Ditchley Park

This year’s Friends summer outing was to the magnificent Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire, the Palladian mansion house built in the early 1720s for George Henry Lee, 2nd Earl of Lichfield.

First port of call for the Friends was an elegant light lunch at nearby Heythrop Park, a property built for Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury at the beginning of the 18th century.

Then it was on to the main attraction …

Ditchley Park is less than 10 miles as the crow flies from Blenheim Palace and came in handy as a stopover for the guests of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. Another link with this most famous of families came during the Second World War when Winston Churchill relocated from Chequers to hold wartime working weekends on more than a dozen occasions. He was at Ditchley Park when Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess arrived in Scotland, supposedly on a peace mission.

Ditchley Park is of special interest to the Friends of Lydiard Park as there is a connection with the St John family. The 2nd Earl of Lichfield’s great grandmother was Anne St John, second child and eldest daughter of Sir John St John 1st Baronet and his wife Anne Leighton. Although there are no portraits of Anne in Lydiard House, she can be seen in St Mary’s Church, depicted as one of the kneeling daughters on the St John memorial.

Anne married Francis Henry Lee in 1632. Their marriage was sadly a short one as Francis died of smallpox in 1639, leaving Anne widowed with two young children and pregnant with a third.

A resourceful, resilient woman Anne married Royalist Henry Wilmot in 1644. Widowed for a second time she managed to negotiate the treacherous Civil War period and retain both the Lee and Wilmot estates. You will be able to read more about Anne and several of the other St John women in The Ladies of Lydiard by Frances Bevan, due for publication Spring 2020.

Ditchley Park contains some wonderful portraits (including one of Anne) among them several of Charles I and Charles II. The Earls of Lichfield trace their descent from Charlotte Fitzroy, the illegitimate daughter of Charles II and Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine who was for many years Charles II’s principle mistress and bore him several children. And here is another St John connection; Barbara was the granddaughter of Barbara St John; portraits of both women hang in the State Bedroom at Lydiard House.

Sadly, there is no evidence of the old Tudor mansion in which Anne lived and no definitive location for the property. One theory is that the present house stands on the site of the old one. Materials from the old property were incorporated into the new build.

Today Ditchley Park is owned by the Ditchley Foundation established in 1958 and hosts conferences covering political, economic, social, scientific and artistic topics. The house is not open to the public, except by special arrangement. The Friends tour was conducted by the Bursar Mike Montagu.


Painting the Past

Please note that the Saturday performance times have changed. These will now take place at 6 pm and 8 pm.


Dear Friends

You may have already seen publicity about the theatre performances in Lydiard Park this weekend. Prime Theatre, Swindon’s youth theatre, have been working with young people to create a play inspired by St. Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze.  This is part of the church’s conservation project which is involving schools, community groups and many organisations in activities responding to Lydiard’s rich history. I do hope you are able to come along and support this event – it should be fun. Tickets can be booked on line – see below.

Outdoor Theatre: PAINTING THE PAST

Friday 19th and Saturday 20th July

6 pm and 8 pm
Swish. Brush. Etch. Sketch… A group of artists find themselves stuck in the past, trapped in the stories of their ancient artwork. They have one chance to escape, and it all hangs on the shoulders of one man, Sir John St. John, 1st Baronet of Lydiard Tregoze. Come on a journey through time as young actors from Swindon’s Prime Youth Theatre bring to life the stories of the artwork in St. Mary’s Church and the historic family whose legacy has shaped the Lydiard that we know and love today.

Please note: The performance will take place in various locations in Lydiard Park and audience will be asked to walk between scenes. Please meet at the picnic tables outside the stable café. Look for the gold sign! Pay and display parking is available on arrival.

Performance length: 40 minutes Tickets £5.00 Tickets can be purchased at https://www.primetheatre.co.uk/productions/painting-the-past/ Please book online to ensure a place, however there will be a limited number of tickets available to purchase at each performance. you by any chance available to volunteer to help in the Prime Theatre performance at Lydiard this Friday or Saturday.

For up to date information about the St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project visit www.stmaryslydiardtregoze.org.uk

Best wishes

Julie Holland

Secretary & Trustee

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The St John polyptych in St Mary's Church, Lydiard Park




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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)



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.


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

Lydiard Park Heritage Trust – Press Statement February 16, 2018.

