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.

St Mary's 3
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

South porch 2

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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New Year plans for St Mary’s Church

Remember to visit St Mary’s today (December 29) on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket and view the rare surviving wall painting.

Catch up with what’s happening with the St Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project and the exciting plans for 2018.

St Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project wins Heritage Lottery Fund support for its £1 million pound conservation project

We are delighted to announce that St. Mary’s Church has been successful in our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. We have been awarded a grant of £131,700 towards the £186,700 development phase of the project. We have already raised the £55,000 match funding required to complete this development phase.

Completion of the development phase will allow St Mary’s to further refine the delivery phase for which it will apply for a further grant of £615,000 in the spring of 2018.

St Mary’s still needs to raise the balance of £155,000 to complete the funding of this delivery phase, however this now stands at £75,500 following the award of grants from Garfield Weston Foundation, All Churches Trust, The Leche Trust , Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust, The Alan Evans Memorial Trust, St Andrew’s Conservation Trust and continued public fund raising.

The scheme will restore St. Mary’s historic interiors and make it more accessible to the public with access improvements, imaginative interpretation and lively education programmes. The main focus of the delivery phase is the conservation of the 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 .

In conjunction we are also planning a whole range of activities which include the participation of local schools, volunteers, children’s theatre, skills training, imaginative interpretation and a national symposium for professionals in the heritage and conservation sector.

Appeal Chairman Paul Gardner said “we have successfully raised the match funding for the first stage of the project and thank Heritage Lottery Fund whole heartily for making this crucial award. We are looking forward to beginning this new and exciting phase in the New Year.”

Throughout the summer and continuing into October Volunteers from Nationwide are giving their full support to the corporate volunteer programme of the conservation project. This has included clearing and preparing a new wild flower bed in the grounds of St Marys, painting the railings & gate to St Marys, and further works in the grounds of St Marys.

Nerys Watts head of HLF South West said “At the heart of Swindon’s Lydiard Park St Marys is an important part of the town’s history and home to a unique and nationally significant collection of medieval wall paintings. Thanks to National lottery players we are delighted to support this first vital step towards and its historic Grade 1 listed home enabling even more people to enjoy the stories they hold.”

Rt. Reverend Dr Lee Rayfield Bishop of Swindon said “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. St Marys is a national treasure and preserving its unique features will benefit both local people and the nations heritage “

We have recently appointed the internationally acclaimed conservator Jane Rutherfoord and her team to undertake the conservation work to the medieval wall paintings and monuments.

In early 2018 we expect to see on display in St Marys the restored 180 year old painting which is a detail of the medieval Thomas Becket wall painting.

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 funded by the congregation, wider public and grants. The work was carried out by the internationally acclaimed conservator Jane Rutherfoord.

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

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

 

‘A Copy of an Ancient Painting found by Accident at Fine Liddiard Church’

A previously unseen picture has been donated to St Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project just as Jane Rutherfoord, team leader at Rutherfoord Conservation Ltd., began a survey of the medieval wall paintings in the church in Lydiard Park.

The picture depicts the murder of Thomas Becket and has the inscription ‘A Copy of an Ancient Painting found by Accident at Fine Liddiard Church’ and dates from September 1837, just a month after another picture of the wall paintings was made that now hangs in Lydiard House.

The first picture depicts the scene above the chancel arch and is entitled ‘A Drawing From An Ancient Painting Found In Fine Liddiard Church Wilts August 1837’, drawn and painted by Henry Gibbs. It is tempting to wonder if both pictures were painted by the same artist?

The Thomas Becket painting has been donated by Mrs Joy Brake who grew up with the picture but cannot explain how it came into her family’s possession.

“I remember it always hung in the house in Wood Street.”

Although Joy Brake grew up at 32 Wood Street, Swindon her family roots are planted deep in the history of Lydiard Tregoze.

The Victorian Edmonds family was large and well established in the parish of Lydiard Tregoze with records dating back several centuries. The grave of Joy’s great grandparents Edwin and Rhoda Edmonds stands just inside the gate to St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoz.

Joy’s great grandfather Edwin Edmonds was one of the first organists at St Mary’s. The name Edwin Edmonds occurs etched in several panes of glass in the church windows during repair work and although it is doubtful this is Joy’s great grandfather, the glazier is most probably a member of her extended family. Edwin was a popular name in the Edmonds family.

In the census of 1871 Joy’s great grandfather Edwin George Edmonds 45, a widower and master agricultural engineer is living at Lower Hook with his younger children, including Joy’s grandfather Edwin Hugh Edmonds who at 16 years of age is working in the family business as an engine fitter.

Edwin George died in 1884 but the engineering business went from strength to strength in the hands of his capable son Edwin Hugh Edmonds who worked as an agricultural and general machinist and threshing machine contractor at Coped Hall, Wootton Bassett.

Joy’s father, Fred was born at Coped Hall, Wootton Bassett in 1885, one of Edwin Hugh and Fanny Edmonds’ 14 children. Fred worked alongside his father in the agricultural engineering business before establishing the Swindon Motor Company.

Joy recalls her father’s close attachment to the village of Hook where he donated land on which Hook Village Hall was built.

“He wanted me to get married at St Mary’s but I wanted to get married at Christ Church,” said Joy.

But taking another step back in Joy’s family history might provide the answer to how the picture was acquired. Joy’s great great grandfather Jacob Edmonds was born in the parish of Lydiard Tregoze in 1787 and was baptised in St Mary’s Church on May 27 of that year.

Jacob worked variously as a carpenter, mealman and grocer and tea dealer, but the clue comes on the census of 1871 where he describes his occupation as Parish Clerk. Jacob died three years later in 1874 and the headstone on his grave stated that ‘he was for 62 years parish clerk’. The discovery of the wall paintings in 1837 would therefore have occurred during his tenure as parish clerk.

Conservation work on the picture has been completed by Caroline Harris and is now awaiting framing. The cost for the conservation and framing has been paid for by The Friends of Lydiard Park.

The church will be open from 10 am to 4 pm on December 29, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, when a reproduction of the picture will be on display. Members of the church will be available to tell visitors about this and other wall paintings in St Mary’s.