Friends of Lydiard Park draw on their past to look to the future

The Friends of Lydiard Park has been quietly transforming. The organisation, which is dedicated to supporting the protection, conservation and enhancement of Lydiard House and Park has significantly raised its profile with an enhanced mission, bringing Lydiard to life for thousands of people, both local and national, and international. The transformation is revealed this week in the launch of the Friends’ new interactive website and events programme.

The new website www.friendsoflydiardpark.org.uk is packed with beautiful images of Swindon’s much loved park, fascinating stories about its history, natural environment, and the people associated with it over the centuries and right up to today. A new events programme of talks, tours and family activities is unfolding throughout the year, and members of the public are invited to participate, submitting their stories and unique memories of Lydiard.

“Lydiard House and Park is such an important part of Swindon, both for its heritage and as a wonderful amenity for local people. The Friends have been researching, supporting and promoting Lydiard for over fifty years and have compiled a wealth of information about the estate. Today, through our new website and events programme we are delighted to share our enthusiasm and curiosity with even more people in this country and abroad. We hope many of them will join us,” said Chair of the friends, Sarah Finch-Crisp.

Along with the website and wide-ranging events, The Friends of Lydiard Park are working closely with Swindon Borough Council and the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre to make Lydiard’s archive of documents and photographs more accessible. The Friends are also forming collaborations with other records offices, universities and libraries to exchange information and enhance record access.

“We are excited to be working alongside The Friends of Lydiard Park and the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, to encourage more people to enjoy and learn about Lydiard’s past and get involved in all that it has to offer today.”

Do you remember the Lydiard Park hostel?

As part of their new programme, The Friends are particularly interested in hearing local people’s memories of staying in the Lydiard Park hostel from the 1960s – 1980s, long before the old stable block and coach house were restored and converted into today’s popular cafe and education space.

Brownies, Guides, Cubs and Scouts regularly used the hostel, building camp fires in the walled garden and exploring the part at night – but little information remains about this part of Lydiard’s history. “We’re hoping that people will rummage through their old snapshots and find some pictures which help tell this largely forgotten part of Lydiard’s story,” said Sarah.

Anyone who would like to share their stories can do so on the website by submitting them on the Living History forum.

The Friends of Lydiard Park is a charity and the successor to the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz which began in 1967. The organisation produced forty annual historical reports which is the largest body of reference material about Lydiard House and Park.

They have supported the acquisition and conservation of artwork and objects in the House, took a major role in the restoration of Lydiard Park 2003-7, and are currently providing support and a grant of £100,000 to the St Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project.

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