St. Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze wins confirmed National Lottery support

St. Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze, which lies on the western edge of Swindon in historic Lydiard Park, has received a confirmed National Lottery grant award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to conserve its gorgeous interiors. The project aims include conserving the buildings extensive and nationally significant medieval wall paintings, 17th Century monuments, ancient carved woodwork and star spangled ceiling.

Made possible by National Lottery players, the grant of £615,000 towards the £901,605 delivery phase will enable the church to carry out the conservation work, environmental improvements and access improvements to St Mary’s Church as well as the delivery of a specialist training programme and associated learning, volunteering and community engagement activities .

The project aims to rescue the church from deteriorating further and improve public access by re-opening the hidden south porch and creating a welcoming interpretation and activity area. The church plans a wide range of educational activities and events as well as offering training and volunteer opportunities for local people, families, schoolchildren and higher education students. These will include hands on conservation workshops and skills training.

St. Mary’s stands behind the gracious mansion of Lydiard House and is famous for the richness of its monuments to the St. John family who lived at Lydiard for over 500 years. The church currently attracts over 8,100 visitors a year from both this country and abroad and is well used by local schools researching heritage on their doorstep and visitors to the adjacent house and park.

Project Champion, Rt. Reverend Dr Lee Rayfield, Bishop of Swindon:

‘The National Lottery receives many deserving applications so it is particularly heartening that Swindon has once again been supported by the award of a major grant. St.Mary’s remains a national treasure and enabling us to preserve and restore its unique features continues to benefit local people as well as enriching our country’s heritage.’

Vicar St Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze Reverend Captain Clive Deverell (Area Dean )

“I am delighted that we have been awarded this National Lottery grant, it will ensure families from across West Swindon will be able to share in its worship and special history for generations to come. Also we will play our part in training a great number of future conservators of medieval Wall paintings. ”

Project Chair Paul Gardner

‘It is wonderful news and we are immensely grateful to the National Lottery and very excited about taking our plans forward, especially working with the many organizations from across the town – The Friends of Lydiard Park, schools ,Swindon Art College, The Arts Society , Swindon Festival of Literature, Prime Theatre and many more – that have enthusiastically supported the project and pledged their support and involvement.’

‘We have virtually raised the match funded of £286,600 needed for this stage of the project following receipt of substantial individual donations as well as grants from a range of charities and other organisations including The Friends of Lydiard Park, Garfield Weston Foundation, West Swindon & Lydiard Tregoze Church Partnership, All Churches Trust, The Pilgrim Trust, St Andrews Conservation Trust, The Leche Trust , Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust, The Alan Evans Memorial Trust and continued public fund raising.

I wish to thank the National Lottery whole heartedly for making this crucial award.

Alastair Stevenson, Chair Friends of Lydiard Park

I am immensely pleased that the National Lottery has chosen to make this substantial investment in the conservation of St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze. The Friends have been passionate supporters of this project, committing over £100,000 towards it thanks to the generosity of a private legacy. We look forward to seeing the conservation work begin in earnest and all the training, education and volunteering opportunities that it involves. Congratulations to St. Mary’s and grateful thanks to the National Lottery!

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, people of all ages will have the chance to get involved in creating a secure and exciting future for St Mary’s Church and its incredible heritage. We are delighted to support this project.”

St. Mary’s Church belongs to the Church of England. It is a vibrant working church with a dedicated vicar and regular Sunday services in the heart of the community of West Swindon & Lydiard Tregoze where continuous Christian worship has taken place for over 1100 years.

Lydiard Park’s 18th Century landscape was restored in 2004-7 in a £5.3 million project which was also supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery

For further information, images and interviews please contact Paul Gardner at or 07831 868429

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Michaelmas Day

Michaelmas Day (September 29) is the feast of Michael and All Angels and marks the closing in of the long, dark nights as the days grow colder and summer begins to wane.

One of the four quarter days, Michaelmas was the day on which rents were due, leases begun and servants hired, a busy time in the estate office at Lydiard House.

But today, in a glorious blaze of colour, summer enjoyed a last hurrah in the Walled Garden at Lydiard Park.

