St Mary’s – revealed

The conservators have left, the scaffolding has been removed and after months hidden from view, the historic interior of St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Park is revealed.

An international team of students working with local volunteers and led by acclaimed conservator Jane Rutherfoord have been working on conserving the medieval wall paintings and along the way have made some fascinating discoveries.

The conservation of the 15th century nave wall painting of St Christopher had long been anticipated but no one could have predicted what would be found beneath the two plaques erected during the 18th century.

When the Hardyman family memorials were removed (and re-positioned in the south porch) the conservators made an amazing find – a medieval niche that had once contained a statue of St Christopher. And what’s more, once the rubble infill had been removed part of the head of the statue was also discovered.

The destruction of the niche took place during the turbulent Reformation period when church iconography, the symbols of the old religion, were destroyed, wall paintings covered over and statues smashed. Perhaps the person instructed to destroy the niche found the task too painful and had concealed the head of the statue to protect it. Whatever the story, the discovery adds yet another layer to the long history of the church.

High up in the Tudor barrel vaulted ceiling a collection of carved corbels look down on the congregation beneath. One is believed to be a likeness of Margaret Beaufort, half sister to the 15th century St John family and mother of Henry VII. During the conservation work it was discovered that the corbels had once been brightly painted and it was decided that the two by the chancel arch should be restored to their original colour palette.

Also revealed was the full extent of the Christ the Crown of Thorns wall painting in the south porch, yet another of the discoveries made during the conservation work.

The church is now accessible to the pubic again, although please check the Facebook page for opening times and read more about the St Mary’s conservation project on the church website.

The church will close again after Christmas when further work is due to commence.

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Corbels in the barrel vaulted roof – before

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… and after restoration

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15th century wall painting before conservation

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… and after

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Christ the Crown of Thorns wall painting in the south porch

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Carved faces on the original entrance to the church show signs of damage inflicted during the Reformation

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The conserved 17th century Coat of Arms

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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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thumbnail_St Marys Lydiard Tregoze removal of royal coat of arms James I (date 1611)

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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.