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
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
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.
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.
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!
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.”
The original Friends group, the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz, was formed in 1967 with the approval and full support of St. Mary’s Church and the Borough of Swindon. The Friends of Lydiard Park, an independent charity dedicated to supporting the conservation and continued enhancement of Lydiard House and Park, was formed in 2005. The objects of the society have changed little over the subsequent 51 years and today the Friends continue to promote interest in Lydiard House and Park and St Mary’s Church, which is presently in the middle of an exciting conservation project.
The Friends of Lydiard Tregoz produced an annual Report between 1968-2007, a magazine of articles concerned in the broadest way with the history of the parish, its buildings and people, the St. John family and its antecedents as well as more locally-based families, and the early years of the Sir Walter St. John School in Battersea. Copies of the Reports were deposited with libraries (including Local Studies at Swindon Central Library) and institutions in England, Wales, and the United States of America. Digitised versions of these Reports are now being made available through the Members’ Area on the Friends of Lydiard Park website.
The Friends of Lydiard Park continue to make contributions towards the cost of projects in either the House or the Church.
The Friends hold two meetings, one at Christmas and one in mid-May. This year’s event took place in the Conference Centre on May 5, where members were brought up to date with events regarding the future of Lydiard House and Park. To read more please visit the following websites: Lydiard Park Heritage Trust, the Swindon Advertiser and Swindon Link.
At this year’s meeting Friends welcomed Julie Holland to the Board of Trustees. Julie updated members about ongoing plans for the 2018 annual summer trip. This year the Friends are invited to Cirencester Park, the home of 9th Earl and Countess Bathurst, whose ancestry traces back to Lucy St John and her husband Sir Allen Apsley. More details are to follow shortly.
And Friends are reminded to purchase a ticket for a special Swindon Festival of Literature event at Lydiard House on May 17 when Elizabeth St John will talk about By Love Divided, her second novel in the Lydiard Chronicles series.
Last but not least, local artist Billy Beaumont surprised the Friends with never before seen views of Lydiard House. For more information visit Billy’s website.
To join the Friends of Lydiard Park please visit the website.
A 180-YEAR-OLD watercolour has been returned to St Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze alongside the medieval wall painting that inspired it.
The painting of Thomas Beckett was unveiled at the church on Maundy Thursday following its conservation for the public to view and compare with the original wall painting of Thomas Becket within the church.
A previously unseen picture has recently been donated to St Marys Church Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project just as Jane Rutherfoord, team leader at Rutherfoord Conservation Ltd., began a survey of the medieval wall paintings in the church at Lydiard Park.
The picture is a detail of one of the wall paintings depicting the murder of Thomas Becket and has the inscription ‘A Copy of an Ancient Painting found by Accident at Fine Liddiard Church’ and dates from September 1837.
The Thomas Becket painting has been donated by Mrs Joy Brake aged 93 who grew up with the picture but cannot explain how it came into her family’s possession.
“I remember it always hung in the house in Wood Street.”
Although Joy Brake grew up at 32 Wood Street, Swindon her family roots are planted deep in the history of Lydiard Tregoze.
The Edmonds family was large and well established in the parish of Lydiard Tregoze by the mid-18th century, and the name Edwin Edmonds turns up several times in the history of St Mary’s.
The grave of Joy’s great grandparents Edwin and Rhoda Edmonds stands just inside the gate to St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoze.
The name Edwin Edmonds occurs etched in several panes of glass in the church windows during repair work.
It was also the name of the first organist at St Mary’s, but as Edwin was often chosen as a first name by the family over several generations, it’s not always clear which Edwin is which.
In the census of 1871 Joy’s great grandfather Edwin George Edmonds 45, a widower and master agricultural engineer, was living at Lower Hook with his younger children, including Joy’s grandfather Edwin Hugh Edmonds who at 16 years of age was working in the family business as an engine fitter.
Edwin George died in 1884 but the engineering business went from strength to strength in the hands of his capable son Edwin Hugh Edmonds who worked at Coped Hall, Wootton Bassett.
Joy’s father, Fred was born at Coped Hall in 1885, one of Edwin Hugh and Fanny Edmonds’ 14 children. Fred worked in the agricultural engineering firm before establishing the Swindon Motor Company.
Joy recalls her father’s close attachment to the village of Hook where he donated land on which Hook Village Hall was built.
“He wanted me to get married at St Mary’s but I wanted to get married at Christ Church,” said Joy.
But taking another step back in Joy’s family history might provide the answer to how the picture was acquired. Joy’s great great grandfather, Jacob Edmonds, was born in the parish of Lydiard Tregoze in 1787 and was baptised in St Mary’s Church on May 27 of that year.
Jacob worked variously as a carpenter, mealman and grocer and a tea dealer, but the vital clue as to how the Edmonds family might have acquired the picture of the wall painting comes in the census of 1871 where Jacob describes his occupation as Parish Clerk. Jacob died three years later in 1874 and the headstone on his grave stated that ‘he was for 62 years parish clerk’. The discovery of the wall paintings in 1837 would therefore have occurred during his tenure as parish clerk.
At the beginning of October Jane Rutherfoord and her team were on site at St Mary’s to undertake a detailed survey of the wall paintings, monuments and polychromy for the project. Their findings will inform the second-round application to the Heritage Lottery Fund due to be made by St Mary’s in June 2018.
The Friends of Lydiard Park have paid for the conservation and framing of the painting donated by the Brake family.
