Ditchley Park

This year’s Friends summer outing was to the magnificent Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire, the Palladian mansion house built in the early 1720s for George Henry Lee, 2nd Earl of Lichfield.

First port of call for the Friends was an elegant light lunch at nearby Heythrop Park, a property built for Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury at the beginning of the 18th century.

Then it was on to the main attraction …

Ditchley Park is less than 10 miles as the crow flies from Blenheim Palace and came in handy as a stopover for the guests of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. Another link with this most famous of families came during the Second World War when Winston Churchill relocated from Chequers to hold wartime working weekends on more than a dozen occasions. He was at Ditchley Park when Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess arrived in Scotland, supposedly on a peace mission.

Ditchley Park is of special interest to the Friends of Lydiard Park as there is a connection with the St John family. The 2nd Earl of Lichfield’s great grandmother was Anne St John, second child and eldest daughter of Sir John St John 1st Baronet and his wife Anne Leighton. Although there are no portraits of Anne in Lydiard House, she can be seen in St Mary’s Church, depicted as one of the kneeling daughters on the St John memorial.

Anne married Francis Henry Lee in 1632. Their marriage was sadly a short one as Francis died of smallpox in 1639, leaving Anne widowed with two young children and pregnant with a third.

A resourceful, resilient woman Anne married Royalist Henry Wilmot in 1644. Widowed for a second time she managed to negotiate the treacherous Civil War period and retain both the Lee and Wilmot estates. You will be able to read more about Anne and several of the other St John women in The Ladies of Lydiard by Frances Bevan, due for publication Spring 2020.

Ditchley Park contains some wonderful portraits (including one of Anne) among them several of Charles I and Charles II. The Earls of Lichfield trace their descent from Charlotte Fitzroy, the illegitimate daughter of Charles II and Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine who was for many years Charles II’s principle mistress and bore him several children. And here is another St John connection; Barbara was the granddaughter of Barbara St John; portraits of both women hang in the State Bedroom at Lydiard House.

Sadly, there is no evidence of the old Tudor mansion in which Anne lived and no definitive location for the property. One theory is that the present house stands on the site of the old one. Materials from the old property were incorporated into the new build.

Today Ditchley Park is owned by the Ditchley Foundation established in 1958 and hosts conferences covering political, economic, social, scientific and artistic topics. The house is not open to the public, except by special arrangement. The Friends tour was conducted by the Bursar Mike Montagu.



Prime Theatre

Learning about our local history was a walk in the park with the Prime Theatre production, Painting the Past.

Painting the Past tells the story of Sir John St John 1st Baronet whose spirit is trapped at Lydiard Park unable to let go of the pain and loss of his life. The young time travelling painters who ‘swish, brush, etch and sketch’ celebrate the art he left behind, informing him that in 2019 people will come to admire the monuments and paintings in the church and learn about his family.

There was a courtly Elizabethan dance on the front lawn and a ghostly civil war re-enactment in the woods and my favourite scene – the History and Hers rap about the St John women who appear on the polyptych in the church.

The well-researched and historically accurate production was performed in the parkland as part of the HLF funded St Mary’s Church Conservation Project. The young actors gave a mature, thoughtful and fun performance. Painting the Past deserves to be seen again and the Friends of Lydiard Park Trustees are hoping it could be a feature of the Christmas party.


Painting the Past

Please note that the Saturday performance times have changed. These will now take place at 6 pm and 8 pm.


Dear Friends

You may have already seen publicity about the theatre performances in Lydiard Park this weekend. Prime Theatre, Swindon’s youth theatre, have been working with young people to create a play inspired by St. Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze.  This is part of the church’s conservation project which is involving schools, community groups and many organisations in activities responding to Lydiard’s rich history. I do hope you are able to come along and support this event – it should be fun. Tickets can be booked on line – see below.

Outdoor Theatre: PAINTING THE PAST

Friday 19th and Saturday 20th July

6 pm and 8 pm
Swish. Brush. Etch. Sketch… A group of artists find themselves stuck in the past, trapped in the stories of their ancient artwork. They have one chance to escape, and it all hangs on the shoulders of one man, Sir John St. John, 1st Baronet of Lydiard Tregoze. Come on a journey through time as young actors from Swindon’s Prime Youth Theatre bring to life the stories of the artwork in St. Mary’s Church and the historic family whose legacy has shaped the Lydiard that we know and love today.

