Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jewels in the Stained Glass Crown

Perhaps the most striking feature of any ecclesiastical building, from parish church to cathedral, are the stained glass windows, and St Mary's, Lydiard Tregoze has examples dating back more than six centuries. 

The glorious 17th century East window is the work of Abraham van Linge and was commissioned by Sir John St John in 1630. Abraham and his brother Bernard came to England from Emden, Friesland in around 1623. Examples of Abraham's work can be seen in the V&A, Lincoln College, Oxford, Queen's College, Oxford and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Or closer to home, in the Blue Closet or Diana Room at Lydiard House.

At the opposite end of the church the vibrant West window, erected in 1859 to the memory of local farmer John King by his two sisters Ann and Mary, was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as 'Large figures, strident colours, bad.'

But the jewel in the stained glass crown at St Mary's has to be the fragments of 15th century glass found in practically every window. Executed by long forgotten itinerant Flemish glass workers, these stories in coloured glass reveal yet more history. 

When the glass workers arrived at a commission they cast their eye around the local villagers for models to sit for their work, choosing those with strong and particularly beautiful features. What a thought that as we gaze up at these works of art the residents of medieval Lydiard Tregoze are looking down on us.

"In the tracery lights of the south aisle windows are depicted four prophets, possibly Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, or they may be the four Doctors of the Church - Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great, who were not often depicted in ecclesiastical vestments. One holds an open book and two hold scrolls; in each case they have hands raised in warning or have fingers pointing upwards or forwards in teaching;" Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report 38 published 14 May 2008

Centre window includes the Virgin crowned and holding a sceptre, and the Christ child. Possibly modeled by a beautiful young mother from medieval Lydiard Tregoze with her own child.

In the north aisle angels holding scrolls with the opening words of the Gloria - Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will

Angel playing a mandolin

This window to the East of the church has been the subject of several interpretations. One figure holds a shield with a rose en soleil, one of the badges of Edward IV, and they were at one time believed to represent three Seraphim. However it is now thought more likely that these are characters from Daniel Chapter 1-3 and represent Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were consigned to a fiery furnace. The angel with outstretched hands is the angel of God who delivered them from their ordeal.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Restored Wall Painting in St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze

Earlier this year the wall painting above the chancel arch in St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze, was revealed and restored for the third time in more than one hundred and seventy years.

In August 1837 a certain Henry Gibbs painted a picture he described as "A Drawing From An Ancient Painting Found in Fine Liddiard Church, Wilts."

Sometime after Mr Gibbs executed this drawing the painting was covered in lime wash and hidden from view until it was rediscovered during restoration work undertaken in 1901.

So who are the people represented in the wall painting. Two theories exist, one that the figures represent those redeemed by Christ's sacrifice such as bishops, merchants, lawyers etc. The second, apparently more convincing interpretation is that those gathered beneath the cross are Christ's tormentors, the high priests and Pharisees, possibly even Pilate himself. The message being that we should not crucify Christ again by either word or deed.

The costumes date the painting to the early 16th century, sometime between 1520-1540. The symbols of the sun and moon are regular features on medieval representations of the crucifixion but seldom appear after the 15th century, adding yet another puzzle to this painting.

Conservationist Ruth McNeilage spent most of May working on the wall painting and admits that the eight figures around a central cross are something of a mystery.

With the first phase in the ambitious £1 million project complete, the church is now wind and watertight. A second phase of conservation and restoration work now begins, focusing on the 18th century boxed pews and other historic monuments, including the medieval wall paintings.

2011 photograph published courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball

Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report No. 18 published May 11, 1985.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Oliver St John (1634-1688) 2nd Earl of Bolingbroke

English School

This portrait of Oliver, 2nd Earl of Bolingbroke, purchased by Swindon Corporation in 1965, will enjoy a makeover this year, thanks to the fund raising efforts of the Friends of Lydiard Park.

Oliver St John was born in 1634, a member of the senior, Bletsoe branch of the family, descended from the eldest son of Lady Margaret Beauchamp and her first husband Oliver St. John. Lady Margaret's second marriage to John Beaufort produced a daughter Margaret, the mother of the first Tudor King Henry VII.

Oliver's wife, Frances Cavendish was one of Royalist William Cavendish 1st Duke of Newcastle and Elizabeth Bassett's three daughters. With her sisters Jane and Elizabeth, Frances grew up at Welbeck Abbey, a former monastery in Nottinghamshire; a home the three women would courageously defend during the English Civil Wars. However, in marriage Frances aligned herself with the Parliamentarian St Johns when she wed Oliver at Pitstone, Buckinghamshire on November 24, 1654.

The couple's marriage settlement included a sum of £7,000 paid as portion and extensive lands in Bedfordshire to be held to the use of the Earl of Bolingbroke for life and afterwards to his new wife Frances for her life to be held in trust for 2,000 years. In default of any male issue, and in case there were daughters of the marriage, the trustees were to raise £60 per annum out of the property for their education and maintenance; if there was one daughter the sum of £7,000 was to be raised and paid at the age of 18 or on marriage and should there be more than one daughter the sum of £10,000 was to be raised and divided equally, payable at the same time. The trust of 2,000 years was to be declared void if there was any male issue of the marriage.