After a 2.5 year outsourcing process Swindon Borough Council have unilaterally decided to abandon plans to transfer operational and management control of Lydiard Park to the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust and bring the process to an end. Their decision leaves Lydiard without an effective management team and at grave risk. Despite publically
acknowledging they do not have the skills and experience to run such an important heritage asset, the Council has rejected the sustainable future offered by the charitable Trust. The legal advice the Council used to justify their decision to the Trust, results from their own inaccurate disclosures made to all bidders in 2015/6, and suggests that the process was fatally flawed from the outset.
The shock decision came on 8 February 2018 when Trustees of the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust (LPHT) met with Swindon Council to discuss the outstanding due diligence issues jointly identified. Their public announcement of 16th February is in direct contradiction to agreements made between the parties.
Mike Bowden, Chair of the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust said:
“We are deeply concerned about the future of Lydiard Park. I have seen the comments from Cllr Perkins made to the BBC earlier today and I think it is clear that he is concentrating more on the upcoming local elections in May than on the future wellbeing of Lydiard House and Park. We have always stressed that the Trust is not party political and our sole interest is finding a sustainable future for Lydiard. However, without the local elections in mind people might like to hear what has actually happened during the 2.5 year process and why the Council’s decision to continue to manage Lydiard puts its future in real jeopardy. The parlous state of the Mechanics Institute and well publicised concerns around the Health Hydro show all to clearly what can happen if well-loved heritage and leisure assets are run by organisations that don’t have the necessary skills or interest to care for them. We were warned by many parties that attempting to work in partnership with Swindon Council would prove impossible but we genuinely
felt that Lydiard was too important to neglect and that a fresh opportunity existed to work with the council to create a secure future for Lydiard”.
As a not for profit community orientated charity, run entirely through the voluntary efforts of Trustees, LPHT was awarded preferred bidder status in March 2017. In accordance with the Councils stated process the Trust initiated due diligence work to ensure that information provided by the Council was complete and accurate and that any updated information did not have a material impact on the Trusts business plan.
During this period LPHT discovered that key information provided by SBC to all bidders during 2016 was materially inaccurate.
There were three key areas of inaccuracy:
1. The backlog of maintenance works that the council had allowed to have built up over the last decade for which the Council had set aside £850,000.
2. The financial and business performance of the operator of Lydiard Park Conference Centre Chartridge Ltd , who have run the centre under a lease with the council for many years
3. An important technical point relating to the conference centre operators obligation to repair and maintain the centre.
Lydiard Park Heritage Trust engaged leading Conservation Architects Caroe and Partners to undertake a condition survey of Lydiard House and other estate buildings. The findings of that survey differed from the council’s own condition survey and revealed extensive works are required to address the neglect of maintenance on the Grade 1 building over a 10 year period. The council were presented with these findings in 22nd Aug 2017 but despite repeated requests it was not until Nov 3rd that the council agreed to meet the Trust. In that meeting the Council agreed to a) Lydiard Park Heritage Trust to convene a meeting of surveyors from both sides to agree the extent of work required on the buildings and b) that the council would seriously consider undertaking the work themselves on the basis that a local authority would be able to procure works more cheaply than an independent charitable trust. In this way, there would be no transfer of cash, and the Council could get the best possible value for their money in repairing, what would remain their asset, over a period of years that worked for both the Council’s finances and the Trust’s business plan.It is therefore disingenuous for Cllr Perkins to claim that the Trust had asked to be paid some £4 million pounds.
The surveyors met on the 27 November 2017 and agreement was reached on the need to undertake over 80 % of the backlog maintenance contained within the Trust’s report. A few items required further discussion and the remainder of backlog works were deemed to be dilapidations, which had the council arranged matters with Chartridge on a professional basis would have been put right before Chartridge leaving the premise. In essence there was no material difference over the extent of the backlog maintenance required on the property.
The announcement that the Chartridge Lydiard Park Conference Centre will close in April with the experienced staff made redundant was an entirely avoidable event had the Council worked constructively with LPHT. The conference centre should be providing a critical income stream to support the effective running of the house and park.
In the upcoming local elections, and more generally, the Council needs to convince all parties that they have a credible strategy, which they are capable of implementing, that preserves and improves the unique Heritage and much loved Lydiard Country Park.
LPHT notes that the Council have reconfirmed they will abide by undertakings put to them by The Friends of Lydiard Park in 2015. LPHT will not be alone in holding them to account if the deterioration of Lydiard is allowed to continue. It is imperative that the Council publicly commit to undertake the backlog maintenance and repairs that they have allowed to build up over the last decade, and that they come up with a credible and sustainable plan to improve revenue streams from assets such as the Conference Centre, catering and events capabilities, as set out in our business plan.
The uncertain state of The Mechanics’ Institute, and more recent concerns about the Health Hydro, serves as a stark reminder as to what harm negligent and/or intransigent owners can do to the town’s cultural and heritage assets (both current and future).
Comments on Process
It has become apparent that the Council did not have officers with sufficient knowledge of relevant public sector procurement, asset transfer and leasing rules to operate such a complex process/processes. At best they failed to obtain appropriate professional advice or to undertake their own due diligence to ensure all relevant information was provided to bidders at the outset and would not create the issues they have now identified. Actions undertaken by officers during the process have also seriously prejudiced the due diligence process. The Trust has trustees with specific expertise in these areas and tried to gain clarity over the rules the Council were following several times during the process. The grounds given for abandonment contradict previous correspondence and again raise serious concerns about the Council’s management of their process.