Please note: The performance will take place in various locations in Lydiard Park and audience will be asked to walk between scenes. Please meet at the picnic tables outside the stable café. Look for the gold sign! Pay and display parking is available on arrival.

Performance length: 40 minutes Tickets £5.00 Tickets can be purchased at https://www.primetheatre.co.uk/productions/painting-the-past/ Please book online to ensure a place, however there will be a limited number of tickets available to purchase at each performance. you by any chance available to volunteer to help in the Prime Theatre performance at Lydiard this Friday or Saturday.

For up to date information about the St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project visit www.stmaryslydiardtregoze.org.uk

Best wishes

Julie Holland

Secretary & Trustee

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The St John polyptych in St Mary's Church, Lydiard Park




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Beating the Bounds

History is all around us here in West Swindon and just up the road from Lydiard Park is a survivor from the ancient forest of Braydon.

Back in the day our neck of the woods was the property of the King. The ancient woodland at Braydon had become a royal forest by 1135 and in 1228 enclosed an area of around 46 square miles. While the forest was the playground of the privileged, for the ordinary folk it provided vital resources and the right to common pasture to graze their animals.

In 1270 Robert Tregoze received a royal licence from Henry III to create a deer park at Lydiard but the march of progress had already begun. By 1300 several of the local woods had been disafforested including those owned by John de Clinton and Robert Russell of Lydiard Millicent called ‘Spersolt’ (Sparcell) and William de Grandison’s wood at Lydiard Tregoze.

Thankfully Peatmoor Copse was preserved during the 1980s development of West Swindon and since 1988 the Peatmoor Community Woodland Volunteers have maintained this ecologically important six-acre site. The volunteers meet on the first Sunday of the month (next meeting is June 2) between 10 am – 1 pm, and an extra pair of hands are always welcome.

Meanwhile, photographer and Friend of Lydiard Park, Chris Pocock is beating the bounds of the  Lydiard Park estate as it stood at the time of the two great property sales in 1930 and 1943. The Lydiard estate once comprised 3000 acres but by the middle of the twentieth century was already considerably smaller. Chris is using rent rolls, sale details and old and modern maps to create a photographic record of the extent of the former estate.

So, if you see Chris taking photos at the bottom of your drive it means your house is built on land that once belonged to the Lydiard estate, and he doesn’t have any ulterior motives!

The 18th century Lydiard Park Estate

Lydiard estate map

Lydiard Park 1924

Lydiard Park 1924

The Lydiard Estate and Peatmoor Lagoon and Copse 2000


Peatmoor Community Woodland

Peatmoor Copse (5)

Peatmoor Copse (6)

Peatmoor Copse (4)

Golden Wedding Anniversary

On this day 125 years ago, Henry George and Elizabeth Baily celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary with family and friends at St Mary’s Rectory in Lydiard Tregoze.

The Rev Baily might have only been the incumbent at St Mary’s for less than ten years but he was well known in Swindon where he had served as Vicar for thirty eight.

Henry George Baily arrived in Swindon in 1843 as Vicar at the ancient Holy Rood Church, the town’s original parish church. It was he who led the campaign for a new church, delivering his congregation at Christ Church designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and dedicated in 1851.

But in 1894 it was less about his ecclesiastic achievements and all about his long marriage. As the Swindon Advertiser reported:

‘We have the pleasure of chronicling this week, an event that does not so very frequently occur in this country, viz, the celebration of a Golden Wedding.’

The report continued:

‘For the long period from 1847 to 1885, Mr Baily was vicar of Swindon, and great was the regret expressed by the congregation when he left Swindon and went to reside at Liddiard. However, he has always taken an interest in his old parishioners, and it was not surprising that a large company assembled at the Rectory at Liddiard on Wednesday, to congratulate Mr and Mrs Baily upon the celebration of their Golden Wedding.’

Mrs Baily even wore the same dress she wore on her wedding day, and that didn’t happen very often then, or now!

Henry George Baily was born in Calne on December 8, 1815, the son of George and Harriett Baily. At the time of the 1841 census he was studying at Christs College, Cambridge and two years later he married Elizabeth Mignan Richards at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge on May 23, 1844. Elizabeth was born on August 31, 1817 at Baroda Guzerah, India the daughter of Captain James Goss Richards and his wife Elizabeth.

