > Swindon bashing...

Swindon in Wayne's world

Swindon in Wayne's world

Swindon bashing...

Swindon rockets to the top of fashion designer Wayne Hemingway's 'Crap Housing Estates' league table

It's "the arse of the world" according to Mark Haddon's best seller; it's "the dullest town of its size in the UK" says an on-line guide and to comedian Eddie Izzard it's a "knackered, kind of Fresno Town"…

Swindon bashing, it seems, has become a bit of a national pastime.

Swindon in Wayne's world

Swindon in Wayne's world

The latest to hurl abuse, at the much maligned Swindon, is fashion designer Wayne Hemingway the founder of the fashion label Red or Dead.

According to the man who ingeniously replaced shoe straps with ticking watches, for such design icons as the pop group Bros, south Swindon's newest housing development is the worst in the UK.

The estate is so "jaw droppingly bad", in fact, that the earnest Mr. Hemingway has promoted the Swindon Barratt homes to the very top of his "Crap Housing Estates" league table.

With its "prison style housing" Wayne claims that he'd rather move his inordinately large collection of kitch 70's prints into Strangeways, the notoriously bleak prison in Manchester, than contemplate a move to Swindon.

And he believes that most of the inmates at Strangeways would probably agree:

"…felons do actually have room to exercise and play sport," writes Hemingway in the latest edition of Building Design, the architectural journal.  "The 'inmates' of new housing developments like this only chance of exercise, within the development, is a 10 metre walk from car to their front door."

Swindon in Wayne's world

Swindon in Wayne's world

And just to bring the comparison well and truly home, so to speak, the designer has even gone as far as Photo-shopping shots of the Barratt homes with the add on benefits of barbed wire fences, a prison watch tower and some desultory looking 'inmates'.

But according to Swindon's Mayor, Ray Fisher, claiming the new development is worse than a prison isn't as bad as it sounds:

"I had a look at the Strangeways building and I thought it was quite a nice construction.  It looked quite modern and it had some shape to it.

"And why would Her Majesty's Services' structure be an awful structure?"

With one bedroom flats on sale, for up to £150,000, Swindon's Mayor says "it's all a matter of taste" and  that there are "an awful lot of people who don't agree" with Mr Hemingham.

last updated: 09/05/2008 at 11:18
created: 24/05/2005

Have Your Say

Tell us what you think… Is the south Swindon housing estate a good buy? Or a good-bye?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Annie
At the moment i don't really like swindon but i like the people that live around here . Well most of them ,especialy my friends like anisha and zoe and sunita .

Tom Morland
wot an idiot! :[

Anon.
Yes Swindon has it's horrible places and the horrid people who think spitting in the street is classy but most places in Britain do. I don't know how Swindon became so hated but I think it's continued this way because people choose to ignore the better aspects of it. I can't say I plan to stay in Swindon because it really isn't the greatest of places but at least its provides a reasonable night life, a range of shops, places to go like the lagoon pool at the oasis and a 10 minute drive to remote countryside. It's not hard to ignore the slightly more run down areas, I know I certainly do. And as far as insulting the intelligence of every Swindonian, as has been done on this page, well what an original generalisation that is.

Beckie - Old Town
I have lived in Swindon all of my life. Eventhough I have hated the town as a child/teenager because there are no local ammenaties, you do find a way of entertaining yourselves. Swindon is good because whatever direction you travel you can reach the countryside in less than 30 minutes. It is in the centre of everywhere, Birmingham, Bristol, London all less than 2 hours away. I do live in OldTown and have never moved. I have no need to visit the 'prison like' areas. Or those deemed as discusting. It is all a price we have to pay for modern housing but this is the same in any other town/city. Swindon isn't as bad as everybody says. Give it a chance, and those who have never lived here then you cannot really comment. Bring on 2010 when the council complete their 100 points. Swindon is looking better already.