Created during Jack St John’s 18th century makeover of the parkland and restored during the Lydiard Park Project 2001-2007, the Walled Garden is a place of peaceful contemplation in any season.





















The North Aisle

St Mary’s Church is jam-packed full of fascinating features. Once you have viewed the fantastic 15th century wall paintings and marvelled at the magnificent St John memorials, have a look at the North Aisle. Dating back to the 14th century the North Aisle is possibly one of the oldest surviving elements in the church.

In 1968 Rev Bryan Carne, the Rector at St Mary’s Church, edited the first of 40 editions of the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Reports. This first 24 page bulletin was published on July 6 and among the articles was an undated diagram of the seating arrangements in St Mary’s.

Church seating can be dated back to the Anglo Saxon period when it consisted of a basic three legged stool. By the 15th century benches or stalls along the church walls became more common although in the early 17th century stools were still a common form of seating.

Pew renting grew in popularity following the first of the Church Building Acts in 1818 when it was recognised as a legitimate church fund raiser.  Pew letting was largely abolished by the end of the 19th century although the practice continued in some areas into the 1950 and 60s. The system came to an end because it was complicated to administer and became increasingly unprofitable. It is not currently known if the tenants of the farms listed in the diagram paid for their pews or whether their position was a traditional one.

The boxed pews in St Mary’s date from c1839 when Rev Giles Daubeney re-ordered the church seating. Rev Daubeney served at St Mary’s for a total of 46 years, first as curate for eight years from 1831 and then as Rector for 38 years until his death in 1877.

During the mid Victorian period the north aisle was known as the Clarendon Aisle, a reference to the land owning Earls of Clarendon. The  pew beneath the window was reserved for the tenants at Midgehall Farm and dates from 1680. The boxed pews that run along the wall are something of a cut and pace job, the backs dating from the 17th century and the plain fronts from the 18th.

The name Midgehall means ‘a corner or nook of land infested by midges.’ Although not a description an estate agent would use today, Midgehall has always been a desirable residence.  Once a grange or manor belonging to Stanley Abbey Lawrence Hyde, second son of Edward 1st Earl of Clarendon, bought the Midgehall estate in about 1685. It remained in the Clarendon family until 1866 when it was sold to the Trustees of Sir Henry Meux.

The Bradford family were tenants at Midgehall throughout most of the 18th century and at the time of the 1851 census Cornelius Bradford farmed the 360 acres, employing twelve labourers, and served as Mayor of Wootton Bassett as well. His son Richard took over the tenancy after the death of Cornelius in 1852.

Across the other side of the Clarendon Aisle is the Windmill Leaze pew. Known today as Park Farm, Windmill Leaze was the Lydiard estate home farm, supplying the St John family with produce to support their homes in both Battersea and Lydiard.

In 1851 the farm was worked by William Kinchin, his widowed stepmother Martha (described on the census returns as his mother in law) and a cousin also named William Kinchin. The farm comprised 280 acres and William employed nine labourers and a Dairy Maid (Maryann Mills) who lived in the farmhouse. Sixteen year old farm servant Thomas Strang and a visitor, Martha Withers, were at the farm on census night. The Kinchin family were tenants at Windmill Leaze for more than 60 years. By 1911 John Rumming had taken over the tenancy. The Rumming family eventually bought the farm, which they continue to own to this day.

The pews in the main body of the church are entered by doors opening onto the nave aisle. However the pew numbered 4 on the diagram also has a door at the Clarendon Aisle to allow for an overflow of occupants from the Can Court pew.

On the other side of the nave aisle, behind the Clerk’s seat and a pew occupied by the tenant at Brook Farm, Thomas Plummer, and the subsequent owner, Joses Badock, are the pews occupied by Mannington and Toothill Farm tenants.

Mannington, Toothill and Whitehill Farms were acquired by Thomas Sutton in the 17th century to support his foundation, a hospital and school for forty ‘poor’ scholars known as Charterhouse. The farms remained the property of Charterhouse until 1919 when they were sold to the Wiltshire County Council to provide small holdings for soldiers returning from the First World War battlefields.

