Drawing Residency at St Mary’s Church

Artists are being invited to apply for a Drawing Residency this summer at one of this country’s most beautiful parish churches. St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze, which lies in Lydiard Park on the outskirts of Swindon in Wiltshire is undergoing a major Heritage Lottery Fund project to conserve its medieval wallpaintings and historic interior.

St. Mary’s is famous for its superb Renaissance monuments to the St. John family of Lydiard Park, from the beautiful painted window by Abraham Van Linge to the early 17th Century life size polyptych  depicting members of this old Wiltshire family. John Betjeman enthused about the building and his friend and artist John Piper’s painting of the ‘Golden Cavalier’, a striking monument to Captain Edward St. John, hangs in the adjacent Lydiard House.

As part of the conservation project up to three artists will be offered the chance to undertake a residency over a six week period for a minimum of 2 days a week between June and October 2019.  Although the residency is based on observational drawing in the church, artists can interpret their work in any medium. To qualify they will need to practice in the area of contemporary drawing and be over 19 years of age.

The residencies are voluntary positions but artists will be able to exhibit their work in a special 6 week exhibition curated by Sophie Cummings at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in early 2020. Their work will also feature on the St. Mary’s on-line drawing/painting archive.

Artists who are based in Swindon and Wiltshire are particularly welcome to apply. They should request an application form from the St. Mary’s Church Parish Office wspartnershipoffice@gmail.com

Completed applications should be submitted no later than Friday 3rd May 2019

Swindon College School of Art tutor, Morgan Tipping, says:

‘The residency aims to capture the interior wallpaintings and unique architectural features of St. Mary’s and could include the conservation in action which is being undertaken by internationally renowned conservators. The role of the artists will be employ observational drawing to capture this historic moment and provide a record of what is uncovered. Swindon College School of Art is a partner in the conservation project and recommend the residency to artists with a passion for drawing at any stage in their career’.

Sophie Cummings, Curator Swindon Museum and Art Gallery says:

‘We are really looking forward to the exhibition. Not only will it shine a light on the St. Mary’s Church project and on the talented artists who respond to it, but it will also speak to Swindon’s wider church history and complement objects in the museum and fine art in the town’s prestigious 20th Century and Contemporary art collection. It’s a great opportunity for artists to profile their work’

Revd. Capt.  Clive Deverell, Vicar of St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze says:

‘At St. Mary’s we warmly welcome applications from artists for this drawing residency and look forward to meeting them and seeing how they interpret our beautiful church.  There will be so much interest in the work they produce by the church family and the wider community.  I hope the residency will provide a meaningful and enjoyable experience for those who are chosen to participate.’

“The artist residence provides a unique & exciting opportunity to capture the conservation of the wall paintings as they are further revealed and the spirit of place in St Mary’s. The 21st century artist record follows in the footsteps of the medieval wall painters and successive generations of artists who have recorded the rich history & treasures of St Marys,” said Paul Gardner, Chair of the St Mary’s Conservation Project.

“Over the last 200 years  well- loved British artists including  John Piper and Sir Hugh Casson and the popular 20th century Canadian artist George Tinning have recorded St Mary’s for posterity.  In the 19th century, local watercolourists carefully depicted some of the ancient wall paintings discovered during building renovations. Today we have another wonderful opportunity to create a permanent and valuable record of St. Mary’s Church at this important point in its history,” said Sarah Finch-Crisp, Heritage Advisor to St Mary’s Church.

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Opportunities to volunteer at St Mary’s Church

Have you got a few hours to spare during the week? Then you might be interested in becoming a volunteer at the historic St Mary’s Church in Lydiard Park? Have you got green fingers? Do you fancy planting a wildlife garden in the churchyard? Or perhaps you’d like to help with groups of local school children visiting the church – the opportunities are many and varied.

Make a date in your diary for Thursday 2nd May, 6.30 – 8 pm (please register first by emailing wspartnershipoffice@gmail.com) when an exciting new volunteer programme to support the St Mary’s Conservation Project is being launched at Lydiard Park Conference Centre.