Jane now in New Zealand
I moved to Swindon in 1986 for work. I love the location, surrounding countryside, easy access to Bath, Oxford, and the Marlborough Downs, but hate the characterless town. Fortunately I met a Kiwi who took me away from the dreary place 2 years ago, however I have to return to sell the house, something I should have done before I left. What on earth made me think I might want to return there.

James
Congratulation Mr Hemmingway for jumping on the band wagon. Is this the kind of inovation and free thinking that were are to expect from all of Britain's fashion designers. I hear a lot of moaning and few clever sound bites but not a hint of what to do about it. Sounds like the final gasps of a washed up shirt maker trying to grap some free publicity. New line of socks coming out? If you don't like then don't come here because to be honest we don't want you. It takes more than buildings to give a town its character.

anon
I am a born and bred Swindonian and have lived in and around the area all my life. I currently live in the so called ‘prison block’ with my girlfriend and we’ve taken some of the negative comments rather personally. We own a top floor ‘cell’, which strangely enough doesn’t have bars on windows and doors. Instead large arched windows offering a very airy and light feeling into the apartment, and giving far-reaching views across the rest of south Swindon have replaced these. And we are not on 23-hour lock down - we are allowed out. So when we do venture out, the location for us is perfect. The hustle, bustle, shops and nightlife is a mere 10 minutes away, close enough for a gentle stroll yet far enough away from the traffic and noise. The railway station is close by for trips out to London and Bath, and Sainsbury’s is a stones throw away. Our reliance for transport is at a minimum, how many people reading this can say that? Back inside the apartment, it is spacious, clean and fresh with large rooms and every modern convenience that you could desire. We have everything we need for a ‘much more than comfortable life’. Living in an apartment block does not suit everybody, granted. But in the same fold this kind of housing offers a number of different people different options. First time buyers can afford a property without having to buy or rent in a deprived part of town, it offers a low maintenance affordable house for the young professional, investment buyers have taken the opportunity to buy to let (which for me is a sign that people have confidence in this area prospering) We would fit in the young professional bracket, and it suits our lifestyle. We’re more interested in living our lives for us, having a social life, be out and about. We have a low maintenance home, at an affordable price; in a location we want, allowing us to live the life we desire…. Perfect. No DIY, no gardening, no ‘competing with the Jones’s’. It’s a place for us to chill out, a place to sleep, to entertain friends…. It’s our home. So to the people who ‘don’t like the look of the building’, simple, don’t look at it. Let the people who enjoy living there, carry on living there. And if you would be so kind to provide a picture and the location of your home, please do so. There are things that I won’t like about it, things that would not fit in with my way of thinking, things that you wouldn’t agree with and most certainly wouldn’t like. Yours Sincerely, Prison Cell Owner.

Paul
I had the misfortune of living in Swindon for a year and even bought a property there. It is,like a lot a Britain a disgrace. Old Town is populated by Surrey wannabe's who have inflated the prices in that area.The total equity they are sitting on could build some decent schools, some of the existing schools, with good reputations with the locals, are apalling environments for learning. Areas of great depravation also,with all that it entails, it's on the front line when we talk about dispersal orders, upwards of 50 yobs have been congregating near the Wyvern. Potentially it could be another Oxford, it's rail links, proximity to great countryside. There is a staggering amount of wealth in the county,mainly in the many villages (just look at the property prices) but they would only come into Swindon to visit the hospital (good new building incidently) or to collect the rent!

John Berry
Nonsense Hemingfield, or whatever your name is. I can only think of a few other towns/cities I'd rather live in. How would Wayne react if he had to live in a truly lousy town like Mansfield for instance. The Swindon I love is a relatively prosperous town, has some nice jewels (Coate (hands off), Lydiard etc.) It's not far from the wide open spaces and prehistory of the Downs, watersports up at South Cerney. It's also easy to get to places like Bath and Oxford (nice-to-visit museums) and London's not too far away if you want to make the most of the shopping and nightlife without having to live there.

