SWINDON’S own Nick Hewer of The Apprentice fame officially opened the Community Centre at Christ Church on Saturday.

The TV personality, who grew up only a stone’s throw from the church in Cricklade Street, opened the new facility which has taken more than 18 months to create.

A specially commissioned artwork by local artist Laurie Plant was also unveiled during the celebrations, featuring various scenes around Old Town.

Hewer, 69, who also hosts Channel 4’s Countdown, said: “It’s great to come back to Swindon and open the new community centre because I used to live only about 200 yards away from the church.

“When I was growing up the sound of the bells used to drive me mad. I am quite nostalgic about Swindon. When I was a boy it was surrounded by fields, and I miss the little villages like Lydiard Millicent.”

The occasion was celebrated with many local dignitaries, including Swindon’s Mayor, Nick Martin, the descendants of William Morris who founded the Adver in 1854, and South Swindon MP, Robert Buckland.

The Community Development manager, Chris Smith, said: “The new community centre is for everybody in the community to use. “the new building is fantastic and today has been brilliant, and it was great to have Nick Hewer officially open the building.”

Visitors enjoyed the displays featuring many local groups and clubs already using the new building, and enjoyed refreshments put on by the church. The day was rounded off in the evening with a Family Quiz.

The new community centre based in the grounds of Christ Church was designed by Antony Feltham King from St Ann’s Gate Architects in Salisbury, was developed by Timberworks Europe - a specialist in prefabricated, energy efficient buildings.

It replaces the 45-year-old leisure centre with a new, sustainable space for the whole of the local community to use. The project was funded through a number of grants from Swindon Council, The Hills Group, from the Landfill Communities Fund, the Bernard Sunley Trust, and many individuals and businesses offered generous donations to support the project. Christ Church itself invested the remaining proceeds from the sale of the former church hall in Devizes Road.