Thursday, 4 December 2008

Inside the historic old Town Hall

The marble statue of Charlotte Corday in the foyer of Swindon Dance
Today I wandered into the old Town Hall (see previous post 'The Old and the New') which is now occupied by Swindon Dance - I must start by thanking Barbara, working on reception, for showing me around and giving me the history of the wonderful marble statue that is by the entrance. The statue was carved in the 19th century by MICH' IORETTI and was donated to Swindon Borough council by Alderman Powell, a great supporter of the arts, sometime between the wars.
Here is the fascinating history of Charlotte Corday (1768-1793):
Charlottle Corday was born at Saint-Saturnin, France on July 27th 1768 - she considered herself devoted to the 'enlightened' ideals of her time but was a supporter of the monarchy when the French Revolution began in 1789.
As the revolution progressed, factions arose within the national convention. Corday favoured the more moderate Girondins rather than men such as Marat and Robespierre who wanted to destroy the monarchy. The Girondins were expelled from the convention in early summer 1793 and took refuge at Caen - Corday then went to Paris and devised a plan to gain access to Marat where, on July 13th 1793, she stabbed him in the heart while he was in the bath-tub. She was immediately apprehended and executed on July 17th 1793.
Edit made 8/12/08: Graham Carter who has helpfully commented on this blog in the past sent me the lyrics to an Al Stewart/Tori Amos song - called Charlotte Corday: Thank you once again Graham for your input and knowledge, here are the lyrics.

If you hear a step upon
Your stair tonight
If you see a shadow in
The candle light
It's only your imagination
Leading you astray
See her for a moment
Then she'll slip away
The ghost of Charlotte Corday
She wanders down the hallway
In a long black dress
And lingers by the fireplace
Like a faint caress
Just what it is that brings her here
No man alive can say
See her for a moment
Then she melts away
The ghost of Charlotte Corday
Stars in the window like a panoply
Covering everything
River of night
Stars in the window
See them shining for
Anyone else, anyone else
The clock ticks in the dark and now
The night is still
The air is like a murmur
On the window sill
All at once there's someone there
That only you can see
Seeking the forgiveness
That will set her free
The wind has taken away
The words she wanted to say
The sky is now turning grey
The dawn is turning away
The ghost of Charlotte Corday

The beautiful stained glass windows on the staircase

This historic panel holds the names of all the fallen local men who died in the First World War. The inscription at the top reads: "Their glory shall not be blotted out. Their name liveth forevermore"

The mural over the door of the dance studio, Nature - Mother of the Arts. Painted by an artist named Carleton Atwood in 1979. So far, I have been unable to discover anything further about the artist.

The dance space studio - light and airy with high ceilings and mirrors reflecting in mirrors.

Barbara from the reception desk kindly took me down to the basement where there were two 'safe' rooms with heavy lead doors. The building was something of a labyrinth with a winding staircase hidden at the back of the building - I think it led to the clock tower but this part of the building is closed to visitors.