STEAM launch two special exhibitions celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the GWR Hospital

This year, STEAM is celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the Great Western Railway Hospital on Faringdon Road with two new special exhibitions.

Published: Tuesday, 27th July 2021

GWR staff orchestra practicing in the carriage works during dinner hour in 1938

The first, The Doctor Will See You Now, explores the ‘cradle to grave’ healthcare service introduced by the GWR’s Medical Fund Society.

By the 1940s, the GWR Medical Fund was one of the oldest and most successful medical aid societies across the country, encompassing the swimming baths, a dentist, an optician, a chiropodist, and even a massage therapist.

The hospital had capacity for 42 beds, with a new X-ray department and blood donor service. The Doctor Will See You Now also examines how the GWR Medical Fund may have been a blueprint for the modern-day NHS.

The GWR also set up many other societies and clubs for the health, education and wellbeing of their employees. 

When the Swindon Railway Works opened in 1843 Swindon was a small market town, and the second exhibition at STEAM entitled Work, Rest and Play – Life Outside Swindon Works explores how the GWR supported the town’s growth through the construction of new facilities such as the Railway Village, Mechanics’ Institute and Bristol Street School.

Felicity Jones, Collections and Exhibitions Officer at STEAM, said: “The Great Western Railway recognised that happy and fulfilled employees were likely to be loyal and hardworking.

“Through education, as well as a range of clubs and societies supported by the GWR, the company made a continuous effort to offer worthwhile pursuits for employees outside of work.

“An interesting array of objects and archive material from the STEAM collection are used to illustrate the social lives of Swindon Works employees and their families.

“Visitors will be able to see objects that would have been used during daily life, such as a Mechanics’ Institute membership card, and a rent book from a resident at the Swindon Railway Village.

“Other items include a pair of bowling balls that belonged to a member of the GWR Bowling Club. It is the first time that many of the objects have been on display at STEAM.”

Work, Rest and Play is located in the Museum’s Speed to the West area with The Doctor Will See You Now located in the Museum’s recreated Station Building.

Admission to both special exhibitions is included with STEAM admission and free to STEAM Season Ticket holders.

You can also take advantage of STEAM’s ‘Kids for a Quid’ offer this summer where up to four children (aged three to fifteen years) can visit STEAM for just £1 each between 23 July and 5 September, when accompanied by a full-paying adult.

To claim the discount, visit, select the required number of adult and child tickets and enter the discount code K4Q21 at the checkout. This offer is not valid in conjunction with any other offer or promotion including the purchase of family tickets.

Tickets are now available to book online up until Tuesday, 31 August.

Visitors will be requested to respect social distancing measures. Following Government guidelines, visitors will be expected to wear a face covering unless exempt.

Follow STEAM on Facebook and Instagram (@SteamMuseum), or Twitter (@Steam_Museum).

Swindon Borough Council news RSS feed