By 1851 Henry and Elizabeth Baily were living in the Vicarage, Market Square with their four children Harriet 6, Elizabeth 4, Mary 3 and one month old Henry George. They would go on to have ten children in all.

St Mary’s Rectory must have been pretty busy on the day of the celebrations. All their family were at home, including the grandchildren, and the great and the good of Swindon all piled in, along with local farming families such as Mr and Mrs Willis from Can Court and Mr and Mrs Horton from Costow.

‘During the afternoon Canon Ponsonby made the presentation, from the friends, and offered congratulations to the rev gentleman and his wife upon having attained their golden wedding. Mr A. Plummer also expressed the pleasure it gave him and other Swindonians to come over and congratulate their old friend and vicar, and trusted that he and his wife would live many more years.

They had not forgotten the good work Mr Baily had done whilst he was vicar of Swindon, and that during his ministry the splendid church and schools were erected there. In conclusion, Mr Plummer said he could only re-echo the sentiments of all present in congratulating Mr and Mrs Baily upon the celebration of their golden wedding.

Mr Baily, who spoke with a great deal of emotion, suitably acknowledged the kindness which had been shown towards him and his family.

The present consisted of a purse of gold, which will be accompanied by an illuminated address when it is completed, bearing the following words:-

Presented to the Rev H.G. Baily and Mrs Baily, together with a purse of gold, on their golden wedding, May 23rd, 1894, by the parishioners of Liddiard Tregooze and friends as a token of their respect and esteem. All unite in wishing them still many years of happiness and blessing,’ the report continued.

Henry George Baily died on May 8, 1900 aged 84 and is buried in the churchyard at Christ Church. His wife, Elizabeth, survived him by ten years. She spent her last years living with her youngest daughter Florence. She died in 1910 aged 92.

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The new rectory published courtesy of Roger Ogle

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St Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoze





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Christ Church

Drawing Residency at St Mary’s Church

Artists are being invited to apply for a Drawing Residency this summer at one of this country’s most beautiful parish churches. St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze, which lies in Lydiard Park on the outskirts of Swindon in Wiltshire is undergoing a major Heritage Lottery Fund project to conserve its medieval wallpaintings and historic interior.

St. Mary’s is famous for its superb Renaissance monuments to the St. John family of Lydiard Park, from the beautiful painted window by Abraham Van Linge to the early 17th Century life size polyptych  depicting members of this old Wiltshire family. John Betjeman enthused about the building and his friend and artist John Piper’s painting of the ‘Golden Cavalier’, a striking monument to Captain Edward St. John, hangs in the adjacent Lydiard House.

As part of the conservation project up to three artists will be offered the chance to undertake a residency over a six week period for a minimum of 2 days a week between June and October 2019.  Although the residency is based on observational drawing in the church, artists can interpret their work in any medium. To qualify they will need to practice in the area of contemporary drawing and be over 19 years of age.

The residencies are voluntary positions but artists will be able to exhibit their work in a special 6 week exhibition curated by Sophie Cummings at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in early 2020. Their work will also feature on the St. Mary’s on-line drawing/painting archive.

Artists who are based in Swindon and Wiltshire are particularly welcome to apply. They should request an application form from the St. Mary’s Church Parish Office wspartnershipoffice@gmail.com

Completed applications should be submitted no later than Friday 3rd May 2019

Swindon College School of Art tutor, Morgan Tipping, says:

‘The residency aims to capture the interior wallpaintings and unique architectural features of St. Mary’s and could include the conservation in action which is being undertaken by internationally renowned conservators. The role of the artists will be employ observational drawing to capture this historic moment and provide a record of what is uncovered. Swindon College School of Art is a partner in the conservation project and recommend the residency to artists with a passion for drawing at any stage in their career’.

Sophie Cummings, Curator Swindon Museum and Art Gallery says:

‘We are really looking forward to the exhibition. Not only will it shine a light on the St. Mary’s Church project and on the talented artists who respond to it, but it will also speak to Swindon’s wider church history and complement objects in the museum and fine art in the town’s prestigious 20th Century and Contemporary art collection. It’s a great opportunity for artists to profile their work’

Revd. Capt.  Clive Deverell, Vicar of St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze says:

‘At St. Mary’s we warmly welcome applications from artists for this drawing residency and look forward to meeting them and seeing how they interpret our beautiful church.  There will be so much interest in the work they produce by the church family and the wider community.  I hope the residency will provide a meaningful and enjoyable experience for those who are chosen to participate.’

