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.

A 403rd birthday at St Mary’s Church

On July 20, 1615, Sir John St John saw work begin on the installation of the family monument in St Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoze to his parents, and a celebration of his illustrious family history.

The polyptych was custom made for the north wall of the chancel of St Mary’s and measures almost 15 feet high (to the top of the pediment) and 14 feet wide, including the lateral doors.

The complicated arrangement of 15 panels was constructed over a period of at least ten years, but it was not until the 1980s, when conservators Pauline Plummer, Joe Dawes and John Green began a major restoration project, that the masterpiece revealed more of its secrets, including a genealogical table that had been hidden since 1694.

Floor subsidence had caused the stone plinth to crack, creating movement in the polyptych itself, and in May 1981 the whole monument was dismantled.

This was a project that had to be tackled with the utmost care and attention to detail and was not to be rushed.

Unlike a triptych, which consists of three parts, this extraordinary 17th century construction has two pairs of hinged doors and multiple panels.

The central panel consists of a family portrait, featuring Sir John St John, 1st Baronet, along with his wife Anne, his parents, Sir John and Lucy St John, and his six sisters.

The portrait was painted on canvas, most probably in London, and it is believed it was then rolled up for despatch to Lydiard House, where it was glued to one-inch-thick oak panels, which, in turn were secured to two-inch-thick elm boards.

The portrait had suffered from considerable overpainting, and as Pauline Plummer FSA and a Fellow of the International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works stripped back the centuries of dirt, varnish and DIY, she discovered a painting of the finest quality, produced by an artist at the peak of his career.

She suggested it might even be by William Larkin, who painted portraits of members of the court of James I, an idea supported by eminent art historian Sir Roy Strong.

The folding panels show the ancestry of the St John family, beginning with Margaret Beauchamp who married Oliver St John in about 1425.

By 1683 the family decided the genealogical information needed updating, and repairs became necessary. The central doors were badly warped, and newly hinged outer doors were added.

Further additions to the family tree were made in the 18th century, most probably by Henry, Viscount St John (1652-1742), who had a special fondness for the Lydiard Park estate and spent a considerable time there. It was also where his son, Henry, Viscount Bolingbroke, was born, in 1678. He went on to become Queen Anne’s Secretary of War.

In 1699 a new panel was added, showing the links between the St John family and the Tudor dynasty. This panel has recently been styled ‘the Red Queen panel’ following the success of Philippa Gregory’s novel of the same name and a subsequent TV series.

It charts the descent of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, and the mother of Henry VII – a story told in a fascinating talk by Paul Gardner, Appeal Chairman of the St Mary’s Church Conservation Project.

The panels of the polyptych are usually locked shut, but to celebrate its 403rd birthday, it will be open this weekend July 21 and 22.

And for lovers of all things Lydiard why not join the Friends of Lydiard Park?

This independent charity is dedicated to supporting the conservation and continued enhancement of Lydiard House and Park.

Annual membership cost £10 (individual) or £18 (family) and allows free access to the house and walled garden, plus talks and trips. For more information visit the website.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 edition of Swindon Heritage.

Jacob Hayward – so long with pain opprest

Spare a thought for poor Jacob Hayward, whose demise appears to have been a welcome release from a long illness.

This magnificent table top memorial is one of several listed monuments in the churchyard at St Mary’s and is evidence that Jacob was a wealthy man. His will reveals that he farmed at Chaddington and Bassett Down and that he owned the freehold of Cotmarsh Farm in Broad Hinton. This very matter of fact document bequeaths his property and his money to wife Jane and daughter Mary and was signed just 12 days before Jacob’s death. There is no mention of any personal effects and just one reference to a person other than Jane and Mary.


To the Memory of

Jacob Hayward

who departed this Life

the 19th Sept. 1801

in the 57th year of his Age

I was so long with Pain opprest,

That work my Strength away,

It made me long for Endless Rest

Which never can decay


to the Memory of

Jane wife of

Jacob Hayward

who departed this Life

the 29th of Nove. 1828

Aged 71 years


Come and hear more stories of other local families with local historian Frances Bevan who will be conducting guided churchyard walks on Sunday June 3, at 2.15 and 3.15. Meet outside the Stable Room.





Churchyard walks and Strawberry teas

Visitors to St Mary’s church often mistakenly think that it was a private chapel for the St John family, but St Mary’s has always been and continues to be, a parish church.

The foundation of a church at Lydiard Tregoze dates from the Saxon period when a single cell, a room, was used for worship. In 1100 the then owner, Harold of Ewyas, gave the church to St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester. The North side and the Nave date from the 13th century while the South Aisle was built in the 14th century and the West Gower was added in the 15th century.

The rebuilding work at the East End of the church and the magnificent St John memorials were commissioned by Sir John St John, 1st Baronet, in the 17th century.

For more information about St Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze and a Guide to the church & Its Monuments click here.

Surviving parish registers date from 1666 and although the population of the parish was small there are a lot of burials in a relatively small area, which might explain why the churchyard is higher than the church.

The churchyard closed for new burials in 1888 and in 1891 Viscount Bolingbroke gave a piece of land at Hook called ‘Ables’ for the laying out of a burial ground.

This is the start of the fundraising month for St Mary’s where strawberry teas will be served from the Stable Room from 2 – 4 pm every Sunday in June. The St John polyptych will be on view to reveal the family portrait of the St John family, which was installed in the church on July 20, 1615 and the bell tower will be open with an opportunity for visitors to try their hand at bell ringing.