As it turned out Frances and Oliver St John had no children during their 24 years of marriage and on his death in 1688 Oliver’s titles and estate went to his brother Paulet.

The couple lived at Bletsoe Castle in Bedfordshire where Frances died on August 15, 1678. She was buried in the parish church at Bletsoe where Oliver erected this memorial. The tablet on the left side was left blank, presumably for a suitable inscription when Oliver died, but apparently no one ever got around to writing his epitaph.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

To the Memory of Jonas Clarke

To the Memory of Jonas Clarke
Who died March 31st 1862 aged 74 years

In memory of Cordelia Ann daughter
of Francis and Jane Carey who died
Dec 8th 1861 Aged 16 Years
Also Jonas, their son died Jan 18th 1865 Aged 14 years.

The grave of Wick Farm tenant Jonas Clarke senior is just inside the gates to the churchyard at St Mary's, Lydiard Tregoze. Jonas was born in Minety in 1787 where he spent his early adult life. His marriage to Elizabeth Fitchew in 1816 proved to be unsuccesful and by 1818 he had entered into a relationship with Alice Pinnell. The couple had seven children but had to wait more than thirty years for the death of Elizabeth before they could marry.

Jonas's business like will makes no reference to bequests of a personal nature. He leaves his real estate to his only surviving son Jonas and to his wife Alice he leaves 'all my live and dead farming stock and crops of corn grain and hay household goods furniture and effects dairy utensils implements of husbandry monies and securities for money and all other my personal estate and effects whatsoever unto my Wife Alice Clark for her absolute use and benefit so long as she shall continue my widow'

A record of the old field names of Wick Farm appear on the Tithe records of 1841, including:-

Bakers Mead
Green Down
The Green Down Mead
New inclosure
The Clay Pit Ground
The Prinnels
High Croft
Lower Wick
Upper Wick
Part of Holdings
Fresh Brooks Mead

This roughly drawn map of West Swindon in the 1980s plots some of these parcels of land.

The farm remained in the tenancy of the Clarke family until the 1880s. You might like to read how local author Mark Child unraveled the confusing story of two younger Jonas Clarke's.

In 1930 cash strapped Lady Bolingbroke put several of her properties on the market in what was described as 'one of the largest sales held in Swindon for many years.'

Lot 28 of 57 was Jonas's former home.

An exceedingly dry rich grazing and dairy holding known as Wick Farm situate in the Parishes of Lydiard Tregoze and Lydiard Millicent, and having an acreage of 139a 1r 3p intersected by good roads. The Farm House is brick built, slated and tiled and the farm buildings are of similar construction. There are also two excellent modern cottages substantially built of brick, with slated roofs, each containing five rooms.

This farm has been in hand recently and, for the purposes of this sale, the rent is estimated at £332. Vacant possession can be given on completion.

Proportion of Tithe Annuity in Lydiard Tregoze, say £49 10s 0d.
proportion of Tithe Annuity in Lydiard Millicent, say £1 11s 0d
Land Tax to be apportioned

The Vendor retains the right to take water from the Spring at Brook Buildings for the Keeper's Cottage adjoining (which are not included in this sale). 
There are three telephone poles erected on this lot for which the PO Telegraphs pay 3/- per annum

There was no offer made on Wick Farm in the 1930's sale.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Portrait of the week - Lady Johanna St John

Lady Johanna St John died at her Battersea home on January 15 1704/5 and was buried in the family vault at neighbouring St Mary's Church.

Much of Johanna's writings survive, including her 1680 Receipt Book now held by the Wellcome Library and the subject of a whole host of events at Lydiard House this year, including a fascinating series of lectures.

In 1995 the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz published a transcription of Lady Johanna's will. Lady Johanna wrote the will herself in 1703 and then added a scrawling codicil on the fourth side of the original document, writing in the margins and obscuring some of the text.

The will, even in transcription, is quite difficult to interpret, but my special interest is in the personal bequests made to family and friends. Raised in the Puritan branch of the Bletsoe family Johanna has a no nonsense reputation, so it is pleasing to read evidence of the caring side of her nature.

Johanna did her philanthropic duty as can be seen in the following investment.

'Alsoe I give an Hundred pound to be placed out at intrest or vested in a purchace as my said exeqtrs shall think fitt & that Alice James my old servant shall have the profitt & intrest therof dureing her life & after her Death I would have the profitt therof & intrest layd out yearely or as often as conveniently may be in the placeing out to Apprentice a poor Girl or Boy of Battersea aforesaid'

Susanna Foot, another trusted servant receives -

'..all my weareing Clothes Linnin & woolen new & old & all the whole Furniture in my Closit & Chamber except the Clock the Cabinet in my Closet & the smal Pictures & thos thing wch I have already disposed to .. alsoe I give her Foot the Plate I used in my Chamber as the Porenger & spoon the Basin I wash in & the Cupp I drink my Choclatte in & alsoe in my Closit I give her all in it & my silver skillet.'