Keith of Grange Park
Swindon is a joke. You just have to look at what some residents say about it to see the kind of education the town’s population have. The old Labour leader who threw her toys out of the pram was a disgrace to look at when representing the town on TV. Notices saying “for town centre shopping follow signs to town centre” the graffiti on a playground that hasn’t been built yet all demonstrate a town with no self esteem. Don’t even start on STFC!

Mark in Swindon
I have been in Swindon since 1990, though I don't "hate" the town I do feel that it is a very lack lustre place to live. It seems to be the "dumping ground" for all kinds of "benefit's scroungers" and nothing seems to be done about it - I am sick to the back teeth of being asked for cash evertime I use a cash point in the town centre. I am also very disgruntled about the way swindon planners build on every scrap of available land rather than trying to improve other areas. The way the roads are constantly being "dug-up", the eysore that is unfinished building work at East Street and Milton Road, and the neglect of The Mechanics and the Locarno, and the influx of more and more foreign nationals into the town who just don't even bother to integrate with the local Swindon population - just visit the Savoy on any given night! These people are moving here so why do they choose to isolate themselves? No - unfortunately when I get my affairs in order I will be glad to see the back of Swindon - as my father has always said "the only good thing about Swindon is the road going out of it!"

Matthew Ball
I am only 15 but I hate this place, I never understand why people from places like New Zealand move over here. It needs to stop growing and needs to take care of what's already there the council estates let us down, replace them with better looking housing. Swindon is horrible and I can't wait to leave.

John
Alot of people move close to Swindon to take up work in one of the many medium to large-sized companies located near the railway station. Sensible people will commute in and leave living there to the locals. In my opinion, the town has grown too quickly and simply does not have a sense of community or place; rather you get the sense of being one of an army of transient shoppers by day or fashion victims at night visiting chain shops or 'fun' pubs.

Julian
Yes, the new housing is dull. But its fine for Hemingway to fire critical salvos at Swindon's housing developments - he doesn't have to live here (he can choose from the multiple houses he owns around the world). But for key workers like myself (I teach) these developments represent the only hope of getting on the housing ladder in the near future, especially if you are single. Why doesn't Hemingway put his money and energy where his mouth is and, like you have done in other areas of the country, get involved in working with those responsible for planning and building these abominations in Swindon?

clifford.r.hill. ex deacon st // goddard ave.
thank you,for putting my views forward. --- WOOD MAGIC [A BOOK BY RICHARD JEFFERIES ] [ AND HIS OTHER BOOKS ,ABOUT COATE WATER [ MY COURTING GROUND ] TO SCRUFFY NOW ] WAS MY SWINDON. LOVE TO MY OLD MATES [CLIFF]

clifford.r.hill. ex deacon st // goddard ave.
yes the baptist tabernacle,on regent circus [? sold to the yanks our girls gone home with the yanks ] swindon was a lovely place ,untill the londoners moved in [it is a scruffy town now . ex teddy boy of swindon .

Nick - Rodbourne
Agreed it's not the best looking town, the planning dept does need sacking, but compared to places like reading and gloucster it's 100 times better. It's all too easy to jump on these bandwagons but at the end of the day compared to other towns of it's size it doesn't have the social and crime problems they have. Wiltshire is one of the safest counties in england!!

jeanews
Hemingway was referring to the new flats south of the railway line opposite the Designer Outlet area. I have seen worse in Swindon. The new housing estates that have been built around Swindon are souless and car dependent. The proposals for the farm-land next to Coate Water are outrageous. Someone should be shot!

Tom From Old Town
I know that Swindon has dull and souless places in it,but on the whole there are far worst places to live,been to Reading recently?

Andy
My colleague at work calls Swindon the 'council estate of the south west'. Compared to the surrounding areas, I think he's got a very good point. Just wait until Coate Water, and the Front Garden are concreted over with more high-density flatblocks (sorry, executive homes), and it'll just be worse.

