Stories & Memories
G Puckey Artist in Swindon

Attributed to George W. Puckey, 1888 - 1963

Amateur Painter living in Swindon circa 1911.

Original Images on display at Swindon Museum and Art Galley


Paintings "Attributed to G Puckey"

Photographs from the Trust's Collection


GLW SWIM_PCF4-1000 Telford Road Bridge 1910 photogragh copy 

Whilst refurbishing the Trust Shop in Swindon we became very interested in the structures associated with the canal in Swindon – in particular bridges. Our attention was drawn to a series of paintings of 24 local scenes in Swindon Museum, 12 of which depict the canal.

 Several of the paintings seemed very familiar and were similar to photographs in Doug Small’s books – particularly one painting of Telford Road Bridge and another of Marlborough St Footbridge

GLW SWIM_M15098-1000 Marlborough footbridge


Swindon Museum has no record of the paintings’ origins, or how they became part of the municipal collection. “Donated by J Powell”, and the name “G Puckey” on a few of the paintings were the only clues. Thus we sought help from the Swindon Society and Swindon Artist’s Forum, whose comments are quoted below.  

Alderman James E Powell, known as “Raggy” to the inhabitants of Swindon was, according to The Swindon Society, a rag and bone man - a scrap merchant.  He probably came to Swindon c1890 from London. Unable to read and write he was taught by Swindon notable Reuben George. . Raggy made lists of local residents to practise his calligraphy.

Raggy retained interesting items he found, in a collection which formed the basis of Swindon's first museum in Regent Circus. It is possible the paintings are part of Raggy’s collection. He became a Freeman of the Borough in 1920 and died in 1929.

The signature led us on a quest to identify the artist. Swindon Artist’s Forum identified a Puckey but the 1880 date on the Telford Road Bridge painting, which would have made him contemporary, was found to be incorrect.


GLW SWIM_M15104-1000 Cambria bridge

Research has found a later George William Puckey, who would have been about 23 years of age in 1911. Some of the photographs we think were used as patterns for the paintings were taken in the years 1912 - 14. He was born in Plymouth, moved to John Street, Swindon (census 1901) and later to Vilett Street (census 1911).  He is described as a van driver.  He married Beatrice Weston in Brentford in 1929, and died in 1963 in Ealing. 

GLW SWIM_M15069-1000

Lesley A Cornish   (Chair Swindon Artist’s Forum)   comments on Puckey’s paintings  “I would say he was a hobby painter who produced work for sale as souvenirs to supplement his income.   Not valuable from an artistic point of view, but of great interest to such as yourselves for historical relevance”.

There is a lot of nostalgia in these artworks. They have been sanitised of the ugly, with even, tidy and regular buildings, and the paintings have been ruralised, removing traces of the town, to a time when the canal ran through countryside. Some of the dates are fanciful, put there to create an impression. 




He was reluctant to paint figures, only two and one horse appear, although the original photos, for example The Golden Lion Bridge, are packed with people.

The pictures bear titles and other inscriptions which to our inexperienced eyes give the impression of differerent hands. Only a few of the pictures are signed  and some have locations written in joined script while others have a bolder capital letter form of identification. Could this be Raggy practising his calligraphy?

New swindon Puckey

The painting entitled “New Swindon, Wiltshire  1847” raises  the question as to how an artist (or a photographer) would compose a picture, with the tree right in the centre obscuring a major group of houses? We do not know of any model for this picture. St Mark’s Church is clear, and the railway works, but only half the Railway Village (but which half?). Park House, a major villa which still stands in Faringdon Road and which predates the Railway Village is missing as is one of the two managers’ villas which stood between the Works and the Station. If we suppose that this scene is from what is now Curtis Street then the area was built up before George arrived in Swindon so it is not from memory.




Swindon Artists Forum said the paintings were of little artistic value. It seems that they are of little historical value either.. Certainly it would be erroneous to attempt to use them as reference pieces. However, they are pretty pictures and if reproductions were available they could make an interesting wall decoration

GLW SWIM_M15085-1000


The paintings are on display at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery on Bath Road (SN1 4BA) in Old Town.  The displays dealing with many aspects of Swindon history are well worth a visit. The Museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10.00am to 5.00pm

GLW SWIM_M15078-1000


By kind permission of the Museum, we also have colour copies of the paintings on display, in The Trust’s shop at 1 Theatre  Square. We are open on Fridays.

We would be delighted to hear from you if you have any information about George Puckey the artist, his paintings or indeed if any of the above is incorrect – but we do know that this George Puckey's  Father was a butcher!

Carsten Drew 


Old Pictures of Swindon

Swindon Library have published some of their old photos on a Flickr Album. There are 67 images about our Canals. There are even some that have "What it looks like now" images

Swindon: Canals - Wilts & Berks and North Wilts Canals

Photographs, illustrations and ephemera relating to the canals of Swindon. Includes material on both the Wilts & Berks Canal, and the North Wilts. Also a map shows the location of all the pictures. Copyright and other restrictions may apply. In all cases please contact Swindon Library for further information:

Swindon Collection Central Library, Regent Circus, Swindon SN1 1QG


  c1906: "As it might be" - Regent Street Canal and promenade, Swindon Postcard

Source: Scan of an original postcard from our image collection. Postmark: Unused. Date: c1906. Publisher: Tomkins & Barrett,Swindon. Repository: Swindon Collection, Central Library.