St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze which lies within Lydiard Park is known as one of the most beautiful small parish churches in this country. Today it is undergoing a major Heritage Lottery Fund project to conserve its medieval wallpaintings and historic art interiors. Wallpainting conservation began before Christmas and is already revealing the beauty of long hidden pictures.

The £1 million project which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Friends of Lydiard Park along with other generous donors, is also enabling a two-year programme of events and activities for the public, local schools and colleges.

An exciting new volunteer programme to support the project is being launched at Lydiard Park Conference Centre on Thursday 2nd May. The event is being hosted by The Friends of Lydiard Park and all those interested in finding out more about volunteering for the project are invited to attend.

There are a wide variety of volunteering opportunities including providing history tours, conservation care of historic furnishings and objects; helping with school groups, wildflower planting in the churchyard; and stewarding in the House and Church. To register for the event you will need to email St. Mary’s Church office wspartnershipoffice@gmail.com

There are also a limited number of volunteer training placements to work with the church’s internationally renowned wallpainting conservators. For those interested in this type of hands-on conservation a minimum commitment of 2 working weeks is required and candidates should contact the partnership office as soon as possible.

‘Volunteering at St. Mary’s is a great way to discover more about St. Mary’s rich heritage,“ said Paul Gardner, Chair of the Conservation Project. “People may have skills and ways of volunteering which we haven’t even thought of and we’re keen to hear from anyone who is interested whether they are already very familiar with the church or have never visited before.”

St. Mary’s Church is widely regarded as one of the most important small parish churches in the country on account of its exceptional interiors and monuments to the St. John family who owned Lydiard Park.

“The Friends of Lydiard Park are really excited about the Volunteer Launch,” Friends of Lydiard Park Trust, Sarah Finch-Crisp said. “There are so many opportunities for people to get involved, learn new skills and have fun at the same time. The Friends have donated over £100,000 to the conservation project and we are delighted to be hosting this event for St. Mary’s and look forward to meeting enthusiastic local residents on the 2nd May.”

The current Heritage Lottery Fund project includes conservation of the medieval wall paintings and architectural paint schemes. Alongside that is the repair of historic pews, new heating and lighting and improved access and new interpretation.

 

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An Ancient Painting found by Accident at Fine Liddiard Church September 1837 – gifted to the church by the Brake family. The Friends of Lydiard Park funded conservation and framing of the picture.

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Frances Lydiard Church June 3rd 2018
Volunteer led tour of St Mary’s churchyard, June 2018.

The Woman in the Lake

Calling all lovers of Lydiard …

Do you enjoy reading time-slip novels? Or perhaps you like a murder mystery. Or maybe historical romance is your cup of tea. Well the Woman in the Lake ticks all these boxes and what’s more it is set in Lydiard House and Swindon’s Old Town.

International bestselling novelist and member of the Friends of Lydiard Park, Nicola Cornick, has brought together her extensive knowledge of the 18th century and Lydiard House to create a story of intrigue, betrayal and murder in this her latest novel.

Nicola’s previous two novels both have a local connection; House of Shadows is set against a backdrop of Ashdown House near Ashbury on the Berkshire Downs where Nicola is a volunteer guide while the Phantom Tree has a number of Wiltshire locations including Marlborough, Savernake Forest and Wolf Hall.

But for Swindonians and lovers of Lydiard, it doesn’t get more local than the Woman in the Lake. Friends will recognise scenes set in Lydiard House and Park and the characters of Lord and Lady Gerard might sound familiar, too.

As the scene shifts between the 18th and 21st centuries readers will be transported along with Fenella Brightwell and lady’s maid Constance from the recently remodelled Lydiard House to a modern apartment in the refurbished Vilett House. Take a walk past the old mill on the Goddard estate but keep a watchful eye out for the infamous Mr. Binks.

The Woman in the Lake is on sale in the Library Shop, Swindon Central Library and also from Waterstones and Amazon.

Join Nicola when she will be talking about the inspiration and her research for the Woman in the Lake at Lydiard House during the Swindon Festival of Literature in May.

And visit Nicola’s website or catch up with her on Word Wenches.