For early risers there is a rare opportunity to see the amazing spectacle of the East Window as the sun rises over Lydiard Park. Join Mat on June 3 from 4.45 to 7.00.

Most of the surviving headstones in the churchyard mark the graves of farming families. A memorial just inside the churchyard entrance records the burial of Jonas Clarke who died in 1862. Jonas came to Wick Farm in around 1839 with Alice and their seven children but the couple had to wait more than thirty years for the death of Jonas’ first wife before they could marry.

Come and hear more stories of other local families, including the Edmonds and the historic water colour of the medieval wall painting recently donated to the church by Joy Brake nee Edmonds.

Local historian Frances Bevan will be conducting guided churchyard walks on Sunday June 3, at 2.15 and 3.15. Meet outside the Stable Room.



When Harry married Meghan

Yesterday’s royal wedding had everything as pomp and circumstance went hand in hand with the personal choices of a couple so obviously very much in love. Harry and Meghan put their own stamp on this royal occasion with their choice of music, readings and clergy. The words of charismatic American Bishop, Michael Curry will long be remembered along with the reaction of the wedding guests in St George’s Chapel.

Meghan entered St George’s Chapel through the West Door and without displaying a whisper of nerves, processed down the nave accompanied by a flotilla of little bridesmaids and pageboys while her mother, Doria Ragland, took her place quietly and with equal composure in the Quire. And another woman who deserves a mention is Zara Tindall, the Queen’s granddaughter, who, heavily pregnant, tried to get comfortable in the medieval Quire seats.

For Friends who may not be aware, Prince Harry’s ancestry can be traced back to Sir John St John 1st Baronet and his wife Anne Leighton, who lived at Lydiard Park in the 17th century.

Visit St Mary’s Church during the month of June and see the St John monuments, including the magnificent bedstead memorial made of alabaster, black carboniferous limestone and clunch (a hard, compact grey chalk) and particularly the St John polyptych, which will be open every Sunday afternoon. You may also like to join a guided tour of the churchyard on June 3 and June 17 at 2.15 and 3.15. Strawberry Teas will be served in the Stable Room.

Now we just have to persuade the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex to pop in!

Well done Mr Murray John!

Work has begun at Lydiard House on the south tower and behind the scenes in the conference centre a kitchen refit is underway – encouraging signs of Swindon Borough Council’s intentions, having dramatically cancelled the outsourcing project at Lydiard Park in February 2018.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the sale of the Lydiard estate by the St John family. Lady Bolingbroke died in 1940 and soon after her son Vernon, with his mother’s cousin Edward Hiscock, moved out of the dilapidated mansion house and into Brook Cottage, the former gamekeeper’s home.

Back at Lydiard House a huge clear out took place with much of the furniture (including the original state bed) ending up on a bonfire and 500 years of paperwork going into a wartime skip.

 ‘I have personally handled and compiled some two and a half tons of War Salvage which the Wootton Bassett RDC collectors tell me constitutes a record for any house in their district,’ Lord Bolingbroke wrote to his solicitor Mr Dale of H. Bevir & Son dated January 13, 1943.

What went into that wartime skip? The everyday inconsequential paperwork of running a large estate, no doubt, but what other priceless gems were lost in the dispersal and why did Vernon, Lord Bolingbroke throw out so much of not only his own family history but that of the local community as well.

In 1943 Lydiard House was in a state of near dereliction with collapsed floors and ceilings, dry rot, wet rot, woodworm and death-watch beetle. With most of the rest of the estate mortgaged there was little Edward Hiscock, the remaining trustee of Lady Bolingbroke’s will, could do but put Lydiard House and Park on the market.

When Cllr Francis Akers bought the property at auction he told the Herald and Advertiser (August 6, 1943) ‘that it would have been a great pity had this glorious old English home passed into the hands of people who were not concerned with the future development of the country surrounding Swindon’.

Cllr Akers agreed he had purchased the estate in the hope that it would be acquired by Swindon Corporation who had already named the price they were prepared to pay for the mansion house and parkland, exclusive of farms and agricultural land. The local authority had to justify the expenditure of public money during the middle of the Second World War.

So, seventy-five years on, what were the original plans for the Lydiard Estate?

During a great wave of post war interest and emphasis on further education it was felt that Lydiard House offered a unique opportunity for the young people of Swindon.

The mansion and park had opened to the public in 1955 and in 1962, at the end of fifteen years of repair and restoration work, visionary Town Clerk David Murray John wrote to the Chairman and Members of the Development Sub-Committee about the future of the estate.

Day conferences and meetings were already taking place in the House and a hostel for young people had been established in the stables. That same year the youth hostel had been booked for 19 weekends with numerous enquiries from other groups, however it was felt the stable accommodation was unsuitable for these bookings.

Murray John provided the Development Sub-Committee with an estimated cost of £12,650 to adapt and equip the conference centre for further use. The reconstruction of the dam, the dredging of the lake, surfacing of the road and the building of a swimming pool would cost a further £11,820 bringing the total cost to £24,470. Building work, it was estimated, would take between one and two years.

But with no projected source of income, the venture was indeed a leap of faith.

Murray John concluded his letter with words that the Friends would endorse today:

“The importance and value of the estate to the town have become recognised and its potentialities realised. The time seems opportune to complete the work and make the estate fully available for the use and enjoyment of the people of Swindon.”

Well done, Mr Murray John!