Swindon Town’s very formation is shrouded in the mists of time. A certain Swindon Spartans FC, formed by Rev William Pitt, were around in 1881, but they soon disappeared from the football scene. However, it is quite possible that they were the forerunners of the Town club, although there are no obvious written records concerning this club until the 1883/84 season.
Some people say that Swindon Town were created when the Spartans, a team from the Old Town, united with a team from the church in the railway village of New Town Swindon.
Anyway, their first home venue, as usual a far cry from a proper football ground, was an unenclosed field to the east of ‘The Quarries’. An incident involving a young spectator who watched an early match from an elevation and fell into the quarry prompted a move to the Globe Field, again a large open area of land.
The club’s stay was once again a short one for in 1884 they took up residence at the Croft Ground. It will come as no surprise to learn that this venue lacked any facilities. In 1894 Swindon Town were elected as founder members of the Southern League and this feat coincided with a move to the ‘first’ County Ground, which had been used for football by Swindon Wanderers. This ‘first’ County Ground was on the site of the present Swindon Cricket Ground, adjacent to today’s ground. Although the facilities were far superior to their rudimentary forerunners Swindon Town relocated again just south of this venue in 1896 and established a separate football ground which remains to this day.
So, Swindon Town hopped from one ground to another with distressing frequency. Their choice of colours was on a more balanced note. Black and white was the original choice, maybe inspired by the clerical colours of Rev Pitt, who can say? Green was worn for a decade or so before giving way to red shirts and white shorts in 1904. A number of teams ditched green as their team colours around that time, claiming the colour was unlucky. In the 1960’s and 70’s the ‘Robins’ mirrored Manchester United, not only by adopting their youth scheme but also by echoing the sartorial changes at Old Trafford. The introduction of green trimmings in the Nineties, inspired by their earlier strip, helped to give the club its own identity. During the 1973-74 season which ended in relegation the team wore black socks. Ever since these have been looked on as unlucky and the wearing of black socks has not been repeated.
The nickname of ‘Robins’ of course reflects the club’s colours. Swindon Town has also been known as ‘The Railwaymen’ dating back to the time when Swindon was a very big railway centre with the Great Western Railway Works at its height in the mid-Sixties. But what about ‘The Moonrakers’ tag then? Well, it originates from an old legend. A couple of centuries ago, on a moonlit night, two men from the village of Bishops Canning in Wiltshire were busy carrying home smuggled brandy or moonshine in the back of a hay cart. As they passed the village pond, they heard the sound of an approaching excise man. Thinking quickly, they dumped the barrels into the pond, and began raking the surface of the water with their hay-rakes.
“What in the world are you two up to?” asked the excise man. “We are raking for cheese”, replied one of the men. “Can’t you see one?” added the other, pointing to the reflection of the moon. The excise man burst out laughing, and hurried off back to tell his colleagues that he had seen two drunken country bumpkins who thought that the reflection of the moon was a cheese. After he had gone, the two men used their rakes to retrieve the brandy and continued on their way. Since then, Wiltshire people have been known as ‘Moonrakers’.
The red and white quartered shield contains a football, the top left quarter denoting either the division they were in or just ‘Football League’, a band with the club name and a so-called chief, depicting the Great Western Railway engine ‘Lord of the Isles’, alluding to the industry to which Swindon owes its rise. The original crest from the town’s arms is a hand holding hammers symbolizing mechanical industry, here replaced by a robin, perched on a tree trunk. The town’s motto ‘Salubritas et Industria’ means ‘Health and Industry’.
In 1972 Swindon Town switched to a badge that can be described as a very confusing traffic sign. Was it an attempt to indicate the way to the nearby magic roundabout? We will never know. What matters most is that it has gone.
Today’s logo was introduced after the financial regularities that marked a black page in the club’s history in 1990. Swindon were demoted two divisions, reduced on appeal to just one. Swindon Town wanted a new start and that also meant a new identity. It is simple, dynamic, and modern. We see a diamond shape in the red and green colours with a superimposed “S”. Around the design speeds a stylised football, leaving its trail as it exits from behind the lozenge, does a nifty 180 degree turn and whistles off to the right. Well – the Moonrakers of the past would have drunk to its health.