The windows of the North (Clarendon) Aisle contain fragments of  medieval painted glass of various workmen and bear the mark of some 19th century workmen. Edwin Edmonds and Norman Hitchcock etched their names while on the easternmost window of the north aisle wall E.T. Morse Glazier & painter added the admonition in 1805 – ‘He Hiss A fool Likewise A Nave That Rites hiss Name A/pon Glass.

The Rev Carne returned to the subject of the Clarendon Aisle in the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report No 38 published in 2005 in which he writes:

“The fact that the north aisle is called the ‘Clarendon Aisle’ and also that it was minimally altered in the 1850s raise the possibility that the aisle was added in the fourteenth century by the lessees of the manor of Midgehall to accommodate those who lived on that manor and that the manor maintained a prescriptive right to the whole of the north aisle.’

Notes on the Fabric and Fittings of St Mary’s Church and Related Matters.

Produced between 1968 – 2007 copies of the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Reports are held in the British Library, the Bodleian Library and the Society of Antiquaries of London. They are also available somewhat closer to home in Local Studies, Swindon Central Library, Regent Circus.



The English Anglican Practice of Pew-Renting 1800-1960 by John Charles Bennett

Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Reports No 1, 11, 23 and 38.





Heritage Open Days

The figures are in for the first weekend of the Heritage Open Days event where more than 250 people visited St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Park. Church stewards welcomed visitors from Belgium, Valencia and Transylvania as well as those from a little closer to home.

The magnificent St John polyptych was on display. The multipaneled genealogical masterpiece with a family portrait at its centre is only open on a handful of occasions during the year, among them the Heritage Open Days in September.

Paul Gardner, Chair of St Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project, updated visitors on plans to conserve the 15th century wall paintings and the eagerly awaited decision on the next phase of HLF funding due later this month.

Church steward Mathew Koelz represented St Mary’s in the Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust Annual Ride and Stride fundraising event. Mat completed a 40 mile sponsored cycle ride during which he visited 40 churches.

One of the themes of the 2018 Heritage Open Days is that of Extraordinary Women. Local historian Frances Bevan celebrated the centenary of some women gaining the vote and spoke to visitors about Edith New, a Swindon schoolteacher, who played a prominent role in the Votes for Women campaign.

St Mary’s Church will be open from September 14-16 for the second Heritage Open Days event. Volunteers from the Arts Society will be on hand to give visitors a guided tour of the church from 11 am Friday with members of the congregation available over the weekend.

John Matthews and Catherine Iles

To the south side of St Mary’s in a corner of the churchyard close to the wall separating Lydiard House from the burial ground, stands a group of table top tombs, their inscriptions weathered and almost illegible.

In 1979 Rev Canon Brian Carne, former Rector at St Mary’s and founder of the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz, published in the Friends Report No 12 the inscriptions on the headstones in the churchyard, many of which have all but disappeared in the intervening 39 years.

One of the tombs in the corner of the churchyard bears an inscription to the memory of John Matthews who died on January 27, 1802 aged 69 years and his wife Catherine who died on December 14, 1819 aged 77 years.

The marriage of John Matthews and Catherine Iles in 1764 united two local, wealthy, farming dynasties. And as might be expected in such a case a marriage settlement was drawn up in advance of the proceedings.

The document declares that John was entitled to “have and receive the sum of £400 as and for the Marriage portion of the said Catherine Iles” money left to her by her grandmother Elizabeth and from the personal estate of her father William.

John was to have the use of the money during the term of his natural life but after his death, should Catherine survive him, it would go straight to her, something she refers to when she writes her will 55 years later.

The couple were married by licence at St Mary’s Church on May 17, 1764 and seven children were baptised there – William in 1766, James 1768, Catherine 1771, John 1773, Jacob 1777, Mary 1779 and Stephen in 1783.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly when John made his will in 1801 he made no reference to his wife of 37 years. His first concern was to give to his eldest son William his interest in a lease on South Leaze Farm in Wroughton owned by the Governors of Charterhouse.

