Fonmon Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan was the setting for the Friends of Lydiard Park summer outing this year. The Group were met by the owner, Sir Brooke Boothby who conducted a fascinating family focused private tour.
The Swindon party were joined at Fonmon by Sonia and Anthony St. John. Although Sonia and Anthony retired from the Board of Trustees earlier in the year, they are still heavily involved with the Friends, researching and archiving the St John family history and maintaining the Friends website.
Members of the Friends will know that the Lydiard Park estate came into the possession of the St John family when Oliver St John married Margaret Beauchamp in about 1425, but when did the St Johns themselves arrive in England?
Originally from St.Jean-le-Thomas in Normandy the St John name appears on a charter dated 1053 witnessed by none other than William, Duke of Normandy who just thirteen years later would invade and conquer England. And there are Charters linking Thomas St. John, Sheriff of Oxford as Thomas St. John, son of Raoul and formerly of St. Jean-le-Thomas.
Some forty years later there is a record that Thomas de St John was granted land by Henry I, supporting the theory that the St Johns didn’t leave Normandy until after 1066.
These facts also dispel the myth that a St John was, supposedly, one of the twelve knights that conquered Glamorgan under Fitzham in the late 11th century.
By the end of the 13th century there is a definite sighting of the St Johns at Fonmon Castle, ten miles west of Cardiff.
It is believed the first castle was a timber built structure. The stone version was built in 1180 by Baron Adam de Port, Lord Basing, about the same time that he married Mabel, the daughter of Reginald de Aurevalle and the grandchild and heir of Roger St John. However, the supposed connection between the de Port family and Fonmon is very new and without documentation.
During the early to middle 13th century additions to the stone built structure included a square tower to the south and a round tower joining the main block.
Fonmon Castle along with lands at Bletso in Bedfordshire descended through the elder son of Oliver St John and Margaret Beauchamp until in 1656 when it was sold to Colonel Phillip Jones, MP, Privy Councillor and Cromwell’s right hand man and 7x great grandfather of the present owner, Sir Brooke Boothby.
In 1762 another of Sir Brooke’s ancestors, Robert Jones III, undertook a pretty extensive DIY project, transforming the medieval castle into a comfortable Georgian home. Thanks to this makeover Fonmon is presently enjoying a renaissance and fast becoming one of the most prestigious wedding venues in South Wales.
After lunch the Friends travelled a short distance to the tiny village of Llancarfan and the church of St Cadoc. In 2007 specialist art conservator Jane Rutherfoord was invited to look at an intriguing paint mark at the top of a wall revealed during repairs to the roof. This small red line led to the discovery of a set of medieval wall paintings of national importance.
In a fascinating talk Jane decoded the pictures and their meanings and explained the importance of these wall paintings and the ongoing conservation.
Jane is well acquainted with St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Park where her most recent work was the conservation of the 18th century Reredos behind the altar. For more information about St Mary’s and the Conservation Project visit the church website.
Rated as probably one of the best summer outings, plans are already in progress for Summer 2018!