Paul Gardner, Chair St Mary’s Conservation Project says:

“The artist residence provides a unique & exciting opportunity to capture the conservation of the wall paintings as they are further revealed and the spirit of place in St Mary’s. The 21st century artist record follows in the footsteps of the medieval wall painters and successive generations of artists who have recorded the rich history & treasures of St Marys. “

Sarah Finch-Crisp, Heritage Advisor to St. Mary’s Church says:

‘Over the last 200 years  well- loved British artists including  John Piper and Sir Hugh Casson and the popular 20th century Canadian artist George Tinning have recorded St Mary’s for posterity.  In the 19th century, local watercolourists carefully depicted some of the ancient wall paintings discovered during building renovations. Today we have another wonderful opportunity to create a permanent and valuable record of St. Mary’s Church at this important point in its history’.




Opportunities to volunteer at St Mary’s Church

Have you got a few hours to spare during the week? Then you might be interested in becoming a volunteer at the historic St Mary’s Church in Lydiard Park? Have you got green fingers? Do you fancy planting a wildlife garden in the churchyard? Or perhaps you’d like to help with groups of local school children visiting the church – the opportunities are many and varied.

Make a date in your diary for Thursday 2nd May, 6.30 – 8 pm (please register first by emailing wspartnershipoffice@gmail.com) when an exciting new volunteer programme to support the St Mary’s Conservation Project is being launched at Lydiard Park Conference Centre.

St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze which lies within Lydiard Park is known as one of the most beautiful small parish churches in this country. Today it is undergoing a major Heritage Lottery Fund project to conserve its medieval wallpaintings and historic art interiors. Wallpainting conservation began before Christmas and is already revealing the beauty of long hidden pictures.

The £1 million project which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Friends of Lydiard Park along with other generous donors, is also enabling a two-year programme of events and activities for the public, local schools and colleges.

An exciting new volunteer programme to support the project is being launched at Lydiard Park Conference Centre on Thursday 2nd May. The event is being hosted by The Friends of Lydiard Park and all those interested in finding out more about volunteering for the project are invited to attend.

There are a wide variety of volunteering opportunities including providing history tours, conservation care of historic furnishings and objects; helping with school groups, wildflower planting in the churchyard; and stewarding in the House and Church. To register for the event you will need to email St. Mary’s Church office wspartnershipoffice@gmail.com

There are also a limited number of volunteer training placements to work with the church’s internationally renowned wallpainting conservators. For those interested in this type of hands-on conservation a minimum commitment of 2 working weeks is required and candidates should contact the partnership office as soon as possible.

‘Volunteering at St. Mary’s is a great way to discover more about St. Mary’s rich heritage,“ said Paul Gardner, Chair of the Conservation Project. “People may have skills and ways of volunteering which we haven’t even thought of and we’re keen to hear from anyone who is interested whether they are already very familiar with the church or have never visited before.”

St. Mary’s Church is widely regarded as one of the most important small parish churches in the country on account of its exceptional interiors and monuments to the St. John family who owned Lydiard Park.

“The Friends of Lydiard Park are really excited about the Volunteer Launch,” Friends of Lydiard Park Trust, Sarah Finch-Crisp said. “There are so many opportunities for people to get involved, learn new skills and have fun at the same time. The Friends have donated over £100,000 to the conservation project and we are delighted to be hosting this event for St. Mary’s and look forward to meeting enthusiastic local residents on the 2nd May.”

The current Heritage Lottery Fund project includes conservation of the medieval wall paintings and architectural paint schemes. Alongside that is the repair of historic pews, new heating and lighting and improved access and new interpretation.

For more information contact Sarah Finch-Crisp on Sarah@finch-crisp.com or 07763 059645.

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thumbnail_St Marys Lydiard Tregoze removal of royal coat of arms James I (date 1611)



An Ancient Painting found by Accident at Fine Liddiard Church September 1837 – gifted to the church by the Brake family. The Friends of Lydiard Park funded conservation and framing of the picture.


Frances Lydiard Church June 3rd 2018
Volunteer led tour of St Mary’s churchyard, June 2018.