After a 2.5 year outsourcing process Swindon Borough Council have unilaterally decided to abandon plans to transfer operational and management control of Lydiard Park to the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust and bring the process to an end. Their decision leaves Lydiard without an effective management team and at grave risk. Despite publically
acknowledging they do not have the skills and experience to run such an important heritage asset, the Council has rejected the sustainable future offered by the charitable Trust. The legal advice the Council used to justify their decision to the Trust, results from their own inaccurate disclosures made to all bidders in 2015/6, and suggests that the process was fatally flawed from the outset.
The shock decision came on 8 February 2018 when Trustees of the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust (LPHT) met with Swindon Council to discuss the outstanding due diligence issues jointly identified. Their public announcement of 16th February is in direct contradiction to agreements made between the parties.
Mike Bowden, Chair of the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust said:
“We are deeply concerned about the future of Lydiard Park. I have seen the comments from Cllr Perkins made to the BBC earlier today and I think it is clear that he is concentrating more on the upcoming local elections in May than on the future wellbeing of Lydiard House and Park. We have always stressed that the Trust is not party political and our sole interest is finding a sustainable future for Lydiard. However, without the local elections in mind people might like to hear what has actually happened during the 2.5 year process and why the Council’s decision to continue to manage Lydiard puts its future in real jeopardy. The parlous state of the Mechanics Institute and well publicised concerns around the Health Hydro show all to clearly what can happen if well-loved heritage and leisure assets are run by organisations that don’t have the necessary skills or interest to care for them. We were warned by many parties that attempting to work in partnership with Swindon Council would prove impossible but we genuinely
felt that Lydiard was too important to neglect and that a fresh opportunity existed to work with the council to create a secure future for Lydiard”.
As a not for profit community orientated charity, run entirely through the voluntary efforts of Trustees, LPHT was awarded preferred bidder status in March 2017. In accordance with the Councils stated process the Trust initiated due diligence work to ensure that information provided by the Council was complete and accurate and that any updated information did not have a material impact on the Trusts business plan.
During this period LPHT discovered that key information provided by SBC to all bidders during 2016 was materially inaccurate.
There were three key areas of inaccuracy:
1. The backlog of maintenance works that the council had allowed to have built up over the last decade for which the Council had set aside £850,000.
2. The financial and business performance of the operator of Lydiard Park Conference Centre Chartridge Ltd , who have run the centre under a lease with the council for many years
3. An important technical point relating to the conference centre operators obligation to repair and maintain the centre.

Lydiard Park Heritage Trust engaged leading Conservation Architects Caroe and Partners to undertake a condition survey of Lydiard House and other estate buildings. The findings of that survey differed from the council’s own condition survey and revealed extensive works are required to address the neglect of maintenance on the Grade 1 building over a 10 year period. The council were presented with these findings in 22nd Aug 2017 but despite repeated requests it was not until Nov 3rd that the council agreed to meet the Trust. In that meeting the Council agreed to a) Lydiard Park Heritage Trust to convene a meeting of surveyors from both sides to agree the extent of work required on the buildings and b) that the council would seriously consider undertaking the work themselves on the basis that a local authority would be able to procure works more cheaply than an independent charitable trust. In this way, there would be no transfer of cash, and the Council could get the best possible value for their money in repairing, what would remain their asset, over a period of years that worked for both the Council’s finances and the Trust’s business plan.It is therefore disingenuous for Cllr Perkins to claim that the Trust had asked to be paid some £4 million pounds.
The surveyors met on the 27 November 2017 and agreement was reached on the need to undertake over 80 % of the backlog maintenance contained within the Trust’s report. A few items required further discussion and the remainder of backlog works were deemed to be dilapidations, which had the council arranged matters with Chartridge on a professional basis would have been put right before Chartridge leaving the premise. In essence there was no material difference over the extent of the backlog maintenance required on the property.
The announcement that the Chartridge Lydiard Park Conference Centre will close in April with the experienced staff made redundant was an entirely avoidable event had the Council worked constructively with LPHT. The conference centre should be providing a critical income stream to support the effective running of the house and park.
In the upcoming local elections, and more generally, the Council needs to convince all parties that they have a credible strategy, which they are capable of implementing, that preserves and improves the unique Heritage and much loved Lydiard Country Park.
LPHT notes that the Council have reconfirmed they will abide by undertakings put to them by The Friends of Lydiard Park in 2015. LPHT will not be alone in holding them to account if the deterioration of Lydiard is allowed to continue. It is imperative that the Council publicly commit to undertake the backlog maintenance and repairs that they have allowed to build up over the last decade, and that they come up with a credible and sustainable plan to improve revenue streams from assets such as the Conference Centre, catering and events capabilities, as set out in our business plan.
The uncertain state of The Mechanics’ Institute, and more recent concerns about the Health Hydro, serves as a stark reminder as to what harm negligent and/or intransigent owners can do to the town’s cultural and heritage assets (both current and future).
Comments on Process
It has become apparent that the Council did not have officers with sufficient knowledge of relevant public sector procurement, asset transfer and leasing rules to operate such a complex process/processes. At best they failed to obtain appropriate professional advice or to undertake their own due diligence to ensure all relevant information was provided to bidders at the outset and would not create the issues they have now identified. Actions undertaken by officers during the process have also seriously prejudiced the due diligence process. The Trust has trustees with specific expertise in these areas and tried to gain clarity over the rules the Council were following several times during the process. The grounds given for abandonment contradict previous correspondence and again raise serious concerns about the Council’s management of their process.

