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.