Swindon Lives

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who’ve shaped all walks of British life—from the Romans to the 21st century. Published online and updated monthly, the ODNB includes more than 60,000 life stories.

Public libraries in Swindon subscribe to the Oxford DNB, which means you can look for people either in the library or from home (or anywhere, anytime) using your library membership number as a personal log-in.

You can gain access via Swindon libraries’ Reference Online or the Oxford DNB online, adding your number.

With access Swindon, Wiltshire, Britain, and indeed the world, is your online oyster.

1. Swindon and Wiltshire lives

The Oxford DNB includes more than 90 men and women with connections to Swindon—from the locomotive engineer Joseph Armstrong, one of a number of pioneering railwaymen who worked in the town, to John Wolfenden (below) who gave his name to an influential report on post-war sexuality and morality. Further afield the Oxford DNB offers more than 1,100 notable people who spent all or part of their lives in Wiltshire, including, for example, 20 from nearby Calne.

John Wolfenden Diana Dors Diana Dors

 In between you’ll find many sons and daughters of Swindon, including Richard Jefferies (below), one of the greatest writers on Victorian rural life, and—of course—the film actress Diana Dors (above).

You can also search within Swindon, allowing you to find 44 notables who spent part of their life there, including Thomas Horder, physician to George V, George VI and the young Elizabeth II.

Across the ODNB’s 70 million words, you’ll also find nearly 400 references to Swindon, more than 150 to the Great Western Railway, and even one to Swindon Town

Richard Jefferies

2. How do I search?

The Oxford DNB includes the life stories of more than 60,000 men and women. Online you can search for where they were born, baptized, lived, died or were buried, by date range or location.

  • The advanced search ‘life event’ feature can be used to find people near you—be they men and women baptised in Edinburgh (189), those born in Whitby (28), or those buried in Exeter (133). Used in this way the ODNB is an excellent resource for school projects or family history.
  • Text searching across the Oxford DNB’s 68 million words, you can also make links between people and places: for example, we’ve 102 references to “Clapham Common”, 27 to the “River Trent”, and 51 to “Snowdonia”.

3. Topical and local history

Try a map—from British brewers, to gardeners and seafarers

Listen to a life

Duke of Windsor

Every two weeks the Oxford DNB releases a biography podcast. There are more than 250 episodes to choose from, including John Lennon, Madame Tussaud, Morecambe and Wise, Roald Dahl, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Browse the episodes by list or by place

> Read the Oxford DNB, free and at home, using your library's subscription
> More about the Oxford DNB