Royal Wootton Bassett Field of Remembrance

The Royal Wootton Bassett Field of Remembrance opened today in the Walled Garden at Lydiard Park with a Service of Remembrance. The Field of Remembrance will be open each day until November 19 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The Wootton Bassett Field of Remembrance was the first remembrance field dedicated to the British servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan and was opened by Prince Harry in 2010.

During the First World War centenary period we remember the stories of those who worked on the Lydiard Park estate and served on the battlefields.

Harry Titcombe, 27, was the eldest of the three men who volunteered.  Born in Purton the son of Richard and Hester Titcombe he had grown up at Greenhill. In October 1915 Harry enlisted at Swindon where during his medical inspection he was described as ‘a very good man, but left thumb wanting.’  Harry served in the Royal Field Artillery first as a gunner and later as a driver and saw action in both France and Italy. Harry was one of the lucky ones – he returned home to Lydiard Millicent. Arthur Lockey and William Aldridge didn’t.

Arthur William Lockey was born in Lydiard Millicent, one of Charles and Caroline’s twelve children. Arthur’s elder brother Charles enlisted at the outbreak of war.  Despite receiving gun shot wounds to his back, shoulder and hand, Charles survived the war.  A sergeant in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, he left the army with a machine gun instructor qualification.

Arthur left his job on the Lydiard Park estate and enlisted at Devizes.  He served in the 5th Wilts moving with his regiment to Mesopotamia in February 1916.  Arthur was killed in action on January 25, 1917 during an attempt to relieve the Turkish held garrison of Kut.  He is buried in the Amara War Cemetery.  He was 19 years old when he died.

William Ernest Aldridge was born in Lydiard Millicent where he grew up at Greatfield, one of Ernest and Lila Aldridge’s eight children.  He served as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery 281st Siege Battery.  The 281st, equipped with heavy howitzers, went out to the Western Front on March 21, 1917, its objective to destroy and neutralise enemy artillery.  Nineteen-year-old William died of his wounds on October 23, 1918 less than three weeks before the Armistice.  He lies buried in the Awoingt British Cemetery.

In 1933 the headstones of the war graves in Amara Cemetery were discovered to be deteriorating, damaged by salts in the soil, and were removed.  A screen wall was erected with the names of those buried in the cemetery.  The current situation in Iraq makes it impossible for the Commission to maintain the cemeteries there but Arthur’s name appears on a two volume Roll of Honour, which is displayed at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Head Office in Maidenhead.

Both William Aldridge and Arthur Lockey are remembered on the war memorial in All Saint’s Church, Lydiard Millicent.

These photographs were taken after the Remembrance Service in 2012 when Strictly Come Dancing stars Anton du Beke and Kristina Rihanoff danced to Stronger Together sung by the Military Wives Choir.

‘Here is a good old mansion-house…


By the mid 19th century the Palladian mansion house at Lydiard Tregoze was a little the worse for wear. Generations of St John’s had chosen to spend their declining fortunes on racehorses, fine porcelain and grand tours rather than a bit of DIY and the ancestral home was beginning to show its age.

Radical politician William Cobbett rode through the parish in September 1826 and later wrote:

‘Here is a good old mansion-house and large walled-in garden and a park, belonging, they told me, to Lord Bolingbroke.  I went quite down to the house, close to which stands the large and fine church.  It appears to have been a noble place; the land is some of the finest in the whole country; the trees show that the land is excellent; but, all, except the church, is in a state of irrepair and apparent neglect, if not abandonment.

William had pretty much hit the nail on the head.