 1906:"As it is" - the canal at Regent Street Swindon Postcard

Source: Copied from the original postcard. Postmark: December 1906.

Date: c1905. Publisher: Tomkins and Barrett. Repository: From the collection of Mr H.W. Davis, of Swindon. Used with his kind permission.



The Golden Lion Revisited

Golden LionIn 1976 Ken White was on a job creation scheme and one of the things that he painted was this mural of Swindon's beloved Golden Lion Bridge (see related articles).

This mural was repainted by Ken back in the 1980s but time and the weather had taken its toll and the wall was in a pretty bad state so Ken now 66 years old and still living in the town took up his paint brush once again and the results are quite amazing.

It took him 10 days to bring it back to life after the Swindon Council contacted him and ask him to restore the mural once more and this time he made it more vivid with stronger colours. The detail he has achieved is wonderful and the people of Swindon can once again look longingly at their canal even if only on a wall for now.

Golden LionIf you look closely you can see the huge draw bridge belonging to the Canal with its massive wrought iron pillars, and then this side of it the beautiful pedestrian bridge built so that the Railway workers could get into work on time even if the main bridge was up.

To view this mural yourselves you will need to go down to the spot where the Whale bridge used to stand on the junction of Princes Street and Fleming way about 100 yards away from the bus station.

Roy Cartwright
Swindon branch

Pictures by Gary Mason



The original photograph now held at Swindon Museum

Swindon: Canals - Wilts & Berks and North Wilts Canals

Swindon Collection Central Library, Regent Circus, Swindon SN1 1QG




BEVIS - A Jolly Good Read

I mentioned in Dragonfly 111 in the article on Coate Water a man called Richard Jefferies and after a number of enquiries to me about this item I felt some of you might like to know a little more about his book BEVIS

Richard was born at Coat Farm house which backed onto the Wilts & Berks Canal Reservoir in 1866, He was a prolific writer and was a reporter for the North Wilts Herald for a time but died very young at the age of 39. Bevis is a book based on two boy's growing up and having Coate Water as their playground.
This very simple yet deeply moving story choreographs their movements from boyhood to Adulthood in just one Summer.

A prolific reader would normally get through a chapter in about fifteen minutes but with this book it can take you up to an hour because each time you read a line or two you stop and remember something similar happening to you at that age.I did not even get through the first page before reminiscing with myself about a hammer and Dads old shoe last. I got a clout for that one from Mum first, then Dad when he got home and then had to wear my shoes with holes in them where the nails had gone through. Your first swimming lesson, the fight you had at school, rowing a boat on your own, sleeping out under the stars, Firing your first gun at a live target, drinking Dandelion and Burdock and eating Jam sandwiches in the long grass.All of these I did and many more that I would not like to tell you about.

This book is not about two boy's, it's about all of us and what we wish to remember from our past, the long hot summers, walking in the rain, building a den in the hedgerow, our first kiss. Life was so much simpler then and everything was possible, Boyhood dreams became realities and lessons on the meaning of life were learnt the hard way. There is so much pathos and yet so much elation in each chapter that you will find it hard to put the book down He hits his dog when it is disobedient and kills a wild duck to eat which today we would find uncomfortable but in those days these were valuable habits to acquire if you were to make it as a man.

They fight with other lads with real bows and arrows and swords made from wood but then I start to remember that I owned a 22 pellet gun and often used it. We would sit for hours in a barn shooting the Crows and Starlings that ate the cattle and pig feed.

Get this book out of the library and see if you agree with me and nowadays some of the most eminent minds in the World. This book is not just for people that know Coate Water, in fact the book is a best seller in China and the reason is easy to see.

First published in 1882 it is still as relevant today over 125 years later as when it was written.

Roy Cartwright

My Beloved Coate Water

As I sit and write this the memories of my childhood come flooding back.

Holidays for us were one week in Weymouth if we were lucky and most years we were not, so Coate was our holiday and Mum would take us there maybe once a week to swim and play in the sand pit, walking of course, no cars in our family in those days.I recall watching the circus clowns riding bicycles of the top of the diving board, an art deco structure built in 1935 and the bravest of dads following them, At the age of about 8 I myself swam out to the board and climbed to the top, all 33ft only to bottle out and come down two flights before jumping off.

Those of you that know Coate will be aware that it was built for the Wilts & Berks Canal as a reservoir in 1820 but became a place of peace, joy, and tranquillity for the towns folk of Swindon.
Check out a bit of its history on the Swindon branch home page. Alternatively, for a fuller picture check Coate Water on Google.

This was the home of Richard Jefferies and I recently re-read BEVIS - see other news item.

The history of Coate goes back millennia, there is even a stone circle about 3000 years old on the East side in Day House Lane that if dug out may even rival Avebury. For those that do not know where Coate is come off the Motor Way at junction 15 to Swindon go passed the new hospital and it is on your left, grid ref SU188820.