Nicola Cornick 2

 

House of Shadows

 

The Phantom Tree

 

Growing up on Whitehill Farm

In November 2004 I was fortunate enough to meet Mary Morse and her husband Leslie at their home in Wootton Bassett. I was researching the former West Swindon farms for a local history project I was writing for the primary schools in the area. I completed projects for Salt Way (closed in 2006), Shaw Ridge, Tregoze and Brook Field Primary Schools, and my intention was to write further projects for Toothill and Oliver Tomkins primary schools, but unfortunately funding ran out.

Mary was very generous with her time, sharing her memories of growing up and living in the parish of Lydiard Tregoze.

I filed my notes and unfortunately they were never published. Sorting through my boxes of research I recently rediscovered Mary’s story, which I am posting on the Friends blog. I’m sure there are many local residents who will recall those times and remember Mary.

Mary’s father Wilfred Parsons returned from service in Egypt during the First World War and in 1920 he became a tenant at Whitehill Farm, then owned by Wiltshire County Councils.

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Toothill Farm

Whitehill Farm was once part of what was known as the Charterhouse Lands. In 1611 high ranking civil servant Thomas Sutton founded a hospital for pensioners and a school for forty poor boys at a former Carthusian monastery near Smithfield in London.  He bought various properties, the rents of which funded this charitable venture, among them Whitehill, Mannington and Toothill Farms in the parish of Lydiard Tregoze.

Mannington Farm

In 1616 John Lawe farmed 65 acres at Whitehill Farm.  In 1799 Richard Dore King signed a twelve year Lady Day lease on the farm where the wealthy King family remained in residence for much of the nineteenth century.

The three farms continued in the ownership of the Charterhouse Trustees into the 20th century. They were eventually sold in 1919 to Wiltshire County Council and broken up into small holdings for the use of returning ex-servicemen following the end of the First World War.

Mary’s parents met at St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Park. Ada Carter was originally from Ashbury while Wilfred came from Lydiard Millicent where his parents kept the village shop.

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St Mary’s Church

Before the war Mary’s father had worked as a groom for Captain James Sadler at Lydiard House, Lydiard Millicent. Mary still had a leather case used to store shirt collars presented to her father by the Captain on the occasion of his 21st birthday.

St Mary’s played a major role in Mary’s life and she spoke with great affection of the Rector who had been there during her youth and the Fellowship group he established. She mentioned the names of members of the congregation who continued to worship there in 2004.

She recalled watching Lady Bolingbroke and her son Vernon taking their place in the St John family pew and church events that punctuated the year, some of which took place in the mansion house.

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Old postcard view of Lydiard House

Mary was born in 1928 at Whitehill Farm. She had an elder brother Gordon and talked about being ‘daring’ and joining in with the games the boys played. She recalled the swing the boys made using a rope slung across a branch of an oak tree just inside the farm gate. She had one go on the swing then as the boys winched her up again the rope snapped and she came crashing down to the ground.

A local nurse checked her over and said she had not broken anything but to rest for a day or so. Her father would have had to travel into Swindon to get a doctor so he was grateful for the diagnosis. In later years Mary suffered from intermittent back pain and after the birth of her second son the doctor said she had some damage to her spine and queried whether she had ever had an accident as a child.

From a very young age Mary had farm chores to complete. At just three years old she helped to feed the hens and as she grew older she helped at busy times on the farm such as haymaking. She milked the cows and helped her mother churn the butter. She pumped water from the well to use in the dairy and cut with a scythe the strip of grass  the mower couldn’t reach close to the hedgerow.

Mary and her brother attended Clifton Street School in Swindon, cycling behind their father’s horse drawn milk cart. Wilfred delivered milk door to door in Swindon, ladling the milk from churns on the cart into jugs provided by the housewives.

Mary had vivid memories of living at Whitehill Farm during the Second World War when a camp with a hundred soldiers was billeted on one of the fields. 377 Battalion, followed by 419 Battalion and later both German and Italian prisoners of war camped there. Three antiaircraft guns and a machine gun were erected in this field (which is now the site of Beaumaris Road) and Mary recalled seeing a Messerschmidt plane fly so low she could see the pilot.

There was no NAAFI for the soldiers billeted at Whitehill so Mary’s mother provided them with provisions while the officers used the farm parlour as a living room. Mary recalled the camp dances and celebrating her 21st birthday in one of the Nissan huts.

