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.
First published in Swindon Heritage Winter 2017