William also receives £400 while Jacob receives the farm at Little Somerford and a sum of money. Stephen gets the farm at Purton where his brother James has worked on the condition he pays him £500. John, who moved to Bristol where he ran a business as a Cheesemonger and Butter Factor, had already had a legacy of £1,000 and receives a further £800 in his father’s will. John Matthews two daughters Mary and Catherine receive a legacy of £1,800 a piece, worth approximately £1.7 million today.

He names his two sons Jacob and Stephen as joint executors and hey presto, it’s all done and dusted, but with no refence to Catherine.

Catherine outlives John by a further 17 years. She makes her will in 1819 and she immediately makes a reference to John, her late husband, the marriage settlement of £400 and her right as the survivor of them to do what she wishes with the money; which she leaves to her eldest son William. James gets £200 and Jacob and Stephen are put in charge of an investment of £600 that she has “standing in my own name in the Books of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England” with the interest to go to her seven grandchildren – William, John, Thomas, James, Mary, Catherine and Edward “the sons and daughters of my daughter Mary Plummer.”

Catherine leaves the residue of her personal estate and effects to Jacob and Stephen and appoints them as joint executors of her will.

The impression of the Matthews family is that they were a no-nonsense kind of family. The property and money was meticulously apportioned but there is no mention of jewellery or pieces of silver plate or wearing apparel. No best bed with furnishings. No bequests to servants and old retainers. No donation to the poor of the parish. John Matthews had served as a churchwarden at St Mary’s from 1774-1798, some 25 years. Perhaps he considered he had done his bit.

With a wealth of official paperwork surviving perhaps I’m just too nosy, but I’d love to know who received the personalised items, especially the best bed and furnishings!



Memorials … And Other Grave Matters by Rev Brian Carne, Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report No. 12 published May 19, 1979.

Deeds relating to Studley Farm, Lydiard Tregoze including marriage settlement of John Matthews and Catherine Iles Ref 781/1 Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre.

Last Will and Testament John Matthews Probate date 26 February 1802 Liddiard Treegooze

Last Will and Testament Catherine Matthews Probate date 4 May 1820 Lydiard Tregoze

Summer Outing – Cirencester Park

Members of the Friends of Lydiard Park made the short journey to Cirencester Park, home of the Earl and Countess Bathurst, for the annual summer outing.

Fans of Elizabeth St John’s books, the Lydiard Chronicles will be aware of the close connection between the Bathurst and St John families.

Lucy St John was the youngest of six surviving daughters of Sir John St John and Lucy Hungerford and appears on the family portrait enclosed within the multi panelled St John Polyptych in St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Park.

Lucy was born at Lydiard Park in 1589 and became the third wife of Sir Allen Apsley whom she married in October 1615. Sir Allen was some twenty years older than Lucy, a courtier, Surveyor of Marine Victuals of the Royal Navy and Lieutenant of the Tower of London. The couple had five surviving children, Allen, James, Lucy, Barbara and William.

Eldest son Allen Apsley married Frances Petre in c1644 and it was their daughter Frances who married Sir Benjamin Bathurst. But the family connection doesn’t end there!

Sir Benjamin Bathurst (1639-1704) was a statesman, politician, courtier and Governor of the East India Company. He was Treasurer and Receiver General to the Duke of York (later James II) and Treasurer to Princess Anne of Denmark and later Cofferer to Queen Anne.

Sir Benjamin and Frances had four surviving children and acquired the estate now known as Cirencester Park for their eldest son Allen, 1st Earl Bathurst.

In July 1704 Allen married Catherine Apsley, his first cousin once removed. Both traced their ancestry to Sir Allen Apsley via his two wives. Catherine was descended from his first wife Anne Carew and Allen from Lucy St John, which all goes to prove the close connection between the family at Cirencester Park and the one at Lydiard Park.

Today Allen Bathurst, 9th Earl Bathurst and his wife Sara run the Cirencester Park Estate. The park is open to the public but the Grade II* listed house itself is still very much a private family home.

The Friends would like to thank Countess Bathurst for her hospitality and for a fascinating tour of Cirencester Park.

Elizabeth St John is currently writing the third volume in the Lydiard Chronicles series, but if you can’t wait that long she has just published Counterpoint: Barbara, Lady Villiers, Kindle edition.