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Deacons, Wood Street, Swindon  c1990s photograph published courtesy of Local Studies, Swindon Central Library

Mary told me she had no desire to work anywhere other than on the farm with her father. However Mr Deacon from the china and jewellers shop in Old Town offered her a job. She was to have a month’s trial but after the first week she told her father she didn’t want to be an errand girl. Her father told her she would have to work out her month’s trial. Mary ended up working for Deacon’s for 55 years.

Mary’s brother took over the farm after their father’s death, but post war changes for Swindon were already on the way.

With the adoption of the Town Development Act 1952 Swindon embarked upon an ambitious development programme.  Further boundary changes added a large part of the old parish of Lydiard Tregoze and with it the former Charterhouse lands.

‘A 300 acre site at Toot Hill south of the A420 Swindon to Wootton Bassett road will provide the homes in a new urban village,’ the Advertiser reported on Wednesday November 17, 1971 as Thamesdown Council received approval for the western expansion of the town.

Today Whitehill Farmhouse stands on the corner of Beaumaris Road and Rowton Heath Way in Toothill, and remains a Swindon Borough Council owned property.

Mary died on December 20, 2009 aged 81. Her funeral took place at St Mary’s, Lydiard Park, the church that had been central to her life where she served as churchwarden, chorister, a member of the parochial church council and on various church committees.

 

 

 

Ghostly goings on at Lydiard House

Friends of Lydiard Park

What better subject for a ‘nearly’ Christmas post than tales of ghostly happenings in Lydiard House. Like any self respecting ancient property Lydiard House boasts a spectral presence or two.  But like a thing of beauty, could the Lydiard House phantoms be just an imaginative figment in the eye of the beholder?

There have been the occasional sighting of a 17th century gentleman roaming the grounds and giving directions to lost visitors, supposedly Sir John St John, first baronet, who died in 1648. Sir John is depicted in portraits in the house and in St Mary’s Church he can be seen recumbent on the magnificent bedstead monument and portrayed in the St John polyptych he commissioned in memory to his parents.

Now I’m not saying that Sir John wasn’t a thoroughly nice man, but my feelings are that he would be more likely to point a musket at visitors wandering about his…

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Ice House

 

Temperatures are expected to plummet by the weekend with the chance that both the medieval lake and the restored 18th century one at Lydiard Park are likely to freeze over. When this happens it is easy to see just how the ice house on the Lydiard estate was used.

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Ice houses were introduced to Britain in the early 17th century, as the fashion for fancy flavoured ice cream developed. James I had one built in Greenwich Park in 1619 and another at Hampton Court in 1625/6. The one at Lydiard probably dates from about 1743 when Sir John, 2nd Viscount St John spent his wealthy wife’s dowry on remodelling the mansion house and landscaping the grounds.

The Lydiard ice house is of the Cup and Dome variety, the most popular 18th century model and apparently the most expensive. Cited away from the house in the shade of trees the Lydiard ice house follows text book plans with a brick lined underground pit and domed roof to control the circulation of air. The better the brickwork the more successful and efficient the ice house operated.

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Ice would be gathered from the frozen estate lake and stored in the subterranean building,  sealed by layers of straw or reeds.  During the exceptionally cold winters of the period the ice could be expected to last up to eighteen months.

The building was also used as a larder, preserving meat that would otherwise have to be salted.

There are an estimated 2,500 ice houses in England alone but detection of lost houses is difficult due to the nature of their construction. The one at Lydiard Park has fared well though, enjoying a makeover as part of the 2005 £5 million Lydiard Park Project.

The Favourite

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Have you seen The Favourite, the story of Queen Anne, her long-time favourite Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough and the contender for that position, Abigail Hill? The story is layered with pathos and humour and even the laugh out loud moments are incredibly sad.

The film stars Rachel Weisz as Sarah, Emma Stone as Abigail and Olivia Colman as Queen Anne. The winner of a Golden Globe and nominated for a BAFTA, what next for Colman, an Oscar?

The film ends … well, I won’t tell you how it ends, but would you like to know what happened next, and of course, what is that all important St John link?

