Visitors to Lydiard House were treated to a tour of the state rooms led by Sarah Finch-Crisp as part of the Celebrate Swindon weekend, and rare access to the St John family’s private entrance to the church.
An exuberant group of children kept the questions coming as Sarah told them some Lydiard House stories, such as the one about the American servicemen stationed at Lydiard House during the Second World War who tried to take one of the fireplaces back to the States as a souvenir.
The highlight of the tour came when Sarah led the visitors out of the private back door of the Palladian mansion house to a secret garden (the area reclaimed by George Richard, 3rd Viscount Bolingbroke who objected to the funerals taking place close to his home) and a view of the Tudor house behind the 18th century remodelling.
Sarah then led us out of the gate and through the St John family’s private entrance into St Mary’s. In the church she explained that scaffolding had been erected to allow the conservators to get up close to the church’s historic ceilings and walls to carry out their investigations.
Rutherfoord Conservation Limited have begun their detailed examinations of the historic church following St Mary’s successful Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid earlier this year.
The £1 million Heritage Lottery funded project will restore St. Mary’s historic interiors and make it more accessible to the public with access improvements, imaginative interpretation and lively education programmes. The main focus of the delivery phase is the conservation of the extensive medieval wall paintings, which have been identified by the Church of England as one of the 100 artworks currently most in need of conservation in their 100 Church Treasures Appeal.