Jacob Hayward – so long with pain opprest

Spare a thought for poor Jacob Hayward, whose demise appears to have been a welcome release from a long illness.

This magnificent table top memorial is one of several listed monuments in the churchyard at St Mary’s and is evidence that Jacob was a wealthy man. His will reveals that he farmed at Chaddington and Bassett Down and that he owned the freehold of Cotmarsh Farm in Broad Hinton. This very matter of fact document bequeaths his property and his money to wife Jane and daughter Mary and was signed just 12 days before Jacob’s death. There is no mention of any personal effects and just one reference to a person other than Jane and Mary.


To the Memory of

Jacob Hayward

who departed this Life

the 19th Sept. 1801

in the 57th year of his Age

I was so long with Pain opprest,

That work my Strength away,

It made me long for Endless Rest

Which never can decay


to the Memory of

Jane wife of

Jacob Hayward

who departed this Life

the 29th of Nove. 1828

Aged 71 years


Come and hear more stories of other local families with local historian Frances Bevan who will be conducting guided churchyard walks on Sunday June 3, at 2.15 and 3.15. Meet outside the Stable Room.





Churchyard walks and Strawberry teas

Visitors to St Mary’s church often mistakenly think that it was a private chapel for the St John family, but St Mary’s has always been and continues to be, a parish church.

The foundation of a church at Lydiard Tregoze dates from the Saxon period when a single cell, a room, was used for worship. In 1100 the then owner, Harold of Ewyas, gave the church to St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester. The North side and the Nave date from the 13th century while the South Aisle was built in the 14th century and the West Gower was added in the 15th century.

The rebuilding work at the East End of the church and the magnificent St John memorials were commissioned by Sir John St John, 1st Baronet, in the 17th century.

For more information about St Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze and a Guide to the church & Its Monuments click here.

Surviving parish registers date from 1666 and although the population of the parish was small there are a lot of burials in a relatively small area, which might explain why the churchyard is higher than the church.

The churchyard closed for new burials in 1888 and in 1891 Viscount Bolingbroke gave a piece of land at Hook called ‘Ables’ for the laying out of a burial ground.

This is the start of the fundraising month for St Mary’s where strawberry teas will be served from the Stable Room from 2 – 4 pm every Sunday in June. The St John polyptych will be on view to reveal the family portrait of the St John family, which was installed in the church on July 20, 1615 and the bell tower will be open with an opportunity for visitors to try their hand at bell ringing.

For early risers there is a rare opportunity to see the amazing spectacle of the East Window as the sun rises over Lydiard Park. Join Mat on June 3 from 4.45 to 7.00.

Most of the surviving headstones in the churchyard mark the graves of farming families. A memorial just inside the churchyard entrance records the burial of Jonas Clarke who died in 1862. Jonas came to Wick Farm in around 1839 with Alice and their seven children but the couple had to wait more than thirty years for the death of Jonas’ first wife before they could marry.

Come and hear more stories of other local families, including the Edmonds and the historic water colour of the medieval wall painting recently donated to the church by Joy Brake nee Edmonds.

Local historian Frances Bevan will be conducting guided churchyard walks on Sunday June 3, at 2.15 and 3.15. Meet outside the Stable Room.



When Harry married Meghan

Yesterday’s royal wedding had everything as pomp and circumstance went hand in hand with the personal choices of a couple so obviously very much in love. Harry and Meghan put their own stamp on this royal occasion with their choice of music, readings and clergy. The words of charismatic American Bishop, Michael Curry will long be remembered along with the reaction of the wedding guests in St George’s Chapel.

Meghan entered St George’s Chapel through the West Door and without displaying a whisper of nerves, processed down the nave accompanied by a flotilla of little bridesmaids and pageboys while her mother, Doria Ragland, took her place quietly and with equal composure in the Quire. And another woman who deserves a mention is Zara Tindall, the Queen’s granddaughter, who, heavily pregnant, tried to get comfortable in the medieval Quire seats.

For Friends who may not be aware, Prince Harry’s ancestry can be traced back to Sir John St John 1st Baronet and his wife Anne Leighton, who lived at Lydiard Park in the 17th century.

Visit St Mary’s Church during the month of June and see the St John monuments, including the magnificent bedstead memorial made of alabaster, black carboniferous limestone and clunch (a hard, compact grey chalk) and particularly the St John polyptych, which will be open every Sunday afternoon. You may also like to join a guided tour of the churchyard on June 3 and June 17 at 2.15 and 3.15. Strawberry Teas will be served in the Stable Room.

Now we just have to persuade the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex to pop in!

Well done Mr Murray John!

Work has begun at Lydiard House on the south tower and behind the scenes in the conference centre a kitchen refit is underway – encouraging signs of Swindon Borough Council’s intentions, having dramatically cancelled the outsourcing project at Lydiard Park in February 2018.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the sale of the Lydiard estate by the St John family. Lady Bolingbroke died in 1940 and soon after her son Vernon, with his mother’s cousin Edward Hiscock, moved out of the dilapidated mansion house and into Brook Cottage, the former gamekeeper’s home.

Back at Lydiard House a huge clear out took place with much of the furniture (including the original state bed) ending up on a bonfire and 500 years of paperwork going into a wartime skip.