After a volatile confrontation (with sexual overtones) in the woods, Abigail marries the dashing young Samuel Masham, but who was he?

Samuel Masham, first Baron Masham of Otes, was the son of Sir Francis Masham, 3rd Baronet, and his wife Damaris Cudworth. As the film reveals, Samuel was at the centre of life at Queen Anne’s duplicitous court. He served as first a page, then equerry and groom of the bedchamber to Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark. He entered parliament as a Tory MP for Ilchester in 1710 and Windsor in 1711 and was one of twelve Tory peers created in 1712.

Masham married Abigail in 1707 and the couple had at least five children, three sons and two daughters, the elder of whom was named Anne, after Abigail’s best friend forever, the Queen.

ann masham by michael dahl

Born in 1708, Anne was only 18 when she married banker Henry Hoare II on April 11, 1726. Henry Hoare II became known as Henry ‘the Magnificent’ in recognition of the work he accomplished on the family estate at Stourhead, furnishing the palatial Palladian mansion with works of art and landscaping the grounds. Sadly, Anne never lived to enjoy the fruits of his labours as she died on March 4, 1727 shortly after the birth of her daughter. The young couple had been married less than a year and Anne was just 19 years old.

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The baby born on February 28 1727, a daughter, was named Anne after her mother. Little Anne died on January 30, 1735 just before her eighth birthday. Mother and daughter are buried in Stourton churchyard, the parish church just a short walk from the home where they both lived and died.

st peter's church, stourton

Now brace yourself for the St John connections as there are several. The Hon Anne Masham, the young first wife of Henry Hoare II, daughter of Samuel and royal favourite Abigail, traces her ancestry back four generations to her great-great-grandmother Lady Elizabeth Barrington. In 1611 Lady Elizabeth married William Masham, 1st Baronet, but this was not her first marriage. She had previously been married to Sir James Altham, by whom she had a daughter Johanna.

In 1630 Johanna married Sir Oliver St John, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, at St Mary’s Church Harrow. The couple had four children, two sons and two daughters. One daughter, Johanna, married Sir Walter St John of Lydiard Tregoze, the other Catherine married his brother Henry.

This makes young Anne Hoare nee Masham and the brilliant but attainted politician Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, Secretary at War in Queen Anne’s government in 1704, third cousins.

But the St John connection doesn’t end there.

Hoare’s bank was founded in the 1670s by Richard Hoare. In 1697. Henry St John (Johanna and Walter’s reprobate son and the father of Viscount Bolingbroke) opened an account with Hoare’s bank in Fleet Street, the first of three generations of St Johns to do so. In 1704 Walter, Henry’s father, opened an account.

In 1735 John (Jack) St John, Viscount Bolingbroke’s half-brother, also entrusted his finances to Hoare’s bank. In fact, by 1735 Jack was about to inherit his wife’s not inconsiderable fortune and was thinking about remodelling the Tudor mansion house at Lydiard Park. Jack nipped down to Warminster to see what Henry was doing at Stourhead. Jack might have had a grand design but the grounds at Lydiard Park didn’t extend to 2,600 acres, which was fortunate as his bank account wasn’t up to the challenge either.

All things considered Jack made a very nice job of Lydiard House and Park, which is still enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year.

Some views of Stourhead and Lydiard Park

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lydiard housecoach rooms

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front elevation

This post also appears on Good Gentlewoman a blog dedicated to the St John ladies and the people whose lives they touched.

St Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project started!

 

thumbnail_St Marys Lydiard Tregoze removal of royal coat of arms James I (date 1611)Stage 1 of the conservation project started on 5 November with conservators working in the St John Chapel and South Porch with completion on 14 December 2018.The Royal Coat of Arms has been removed as part of the conservation work for some tender love and care and will return next year.

The conservator team are on target to complete stage 1 of the work by 14 December 2018.The south porch will be re-plastered and the wall painting “Christ the Crown of Thorns will be virtually conserved ready for Christmas

Furthermore this month, we have been awarded grants from William & Jane Morris Fund and Idlewild Trust, reducing the shortfall in match funding to £12,000.

St. Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze, a vibrant working church with a dedicated vicar and regular Sunday services in the heart of the community of West Swindon & Lydiard Tregoze where continuous Christian worship has taken place for over 1100 years has received a Round 2 delivery phase grant award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to conserve its gorgeous interiors. The project aims include conserving the buildings extensive & nationally significant medieval wall paintings, 17th Century monuments, ancient carved woodwork and star spangled ceiling.

The grant of £615,000 towards the £901,605 delivery phase will enable the church to carry out the conservation work, environmental improvements and access improvements to St Mary’s Church as well as the delivery of a specialist training programme & associated learning, volunteering and community engagement activities .

The project will restore St. Mary’s historic interiors and make it more accessible to the public with access improvements by re-opening the hidden south and creating a welcoming interpretation and activity area. The church plans a wide range of educational activities and events as well as offering training and volunteer opportunities for local people, families, school children, children’s theatre and higher education students. These will include hands on conservation workshops and skills training. Imaginative interpretation & a national symposium for professionals in the heritage and conservation sector.

The main focus of the project is the conservation of the nationally important &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 The internationally acclaimed conservator Jane Rutherfoord and her team have been appointed to undertake the conservation work to the medieval wall paintings &monuments.

Project Champion, Rt. Reverend Dr Lee Rayfield, Bishop of Swindon: The National Lottery receives many deserving applications so it is particularly heartening that Swindon has once again been supported by the award of a major grant. St.Mary’s remains a national treasure and enabling us to preserve and restore its unique features continues to benefit local people as well as enriching our country’s heritage.’

Vicar St Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze Reverend Captain Clive Deverell (Area Dean) “I am delighted that we have been awarded this National Lottery grant, it will ensure families from across West Swindon will

be able to share in its worship and special history for generations to come. Also we will play our part in training a great number of future conservators of medieval Wall paintings. ”

Project Chair Paul Gardner’ It is wonderful news and we are immensely grateful to the National Lottery and very excited about taking our plans forward, especially working with the many organizations from across the town – The Friends of Lydiard Park, schools ,Swindon Art College, The Arts Society , Swindon Festival of Literature, Prime Theatre and many more – that have enthusiastically supported the project and pledged their support and involvement.’

‘We have virtually raised the match funded of £286,600 needed for this stage of the project following receipt of substantial individual donations as well as grants from a range of charities and other organisations including The Friends of Lydiard Park, Garfield Weston Foundation, West Swindon & Lydiard Tregoze Church Partnership, All Churches Trust, The Pilgrim Trust, St Andrews Conservation Trust, The Leche Trust , Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust ,The Alan Evans Memorial Trust, William & Jane Morris Fund, Idlewild Trust and continued public fund raising .I wish to thank the National Lottery whole heartedly for making this crucial award. There is now only £12000 to be raised.

Alastair Stevenson, Chair Friends of Lydiard Park:” I am immensely pleased that the National Lottery has chosen to make this substantial investment in the conservation of St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze. The Friends have been passionate supporters of this project, committing over £100,000 towards it thanks to the generosity of a private legacy. We look forward to seeing the conservation work begin in earnest and all the training, education and volunteering opportunities that it involves. Congratulations to St. Mary’s and grateful thanks to the National Lottery!”

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, people of all ages will have the chance to get involved in creating a secure and exciting future for St Mary’s Church and its incredible heritage. We are delighted to support this project.”

Over the last 5 years the church has successfully raised funds to restore the buildings structure and make it weather tight and in June 2016 year we celebrated the restoration of the 18th century Reredos . Conserving the Reredos, along with associated building works, was a £40,000 project. The work was carried out by the internationally acclaimed conservator Jane Rutherfoord.

If you wish to make a direct payment donation to support the conservation of St Marys church the BACS details are follows –

Account Name: Building Fund,

Bank: CAF Bank,

Sort Code: 40-52-40,

Account Number: 00017800,

And complete & return the attached donation form indicating that you have made a direct payment.

For further information, images, interviews and private visits please contact Paul Gardner at gp.gardner@btinternet.com or 07831868429.

30th November 2018

St. Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze wins confirmed National Lottery support

St. Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze, which lies on the western edge of Swindon in historic Lydiard Park, has received a confirmed National Lottery grant award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to conserve its gorgeous interiors. The project aims include conserving the buildings extensive and nationally significant medieval wall paintings, 17th Century monuments, ancient carved woodwork and star spangled ceiling.