Kerry D
I was born in Swindon and up until 10 years ago would have defended it to the hilt. The terrible expansion has created ghettos and souless places - the council has little vision and zero capacity for creative housing solutions. I'd like to know where each of them live to be able to assess the quality of the planning decisions they have made. This town is a dump. I live in a large village which unfortunately has Swindon in its postal address. Thank heavens for postal codes it means I don't have to include it in my postal address anymore -

nikka
i completely agree with hemingway, this town has become a joke. there is no thought behind the developments going on, or the effects that they have on the town. The planners need to start thinking about quality, and not quantity. the planned development of Coate is a disgrace, can they not leave the beautiful landscape as it is?

Franc Short
I think that the building looks disgusting. ALthough thats why they fit into Swindon because the whole of Swindon (ecluding old Town) looks, smells and feels like a s***hole. I can't stand the place. Somthing needs to be done to stop the worst place in the country expanding anymore. It needs to be taken back to the ground and build with some taste.

Jack
Why keep expanding this ugly, evil armpit of a place, the Slough of the West Country. [With respect, I would not look to our American friends, such as contributor Doc Merwin, as the arbitors of good taste and safe places to live]. Preserve the beauty of Britain's fast disappearing rural environment...come friendly bombs and rain on Swindon [to paraphrase poet John Betjeman].

Martin
I believe the devolpment they are talking about in south swindon would be between coate water the GW hospital and the M4. Ther is also a devopment on what was st josephs upper school. Swindons much better than ppl give it credit. There are some dodgy areas but that is the same of any town

Emma - Stratton
I moved to swindon a year ago for work, I had to pay a premium to buy an old house in a conservation area, since then I have seen nothing but building happening all around me. The planners in this town are a joke, with no respect for design or asthetics.

Dave
Swindon should stop getting bigger and start getting better. We dont need more buisiness parks or housing estates built on green belt land we need to improve what is already there.

Prinesh
There is so much development at the North of Swindon, with Priory Vale boasting some very nice houses. The main part of Swindon, that you call "South Swindon" is where the problems are. Much of the construction has been done without thought, like the Holiday Inn on Fleet Street. There is so much potential for a town that is located mid-point on the M4. The council needs to think if they keep going the way they are it will ruin Swindon, driving away any potential new businesses that may move in.

Max
To "Rob" our quality of life is getting worse as town centres are getting more and more crowded and houses are getting closer together. We can't sustain the growing population wihtout building more houses. Eat up the green belt in a controlled fashion to give the town centre space to breathe.

Paul - Priory Vale
Swindon has been mis-managed. If it were a business, it would have gone bust. The design of the town if down to poor councillors who knee jerk to gain revenue without consideration for residents. Swindon needs a good spring clean and a dramatic rethink about housing policies and public open spaces.

Rob
Our quality of life is getting worse as more countryside is being eaten up and replaced by concrete, cars, fumes and over population. How can we stop this?

Andy
Its true. Most of Swindon is appalling, The Mayor has to defend the indefencible but it's councils over the years that have made it like it is. Its only going to get worse with Front Garden and Coate becoming eyesores.

Rob
Where's "South Swindon"? I'll stick with south of Swindon - don't let the town sneak across the M4!

Doc Merwin
Swindon, like any large town, has it's share of problems but as an American who has lived there, and return to visit occasionally, I love Swindon and find Mr. Hemingway's comments absolutely ridiculous!!

lee
what's worrying is that we can expect to see more of these eyesores,if our mayors comments are anything to go by.whens the next local elections??????????

russell
i totally agree with wayne hemingway,who would like to live there? surely andrew isn't considering it? i'll stick to living in highworth cheers.

David
The new prison and slum of tomorrow is on the old railway works site, Andrew.

Andrew
I live in Swindon and am not aware of any new Barratt development in 'south Swindon'!!! Can someone please advise where this is? thanks, confused of Swindon.

Barry Upper Stratton
What happened to the beautiful little town I grew up in, it has been vandalised by excessive building by cowboy construction company,s and a corrupt town planning department.

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