Celebrate Swindon this weekend (October 14 and 15) at a series of free, family events across the town.
On Sunday join a free guided tour of Lydiard House conducted by Sarah Finch-Crisp. Be among the first people in more than 200 years to enter St Mary’s Church by the South Porch as we follow in the footsteps of the St John family.
The South Porch was closed in 1812 as part of a land swap deal made by George Richard St John. In 1806 George Richard St John, 3rd Viscount Bolingbroke returned to his ancestral country seat at Lydiard Park.
However, there was a problem. George considered that the churchyard was just too close to the Palladian mansion house remodelled by his grandfather John 2nd Viscount St John in the mid-18th century.
But George had a cunning plan …
In 1811 he wrote to his solicitor claiming that burials on the south side of the church were ‘such a nuisance as to render Lydiard House almost uninhabitable’.
He proposed an exchange of glebeland at the end of the driveway on which he would build a new parsonage house in return for four poles and eight feet of land at the south side of the churchyard. He also threw in for good measure stabling for six horses for the use of parishioners which he would build near the church. Meanwhile the route into the church would be shifted to the west door.
George got his way; the rectory was rebuilt and the path to the church was re-routed. The south porch eventually fell into disuse while George presumably enjoyed his new-found privacy.
The inside of the south porch, through which Elizabeth I is said to have entered St Mary’s during her visit in 1592, is seldom seen today. But on Sunday October 15 visitors will get a rare glimpse of the medieval wall paintings and other features of historic interest.
Join Sarah Finch-Crisp at 2.30 pm on Sunday, October 15 at the front desk in Lydiard House and walk in the footsteps of history.