 ‘I have personally handled and compiled some two and a half tons of War Salvage which the Wootton Bassett RDC collectors tell me constitutes a record for any house in their district,’ Lord Bolingbroke wrote to his solicitor Mr Dale of H. Bevir & Son dated January 13, 1943.

What went into that wartime skip? The everyday inconsequential paperwork of running a large estate, no doubt, but what other priceless gems were lost in the dispersal and why did Vernon, Lord Bolingbroke throw out so much of not only his own family history but that of the local community as well.

In 1943 Lydiard House was in a state of near dereliction with collapsed floors and ceilings, dry rot, wet rot, woodworm and death-watch beetle. With most of the rest of the estate mortgaged there was little Edward Hiscock, the remaining trustee of Lady Bolingbroke’s will, could do but put Lydiard House and Park on the market.

When Cllr Francis Akers bought the property at auction he told the Herald and Advertiser (August 6, 1943) ‘that it would have been a great pity had this glorious old English home passed into the hands of people who were not concerned with the future development of the country surrounding Swindon’.

Cllr Akers agreed he had purchased the estate in the hope that it would be acquired by Swindon Corporation who had already named the price they were prepared to pay for the mansion house and parkland, exclusive of farms and agricultural land. The local authority had to justify the expenditure of public money during the middle of the Second World War.

So, seventy-five years on, what were the original plans for the Lydiard Estate?

During a great wave of post war interest and emphasis on further education it was felt that Lydiard House offered a unique opportunity for the young people of Swindon.

The mansion and park had opened to the public in 1955 and in 1962, at the end of fifteen years of repair and restoration work, visionary Town Clerk David Murray John wrote to the Chairman and Members of the Development Sub-Committee about the future of the estate.

Day conferences and meetings were already taking place in the House and a hostel for young people had been established in the stables. That same year the youth hostel had been booked for 19 weekends with numerous enquiries from other groups, however it was felt the stable accommodation was unsuitable for these bookings.

Murray John provided the Development Sub-Committee with an estimated cost of £12,650 to adapt and equip the conference centre for further use. The reconstruction of the dam, the dredging of the lake, surfacing of the road and the building of a swimming pool would cost a further £11,820 bringing the total cost to £24,470. Building work, it was estimated, would take between one and two years.

But with no projected source of income, the venture was indeed a leap of faith.

Murray John concluded his letter with words that the Friends would endorse today:

“The importance and value of the estate to the town have become recognised and its potentialities realised. The time seems opportune to complete the work and make the estate fully available for the use and enjoyment of the people of Swindon.”

Well done, Mr Murray John!


Friends of Lydiard Park Annual Meeting

The original Friends group, the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz, was formed in 1967 with the approval and full support of St. Mary’s Church and the Borough of Swindon. The Friends of Lydiard Park, an independent charity dedicated to supporting the conservation and continued enhancement of Lydiard House and Park, was formed in 2005. The objects of the society have changed little over the subsequent 51 years and today the Friends continue to promote interest in Lydiard House and Park and St Mary’s Church, which is presently in the middle of an exciting conservation project.

The Friends of Lydiard Tregoz produced an annual Report between 1968-2007, a magazine of articles concerned in the broadest way with the history of the parish, its buildings and people, the St. John family and its antecedents as well as more locally-based families, and the early years of the Sir Walter St. John School in Battersea. Copies of the Reports were deposited with libraries (including Local Studies at Swindon Central Library) and institutions in England, Wales, and the United States of America. Digitised versions of these Reports are now being made available through the Members’ Area on the Friends of Lydiard Park website.

The Friends of Lydiard Park continue to make contributions towards the cost of projects in either the House or the Church.

The Friends hold two meetings, one at Christmas and one in mid-May. This year’s event took place in the Conference Centre on May 5, where members were brought up to date with events regarding the future of Lydiard House and Park. To read more please visit the following websites: Lydiard Park Heritage Trust, the Swindon Advertiser and Swindon Link.

At this year’s meeting Friends welcomed Julie Holland to the Board of Trustees. Julie updated members about ongoing plans for the 2018 annual summer trip. This year the Friends are invited to Cirencester Park, the home of 9th Earl and Countess Bathurst, whose ancestry traces back to Lucy St John and her husband Sir Allen Apsley. More details are to follow shortly.

And Friends are reminded to purchase a ticket for a special Swindon Festival of Literature event at Lydiard House on May 17 when Elizabeth St John will talk about By Love Divided, her second novel in the Lydiard Chronicles series.

Last but not least, local artist Billy Beaumont surprised the Friends with never before seen views of Lydiard House. For more information visit Billy’s website.

To join the Friends of Lydiard Park please visit the website.




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The Friends of Lydiard Park is an independent charity dedicated to supporting the conservation and continued enhancement of Lydiard House and Park.

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The Friends of Lydiard Park is an independent charity dedicated to supporting the conservation and continued enhancement of Lydiard House and Park.

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The Friends of Lydiard Park is an independent charity dedicated to supporting the conservation and continued enhancement of Lydiard House and Park.

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The Friends of Lydiard Park is an independent charity dedicated to supporting the conservation and continued enhancement of Lydiard House and Park.