The house had served as a holiday home for the family for close on 150 years. Despite a major make over in the early 18th century subsequent St John’s had elected to live in London close to where the action was, popping back to Wiltshire for a spot of shooting and partying.  By the 1830s Henry, 4th Viscount Bolingbroke, was renting out the house and parkland.  His wife, Maria, Lady Bolingbroke was in Aberystwyth at the time of her death in 1836 and Henry was in Scotland at the time of his in 1851.

So, who was living in a house like this?

Not any old family, but one that had extended links to the St John’s.  At the time of the 1841 census Thomas Orby Hunter was the tenant at Lydiard House with his daughter and son-in-law Charles and Charlotte Orby Wombwell and their baby daughter.

On June 6, 1841 the servants quarters was pretty much full with sixteen members of staff living in on census night and a further three recorded in the stables.  Most gave their birthplace as out of the parish, so presumably Thomas brought his own staff with him.

Ten years later and Charles Orby Wombwell had taken over the tenancy.  He had cut down on the indoor servants but there were still an impressive eleven in residence on census night, including a governess, butler, housekeeper, cook, kitchen maid, two housemaids, a nursemaid, a footman and a groom. This time there were more local folk on the pay roll – Elizabeth Hiscocks, the daughter of Lydiard gamekeeper Robert Hiscocks, Ann Dobson from Lydiard Tregoze, Richard Weeks from neighbouring Lydiard Millicent and Jesse Turner who would later become butler to Lord Bolingbroke.

So what is the connection between the Wombwell and the St John families?

Charles Orby Wombwell  was the son of Sir George Wombwell and his second wife Eliza Little.  He and his elder half brother George both married daughters of Thomas Orby Hunter.  As we have seen Charles married Charlotte, his brother married Georgiana.

Sir George and Georgiana’s son George married Julia Sarah Alice Child Villiers – are you keeping up – now Julia was the daughter of George Augustus Frederick Child Villiers 6th Earl of Jersey and his wife Julia Peel.  The young Mrs Wombwell could trace her ancestry back eight generations to Sir Edward Villiers and his wife Barbara St John who grew up at Lydiard House, one of the six daughters on the magnificent St John polyptych in St Mary’s Church.


Proposed housing development at Lydiard Park

Yet again Lydiard House and Park is under threat from a proposed housing development on its very doorstep.

The owner of Brook Cottage, the former gamekeeper’s cottage on Lord Bolingbroke’s estate, has submitted planning permission to build four executive houses on land adjoining Brook Cottage in Lydiard Park.  This is the field immediately on your left as you enter the drive to the House.

So, why is Lydiard Park so important. This is what Historic England has to say:

Lydiard Park, formerly known as South Lydiard, Lediar, is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086); a former manor of Alfred of Marlborough it was acquired by the Tregoze family in c.1198, and was later known as Lydiard Tregoze. In 1270 Henry III gave Robert Tregoze a royal licence to impark a nearby woodland in order to create a deer park. From 1300 until 1348 Lydiard was owned by the Grandison family, and subsequently by the Beauchamps. In 1420 the estate came to the St John family through marriage (whose main seat was at Battersea, London), and they were to hold it until the Second World War. The court met at Lydiard in 1592 during Elizabeth I’s royal progress, and John St John was knighted. In 1583 it was recorded there was a park at Lydiard Tregoze owned by Nicholas St John, and much correspondence exists from 1659-64 from Johanna St John, wife of the third baronet, who was a keen amateur gardener.

During the early C17, probably during the time of Sir John St John, formal gardens including a canal were created as part of changes made to the medieval house at Lydiard (Swindon BC 2002). Sir John also laid out a series of formal avenues in the park. By c 1700 (Map of Lydiard Park), Lydiard had a park with formal avenues and woodland plantations, and a series of formal gardens including ponds and terraces. In 1742-3, under the ownership of the second Viscount St John, the south-east and south west fronts of the House were remodelled in the Palladian style. The house and parkland appear in two equestrian paintings by Stubbs in 1764-66. By 1766 many of the formal elements in the park had been removed, together with the formal gardens (Willington, 1766).

