Petitioning for Swindon

There are six petitions referring to Swindon on the Downing Street petitions website. Ignoring the obsession with trains (three of the six are about train services, real and fanciful), one of the open petitions is to transfer ownership of the derelict Mechanics’ Institute. The petitioners seem to have a novel understanding of the word ‘return’

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to save the Grade II* listed Swindon “Mechanics’ Institution” building, and return it to the people, by helping The New Mechanics’ Institution Preservation Trust to acquire it, by initiating a process of Repairs Notices, with a view to Compulsory Purchase if necessary.

This is a once glorious building and its decline is pitiful — it would be a great asset to the town if it were put to a use. But, except for a short period after closure when owned by the local council, it was privately owned and supported as a member society, though open to others. It never belonged to the people, but to its members and the railway company. To suggest it ever was is to have as nostalgic a view as those petitioning to re-open a local branch line.