Made possible by National Lottery players, the grant of £615,000 towards the £901,605 delivery phase will enable the church to carry out the conservation work, environmental improvements and access improvements to St Mary’s Church as well as the delivery of a specialist training programme and associated learning, volunteering and community engagement activities .

The project aims to rescue the church from deteriorating further and improve public access by re-opening the hidden south porch and creating a welcoming interpretation and activity area. The church plans a wide range of educational activities and events as well as offering training and volunteer opportunities for local people, families, schoolchildren and higher education students. These will include hands on conservation workshops and skills training.

St. Mary’s stands behind the gracious mansion of Lydiard House and is famous for the richness of its monuments to the St. John family who lived at Lydiard for over 500 years. The church currently attracts over 8,100 visitors a year from both this country and abroad and is well used by local schools researching heritage on their doorstep and visitors to the adjacent house and park.

Project Champion, Rt. Reverend Dr Lee Rayfield, Bishop of Swindon:

‘The National Lottery receives many deserving applications so it is particularly heartening that Swindon has once again been supported by the award of a major grant. St.Mary’s remains a national treasure and enabling us to preserve and restore its unique features continues to benefit local people as well as enriching our country’s heritage.’

Vicar St Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze Reverend Captain Clive Deverell (Area Dean )

“I am delighted that we have been awarded this National Lottery grant, it will ensure families from across West Swindon will be able to share in its worship and special history for generations to come. Also we will play our part in training a great number of future conservators of medieval Wall paintings. ”

Project Chair Paul Gardner

‘It is wonderful news and we are immensely grateful to the National Lottery and very excited about taking our plans forward, especially working with the many organizations from across the town – The Friends of Lydiard Park, schools ,Swindon Art College, The Arts Society , Swindon Festival of Literature, Prime Theatre and many more – that have enthusiastically supported the project and pledged their support and involvement.’

‘We have virtually raised the match funded of £286,600 needed for this stage of the project following receipt of substantial individual donations as well as grants from a range of charities and other organisations including The Friends of Lydiard Park, Garfield Weston Foundation, West Swindon & Lydiard Tregoze Church Partnership, All Churches Trust, The Pilgrim Trust, St Andrews Conservation Trust, The Leche Trust , Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust, The Alan Evans Memorial Trust and continued public fund raising.

I wish to thank the National Lottery whole heartedly for making this crucial award.

Alastair Stevenson, Chair Friends of Lydiard Park

I am immensely pleased that the National Lottery has chosen to make this substantial investment in the conservation of St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze. The Friends have been passionate supporters of this project, committing over £100,000 towards it thanks to the generosity of a private legacy. We look forward to seeing the conservation work begin in earnest and all the training, education and volunteering opportunities that it involves. Congratulations to St. Mary’s and grateful thanks to the National Lottery!

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, people of all ages will have the chance to get involved in creating a secure and exciting future for St Mary’s Church and its incredible heritage. We are delighted to support this project.”

St. Mary’s Church belongs to the Church of England. It is a vibrant working church with a dedicated vicar and regular Sunday services in the heart of the community of West Swindon & Lydiard Tregoze where continuous Christian worship has taken place for over 1100 years.

Lydiard Park’s 18th Century landscape was restored in 2004-7 in a £5.3 million project which was also supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. http://www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery

For further information, images and interviews please contact Paul Gardner at gp.gardner@btinternet.com or 07831 868429

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Michaelmas Day

Michaelmas Day (September 29) is the feast of Michael and All Angels and marks the closing in of the long, dark nights as the days grow colder and summer begins to wane.

One of the four quarter days, Michaelmas was the day on which rents were due, leases begun and servants hired, a busy time in the estate office at Lydiard House.

But today, in a glorious blaze of colour, summer enjoyed a last hurrah in the Walled Garden at Lydiard Park.

Created during Jack St John’s 18th century makeover of the parkland and restored during the Lydiard Park Project 2001-2007, the Walled Garden is a place of peaceful contemplation in any season.

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