PRINCIPAL BUILDING Lydiard House (listed at Grade I) is situated in the eastern half of the site. Together with the Church of St Mary (listed at Grade I; and several Grade II listed tombstones in churchyard) which is situated immediately to its north, it forms an important group of buildings dating back to the medieval period. The fabric of the House dates mainly from the C17, but the south-west and south-east fronts are in the Palladian style, following their remodelling of 1742-3 by the second Viscount St John. This remodelling has been attributed to the architect Roger Morris (CL 1948). Attached to the rear north-west end of the house is a late-C20 conference wing. The former L-shaped stable block, now converted to a cafe, offices and education centre, stands circa 30m to the north-west of the house.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS The pleasure grounds consist of a small woodland to the south-west of the House, since the late C19 called The Avenue, separated from the park by an C18 ha-ha built of brick (restored late C20), and a terrace and lawn to the south front of the House’.

For the full entry visit the Historic England website.

This application for permission to build within the essential setting of Lydiard Park comes hot on the heels of the failed Taylor Wimpey attempt. Should this current application be successful it would pave the way for Taylor Wimpey to resubmit their plans, and to expect to also be successful.

If you are as concerned about this as we are please lodge your objections with Swindon Borough Council planning department by September, 4.

You can view the application and register your objections online click here to be taken to the SBC planning application portal, and type S/16/1832 into the search box.

When viewing the application in the SBC portal you can register your comments by clicking the ‘make a public comment’ button.

Please note you must login/register yourself (top tabs on the page) before the button becomes visible.

You can also send an email direct to the planners at sbcdc@swindon.gov.uk. You must provide the S/16/1832 reference in your email together with your name and address, otherwise your comments will not be registered.

Alternatively, you can write to the case officer, Sarah Smith at Civic Offices Euclid Street Swindon Wiltshire, SN1 2JH. You must provide the S/16/1832 reference in your email together with your name and address, otherwise your comments will not be registered

Please note there is a very tight time scale for objections to be registered – SEPTEMBER 4.

For more information visit http://www.shawresidents.org.uk/


An Imaginary Tour by George Rose

The gorgeous Palladian mansion we see today was in a state of dereliction when Swindon Corporation bought the estate in 1943 and it would be more than ten years before Lydiard House was accessible to the public.

In May 1955 Lord Lansdown opened the state rooms at Lydiard House and even provided some furniture for the empty rooms from his home at Bowood House, which was also undergoing some significant changes.

The following year George Rose was appointed as caretaker and guide and lived with his wife in the caretaker’s flat for 12 years. George retired in 1968 but two years later suffered a devastating stroke. Although severely disabled, George wanted to leave a record of the House he had loved and cared from during its period of restoration.

His account was published in June 1975 in the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report No 8, just six months after his death. George’s work was entitled ‘An Imaginary Tour’ during which he shows us around areas of the House largely unseen even today.

He begins outside with the coach house and stable block, now transformed into a tea room, but then used as hostel accommodation for youth organisations. George writes:

“The ground floor of the stable block is taken up by six loose boxes, craftsman built and well ventilated, each with its own manger and soak away, together with a harness room. The latter has a fireplace – not to keep the stable hands warm but to keep the harness pliable!”

George mentions the newly built accommodation block for the Management Centre (Lydiard Park Conference Centre), which he describes as being a “monstrosity, more suited to a concrete jungle than a Georgian building.”

As the tour continues George takes the reader across a cobbled courtyard. Here there was a large barn for storing hay and various outbuildings, one used as a pig sty, another for rearing pheasants.

Entering the building we now wend our way through wash-house and drying room, to the bake-house and the kitchen with a tall iron cooking range and “a large recess, backed with a cast-iron plate, formerly for an open fire and spit. Hooks for hanging game and other meats hang from the ceiling and down the centre of the room stands a huge wooden preparation table with a scrubbed deal top.

In his mind’s eye George leads us through the house with which he was so familiar. We enter the bedroom where Lady Bolingbroke spent her last bedridden days, looking out the window to the church below where she watched people on their way to worship.

George takes us upstairs to the attics where he points out the stone plaque commemorating the rebuilding of the house in 1743.

Now we are back downstairs in the wine cellar where George describes “slate shelving under arched brick work.”

The high blank wall demolished, the stone floors covered over and the old laundry fitted with shower baths, George looked forward to the day when the Mansion would be put to good use.

George died on December 1, 1974. His request that his ashes should be scattered in Lydiard Park was granted by the local authority.

Dapper Dave and Dinky Di

Food, Travel, Family History, Books & the 50s & 60s

The Country House Companion

A Brief and Biased Guide to the Historic Houses of England

Tower of London – HRP Blogs

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

Gardeners – HRP Blogs

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

Conservation – HRP Blogs

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

Curators – HRP Blogs

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