The sad story of Robert Harwood

house (10)
Lydiard House

Robert Harwood got up early on Sunday morning, July 21 1872. He picked up the gun that once belonged to his father and set off across the fields to Toothill Farm. He knew the area well – this was where he had lived with his parents and his two brothers John and William and his sister Ellen just a few short years ago; where he had worked as a farm labourer and had learned to shoot before securing a job in the Great Western Railway as an engine driver. He knew every inch of this farm and he knew where to bag a rabbit or two.

He was found later that day – dead; the rabbits at his feet. At the inquest held at the farm on Monday the coroner told how it was his opinion that as Robert drew his gun to shoot again it became entangled and exploded; the charge entering the victim’s throat under the left ear. The verdict was recorded – “Accidentally killed by a gun while unlawfully shooting rabbits.” He was 28 years old.

The funeral was reported in the Swindon Advertiser thus:

“On Wednesday afternoon last, the remains of the late Mr R Harwood (who met with his untimely end on Sunday morning last) were borne to their final resting place in the parish churchyard of Lydiard Tregoze. The deceased being a member of the “Mackie’s Good Intent Lodge of Oddfellows, was carried to the grave by the brethren of that Lodge followed by his sorrowing relatives, a large number of odd-fellows and fellow servants in the employ of the GWR Company, as further proof of the great respect in which the deceased was held. Several persons attended from Chippenham to shew their last token of respect. The service was impressively performed by the Rev W.H.Ed. McKnight.”


In Memory of

Robert Harwood

Who Departed This Life

January 18th 1864

Aged 55 Years

Also of


Son of

Robert and Susannah Harwood

Who Departed This Life

July 21 1872

Aged 28 Years



Marriage Lines

A church has stood on the site of St Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoze for more than a thousand years and during that time there have been a great many weddings take place there.

Although members of the St John’s brought their babies to be baptised at the 13th century font and some were buried in the family vault beneath the south chapel, they invariably chose to marry elsewhere.

However, the parish church has solemnized a good few weddings – over 1000 and that’s only between 1666 and 1840.

It was Henry VIII’s right hand man Thomas Cromwell, Vicar General, who issued a 1538 edict in the wake of the dissolution of the monasteries that the clergy keep records of all baptisms, marriages and burials. Few of these earliest registers survive but those at St. Mary’s date from 1666 with the first recorded marriage between Richard Herringe and Elizabeth Holloway on February 9.

The number of marriages in the small rural parish fluctuated during this period. In 1682 there were 20 while in 1712 there was just one.

In the mid 19th century one local family celebrated seven weddings, two of them on May 4, 1841. Jonas Clarke, tenant at Wick Farm, married Alice Pinnel in 1853. The couple had lived together for more than thirty years but had to wait for the death of Jonas’ first wife before they could marry. The first of Jonas and Alice’s five daughters to tie the knot was Alice who married John Wyatt a farmer from Wootton Bassett in 1839.

The double wedding in 1841 was between two more Clarke daughters, Sarah who married Thomas Hall, a farmer from Broad Blunsdon and Jane who married Francis Carey, also from Broad Blunsdon.

Mary Clarke married William Knapp, a Swindon grocer, on May 4, 1847 and youngest daughter Anne married Walter London, a draper from Aldershot while son Jonas married widow Elizabeth Bathe Humphries in 1859.

The summer months of June and July notched up just 128, presumably everyone was too preoccupied during this busy time in the agricultural calendar. Just 56 couples married in January during the 174-year period between 1666 and 1840.

October was by far the most popular month for marriages during this time with around 180 weddings, seven in 1680 alone. With the Michaelmas tenancies secured and the harvest out the way, this appears to have been a favourite month to wed.

Today the church of St Mary’s is a popular wedding venue and couples are required to book the church many months in advance of their big day.