September’s Object of the Month features a hand painted sign giving the timings of the iconic Swindon Works Hooter. Until the 1980’s everyone in Swindon would have been familiar with the sound of the Works Hooter blasting across the town several times a day. The hooter was sounded as a call to work for the Works employees. It also blew to signal lunch time and the end of the working day.
The hooter was first installed at the Works in 1867. It was powered by steam and could be heard up to 15 miles away, ensuring employees in outlying villages could hear it. Initially the early morning hooter blew at 5.20am for ten long minutes. That was quite a wakeup call!
In 1868 Lord Bolingbroke of Lydiard House in Swindon complained that the hooter disturbed his sleep and frightened his pheasants. The GWR initially agreed to muffle the hooter, but Works employees wanted their early morning alarm and a petition was raised to keep it blowing. Lord Bolingbroke finally relented and had to live with the sound of the hooter.
The hooter was a part of everyday life for the residents of Swindon. But it also blasted across the town 10 times to signify the beginning of the First World War and was used again in the Second World War as an air raid siren.
When Swindon Works closed on 26th March 1986 the hooter sounded for the final time at 4.30pm as the last few employees left the Works.
After being heard across Swindon and beyond for over a century, the loss of the hooter was mourned by many. So, in 2016 a replica hooter was made by a local engineering company, using original drawings from STEAM’s archive collection. The new hooter was installed on the roof of the museum building and at 4.30pm on the 26th March 2016, 30 years after the original hooter fell silent, the sound of the iconic Swindon Works hooter was heard across the town once again.
To hear the blast of the hooter, visit STEAM Museum on 9th and 10th September, for the Swindon Railway Festival where it will be blown every hour throughout the weekend.