Steam Ahead has been serving the local community for 23 years.

Milestones in Steam Ahead's History

Mid 1993 – Patrick Chaney and the then Vicar of St John’s Church set up a meeting for local groups to see if there was interest in setting up a credit union. The meeting was held in an upstairs room at George Hall Court. About 20 people attended, many from the church, and most volunteered to take part. At least two of the original Committee of the Parks and Walcot CU are still on the Board.

Autumn 1993 – Parks and Walcot Credit Union (CU) set up and approved (originally a savings club). The credit union operated from the Community Shop and was restricted to people who lived in Parks and Walcot.  

1995 – Contacted by groups from Devon, Reading and Eastleigh who were looking to learn from our experiences and establish credit unions.

Jan 1996 – 346 members had joined

1996 – Met with Church Commissioners with a view to setting up a credit union for clergy. This is linked to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s (Justin Welby’s) public support for credit unions in July 2013; he wants credit unions to offer strong competition and a viable alternative to payday lenders.

1997 – In first three years £96,000 saved and over £100,000 loaned to members

2002 – The credit union was taking up too much space in the Community Shop and therefore applied for, and received permission to, move into a shop next to the chemist in Cavendish Square.

‘The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread' 
2002 – Parks and Walcot CU together with Calne Community CU, Gainsborough CU, West Wiltshire CU Steering Group and North Wilts CAB got together to produce a video which explained, in simple terms, what credit unions are all about.  

Steam Ahead Credit Union born

2004 - Applicants from outside the area were being turned away. Therefore Parks and Walcot decided to change the common bond and the name to Steam Ahead Credit Union. The common bond is now all people living in Swindon south of the railway line and goes as far as Bishopstone, it is also expanded to people who live or work in the area.  

2005 – New name and common bond agreed with FSA and publicised in the Swindon Advertiser.

2006 – Provided Farepak customers with contingency loans of £250 each following the failure of this Xmas hampers company. The loans were guaranteed by Swindon Forum.

2007 – Extra costs of running credit unions (eg. regulatory fees and introduction of Capital Gains Tax on investment income) led to a pressure on finances and a move within Wiltshire to merge credit unions. Although some integration has resulted the issue of having one credit union for the whole of Wiltshire remains unresolved.  

Jan 2007 – Parks and East Walcot Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership made grant of £3,000 to Steam Ahead to purchase office equipment.

9 May 2008 – Moved into current brand new offices provided by Swindon Borough Council as part of the Cavendish Square Development

April 2011 – Offices flooded as a knock on effect of the refurbishment of Reuben Hall Court.

2012 – Swindon Borough Council provided community fund grants to a total of £1,250 to pay for administration costs.

August 2012 – The regulation of credit unions has increased and Steam Ahead has had to review all suppliers to ensure value for money and keep costs to a minimum. Appeal for donations “how much do you value your Credit Union”. It raised more than £300 from individual members.

2013 – Midcounties Co-operative provided a community fund grant of £1,550 to update office equipment.

Steam Ahead has appeared on BBC Television programme (Points West) and both commercial and BBC local radio.