Modern day Coate has everything the nature lover could ask for and then some.
For walkers there is the 1.75 mile amble around the lake or take the long route to Hodson Woods and it turns into a 4 mile stroll and for the adventurous go all the way to Barbury Castle and back a 7 mile hike. For families a play area for the little ones, a swimming pool, Crazy golf, Picnic and Barbecue area, ice cream parlour and miniature Railway that adults can ride on as well, For the older ones a 9 hole golf course, Boules pitch, Canoeing, Sailing, Bird Hides, fishing, Ranger Centre, and Cycle hire.

Finally Coates best kept secret, Its beautiful Arboretum with trees from around the World most of which have been donated to commemorate a loved ones passing.I saw my first strawberry tree here (Arbutus Unedo = I eat one ) in Autumn.

To get to this magical place you park in the usual spot with all the other cars but instead of going up to the lake you walk along the back path straight in front of you for about 200 yards then turn right down a steep path and over a small bridge, You are now in a different world and time gets forgotten as you turn left and right trying to take it all in.

But do not take my word for it, go and see for yourselves and remember its free to get in even the parking is free.
It is a day out for the family without spending a penny except the cost of getting there. , Why not walk like my mum made us youngsters do.

Roy Cartwright

Giant Trees from little Acorns grow

As a child I always remember Granddad pointing to the big trees and saying "from little acorns youngun from little acorns" I never really understood what he meant. Well I have been thinking this over just lately and putting it into a Canal Trust context and I now think I know what he meant, It had nothing to do with trees.

All along the line of the canal we have little idea's that have germinated and matured into something really wonderful. Latton Basin, and Jubilee Junction to name but two.

Each and every branch will have its own little acorns so I thought I would tell you about four of our little acorns here in Swindon.

Acorn 1

About 18 months ago Ken announces at a branch meeting that with all the interest in the Swindon through route we should have our own information centre in the middle of Swindon (a shop in the centre of town). We all agree, great idea, (does he know what the cost of rents and rates are in Swindon for a shop). Has he lost it we are all thinking without saying so or has he got Paul Getty as a new member.

Its amazing what you can achieve if you put your mind to it and we open in January at virtually no cost to the trust.

Well we have now had our shop for over 9 months, A visit from the Mayor, Over one hundred related items in the local press, that averages out at three a week, Thousands of leaflets handed out, Dozens of new members signed up, Hundreds of pounds worth of merchandise sold, And by now there cannot be anybody in Swindon that does not have an opinion on the canal That is one hell of a giant Information tree.

Acorn 2

We get a call out of the blue from the B.B.C, We know that Bill Oddie did a piece on your canal for the water voles, Alan Titchmarch is doing a new programme called the Nature of Britain would you like to be involved, (try and stop us). I do a piece with our new weed cutter and it gets 3 minutes air time on the programme, two day's later I get an email from the B.B.C asking if we would like to register on their Breathing Places site, Ken does the online paper work and we are in.June this year and Swindon gets awarded £10,000 from the Breathing Places to restore part of the canal and tow path at Moredon. That's one hell of a giant conservation and wildlife tree.

Acorn 3

Keith has been doing walks through the centre of Swindon for 20 odd years and then I take over.

Why do we not make a D.V.D of this walk I say so that those that cannot make the walk can enjoy it as well. I get Gary to do the pictures of the route, Jan supplies the old history pictures, I pick Keith's brain for those last few gems of wisdom, I do the script, Keith does the prologue, I do the voice over and then Richard puts it all together in piece of wizardry that only modern day computers can.We launch at the January open meeting with me saying that 20 copies will be made available for anyone that would like a copy.18 months later and Richard has reproduced 420 copies and the branch funds have swelled by over £2,000, more than 100 of those buying the D.V.D pay above the £7 asking price, One member in Gloucester pay's £25 and another in Penzance £30, we have now sold them far and wide, America, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, Egypt, and Australia, Now that's one hell of a History tree.

Acorn 4

Some years ago I had an idea about producing a glossy magazine for the canal trust so I go and talk to Diane the lady that runs these things at the Advertiser who is a friend of mine. She helps me with all the technical points and I take it to the Publicity team. Here it comes to a full stop, the logistics are just to much for us to take on at the time.

In March this year Mandy another friend of mine from the Advertiser gives me a ring, Roy had a word with Diane, how would you like us to do all the work for you, getting in the Ads, arranging the art work, Printing, and distribution, We pay for everything, what you get is over five thousand copies to give away as well. All you have to do is supply the editorial. We keep the Advertising revenue, You get the magazine and the publicity for free.

This is the best win-win situation I have ever heard of. Richard agrees to take on the daunting task of the editorial side of this venture and with just a couple of blips and one or two frantic emails to gee up people that are contributing to it we get there on time.Result we now have the best full colour 16 page magazine we have ever produced and its for free Now that really is a gigantic Publicity tree.

So you see my Granddad was right after all from little acorns grow a new canal.

Roy Cartwright