From the days when sacks of corn filled Swindon's Corn Exchange, to the heyday of the Locarno, when the likes of The Who and The Yardbirds filled it with sound, these old stone walls have soaked up the atmosphere and the memories of Swindon.
Built in 1852, the first Corn Exchange served as a corn store and market, with offices above. It became Swindon's first Town Hall, hosting public meetings and the magistrates court. Just a few years later, a bigger, grander building was needed, and the current design, with its 80 foot Italianate clock tower, elegant arcades and a fountain under a glass dome, opened in 1866.
By 1880, with the collapse of corn prices, it was used for a variety of purposes: storage of wine in the cellars, banquets and grand bazaars, and entertainment of all sorts. Throughout the 20th Century, it became a roller skating rink, a cinema called The Rink, and - from 1952 - the Locarno Dance Hall. Big name dance bands entertained the troops from Chisledon army camp and Lyneham air force base, while pop groups, wrestling and bingo added to the memories until it closed for good in 1984.
Now, after over 30 years of silence, the heart of the Old Town is about to start beating again...
IN A £35 MILLION RESTORATION, THE CORN EXCHANGE IS TO BECOME, ONCE AGAIN, A PLACE FOR PEOPLE.
The design, created by award winning architects FCB Studios, features a glass roof over the old Locarno Ballroom, which will be surrounded by restaurants, cafés, bars, bistros, boutique cinema and niche retail shops. Market Square will assume its historic purpose as a public square, not a car park, with a beautiful new public piazza. The clock tower and façade will be restored, entertainment will be encouraged, as would a sustainable street market.
The public realm along High Street and Wood Street will be transformed with high quality paved surfaces, signage, trees, street lighting, all designed so people are more important than the motorcar. The vision is to restore the heart of Old Town, a place for people to live and work, relax and enjoy - with a shorter, more contemporary name, with the emphasis on 'change':
THE EXCHANGE - THE CORN EXCHANGE REBORN