Francis King otherwise Tuckey

In the churchyard at St Mary’s, Lydiard Park, tucked away beneath an ancient yew tree, stand a group of nine chest tombs, just three metres east of the chancel east wall. Dating from the late 18th to the mid-19th century, these Grade II tombs were listed in 1986.

The limestone tombs have a moulded base and table and recessed corner balusters. One of the tombs is a plain box without corner decoration. The inscription on the table top is weathered and difficult to read. This is the grave of Francis King who died in 1745 and his wife Bridget who died in 1766, Close to them lies their son, also named Francis, who died in 1808.

The younger Francis made his will on ‘the second day of January in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Seven,’ just over a year before he died.

Deciphering Francis’s will was relatively straightforward but trying to unravel his private life was considerably more difficult.

Francis was born in 1738. The Lydiard Millicent parish registers record ‘Francis ye base born son of Briget [sic] Tuckey’ was baptised at All Saints on ‘August ye 8 1738.’ His parents married in 1744 when he was six years old and his father died the following year.

Throughout his life Francis was known by both surnames, which seems a little unusual since he was so young when his parents married. Sometimes he signed himself Francis King otherwise Tuckey and sometimes Francis King alias Tuckey. The Tuckey family was another wealthy, local, land owning family so perhaps Francis just wanted to keep his options open.

He begins his will ‘In the Name of God Amen I Francis King otherwise Tuckey of West Blagrove Farm in the parish of Wroughton …

He leaves ten pounds to his cousin Mary King of Stanford in Berks, but the rest of his will is concerned with his immediate family members.

Francis owned a property and some eight acres of land at Shaw in the parish of Lydiard Miillicent, which he left to his son Richard Dore King.

A farm and land Francis held belonging to the Earl of Clarendon at Wakefield [sic] along with the ‘Cattle Hay Implements of Husbandry and Household Goods’ was to go to his son Francis along with three leasehold cottages also at Wakefield and one hundred pounds.

Francis named two good friends, William Dore and James Packer as his trustees and executors and gave them one thousand and two hundred pounds upon trust to invest on behalf of his two daughters Ann and Mary, ‘for and towards their respective Education and Maintenance until they shall severally and respectively attain their respective Ages of Twenty One Years or Marriage’ (Ann was 22 and Mary 18 at the time their father made his will.)

Francis directs that William Dore and James Packer – ‘Do and shall carry on the Business of the said last mentioned Farms [West Blagrove and Whitehill] for the benefit of Anne my wife and my son John King until he shall attain his Age of Twenty-One Years or be married. (John was 20 years old at the time Francis made his will.)

A further investment of one thousand pounds is to be made with the interest or dividends to go to his wife Anne for her lifetime. After her death the investment is to be paid to his sons and daughters Richard Dore, Francis, John, Ann and Mary.

So all this is pretty straightforward. But what about the personal details?

It would appear that Francis King otherwise Tuckey probably married three times. Unless you know differently …

His first wife was Elizabeth Dore whom he married by licence on May 29, 1769 at St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoze. Elizabeth was most probably the mother of Richard Dore King who bears her maiden name.

Wife number two was probably Jane Cole. An entry in St Mary’s parish registers lists Francis King married Jane Cole by licence on October 21st 1773.

Francis married for a third time, again by licence at St Mary’s, to Ann Hedges on November 24, 1784. These dates would tally with the birth of three of the children mentioned in his will, Ann born in 1785, John in 1787 and Mary in 1789.

The table top tomb in the churchyard is a memorial to Francis and his wife Ann who outlived him by forty years and their son John and two daughters Mary and Ann. On the end of the memorial is the following inscription: In Memory of Elizabeth, Daughter of Francis and Elizabeth King who died Feby. 8th 1813 aged 3 weeks.

The glorious, stained glass window over the west door of St Mary’s was installed in the memory of John King by his two sisters, Ann and Mary. Have a look at this and the family graves when you next visit St Mary’s.

Francis died on March 2, 1808 at the farm at Blagrove. He was 69 years old.