“Give me a tower to touch the sky!”
The David Murray John town or now more commonly known as the Brunel Tower these days is one of Swindon’s most well known buildings that dominates the town’s skyline (well along side Old Town’s Christ Church) at a grand total of 83 meters!
The David Murray John Tower is named after David Murray John who is often regarded as ‘Mr Swindon’. He was a Swindon politician who worked as the town council’s Clark from 1938 to 1974 and was the main energy that contributed to the small influx of industry to Swindon after World War Two.
David Murray John campaigned for a towering landmark to signify the centre point of Swindon to those around it and signed off the final contract for it’s construction in March 1974 as what turned out to be final official duty and then he retired after serving the town and people of Swindon for 36 years.
The architect responsible for the David Murray John tower was Douglas Stephen. Sadly, Stephen is now dead, though his name lives on in the Douglas Stephen Partnership. Douglas Stephen was listed by Jonathan Meades in an article on Building.co.uk entitled: ‘Five great architects … you’ve never heard of’ in which he writes about a number of architects with the quote below about him.
‘Yet there was something about the details … The Mount was the first of Douglas Stephen’s buildings I saw. It was completed in 1965, and was entirely out of step with its time: it was at odds with both the fey Festival style and with the sculptural brutalism that was the conventional reaction to the Festival style (and which Stephen had essayed). But Stephen belonged to no school. That, I suspect, is why he is overlooked. The Mount retains its extraordinary freshness. So does his David Murray John Tower in Swindon, that town’s most (only?) striking building, a mini-skyscraper that has affinities to a design of Frank Hampson’s for Dan Dare, Pilot Of The Future.’
And then in 2012, Johnathon Meads wrote in The Telegraph about his five favourite buildings where The David Murray John once again makes an appearance where he says:
Designed by Douglas Stephen and built in the Seventies, this tower is a sleek, slick return to the smooth white grace of Twenties and Thirties Modernism. It’s a mixed-use building, incorporating social housing, offices and retail, which is rare in Britain. Stephen was a communist and believed in architecture as a power for social good.’
Unfortunately David Murray John died before the tower was finished and the tower was opened and named after him in 1976.
The David Murray John Tower cost just over £2 million to build and was opened by the Mayor at the time, John Stevens just 3 months after he opened the Oasis, which made it quite a year for Swindon’s architecture.
The tower these days is mainly a residential property with 72 flats that can be rented from Swindon Borough Council and four floors of office space that houses the likes of InSwindon and local council workers.
While on about this subject it’s worth mentioning that The David John Murray Tower has gasped the attention of many people such as author Jasper FForde, who famously invented ‘The Seven Wonders of Swindon.’ and what takes the top spot? … ‘Tower of Brunel’
The David Murray John Tower these days is better known as the Brunel Tower in honour of the founder of the Swindon works and the Great Western Railway.