By the time Lady Johanna died at the age of 75 she had outlived all but five of her 13 children.

To her incorrigible eldest son Henry St John, convicted of the murder of Sir William Escott in The Globe Tavern she leaves 'the Great Bible in my Closet with the Pictures of the 4 Evangilists'

To her daughters and daughter's in law she leaves the following:

'Alsoe I leave to my Daughter Chute all the little Pictures (wherof Sr Walter St Johns mother is one) wch hang over my Table in my Closet & two Guilt canns Sr Walter gave me Alsoe I give to my Daughter Frances wife to my Son William St John my Jubely Chair in the Guilt Leather Rome in my said House & all the Chiny things in the same Room except what belongs to the Thea Table in the same Roo & two of my silver salvers To my eldest son Henrys wife I give the rest of my silver salvers wch are 6 in number & my two silver candlesticks alsoe I give her...To my Daurgr Cholmondeley I give my great Receit Book & crosstich screen in my House in the Dining Rome ther..'

The grandchildren also receive bequests.

'Alsoe I give unto my God Daughter & Grand Daughter Johanna Cholmondeley & Daughter to my Daughter Cholmondeley one Hundred pounds...To my Grand Dtr Soame according to my promise I give my Booke of receits of cookery & Preserves according to ....To my Grand Dater St John Toppe I give my cabinet in my Closet but would have the papers therin burnt first...' and her Grandson Henry's wife also receives a keepsake.
'To my Grand Daughter wife to my Grandson Henry St John I give the oval silver Chamberpott & the two smal silver cupps with covers wch I had last of Mr North I give them to my Grand Daughter Mrs Frances St John.'

The Codicil written a year later reads:

I give my Pendelum clock in my Chamber to my Brother Frances St John of Long thorp in Northamptonshire I give to my Godson Frances Lee son to the Earl of Litchfeild 40 pounds in one yeare afer my Death to be payd him if alive or elce to come to my Grand son Henry St John when my personal Debts as for Clothes & such things as I pay for with the allowance of 150 pound a yeare Sr Walter give me if any mony be left I desire Susan Foot may have it given her as an addition to what I have given her before in this my will Sr Walter knows & so doe all concernd my Hand that I doe not live to write it out fair (as I intend) I hope it shall be no obiection to its being Authentick & my will as my Hand will shew it to be.

But perhaps the two references I find most moving are the ones she makes to her friend the Countess of Lindsey -

'To my old & Deare Friend the Countess of Lindsey I leave my Gold cupp wch Mrs Drax left me for a Legesey, And wish I could leave her a Friend may love her as much & have more power to serve her then my selfe'

and to her husband of 56 years, Walter St John, then aged 75.

'I desire if Sr Walter St John outlive me his old servants may be continued about him & that he may not be removed to Liddiard London or any other place from Battersea wher he has lived so long least it hasten his Death'

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Windmill Leaze - an exceptionally attractive dairy and grazing farm

In Loving memory of
William Kinchin
Who died Dec 15th 1898 aged 74 years
Also of Catherine his beloved wife
who died Oct. 5th 1864
Aged 46 years

In Loving memory of
Matilda Elizabeth
the beloved wife of
Thomas Kinchin, who died June 24th 1906 aged 51 Years

William Kinchin was born and grew up at the Lydiard estate home farm, Windmill Leaze. He took over the tenancy from his father Thomas and after a lifetime at the farm in Hook he died there in 1898. William's son William J.P. Kinchin became the tenant following his father's death but in a little over ten years the Kinchin's long reign at Windmill Leaze was over. 

Lady Bolingbroke died in 1940 and two years later what remained of the estate went up for auction at the Corn Hall in Swindon's Cattle Market. The sale particulars of the remaining portion of the Lydiard Park Estate included the historic mansion, pleasure and parklands, Windmill Leaze Farm, Creeches Farm, Cottages and allotments and several holdings of arable and pasture land, the whole comprising approximately 750 acres.

Lot 1 was described as 'an exceptionally attractive dairy and grazing farm known as Windmill Leaze Farm situated in the parish of Lydiard Tregoze comprising 175.746 acres.'

The description continues:

The Farm House is substantially built of brick and stone, with tiled and slated roofs. Containing on the Ground Floor: Dining and Drawing Rooms, Kitchen (fitted with Triplex range) Dairy and usual Domestic offices. On the First Floor: 4 bedrooms and bathroom. On the second floor: 3 good attics.

The buildings are excellent, viz:- range of timber and brick built buildings with slate roof, forming tie up for 35 cows, with water laid on. Trap house cement block, asbestos roofed garage, with lean-to oil house in which there is fixed two 250 gall storage tanks, fitted with pumps. Timber built and thatched roof building, forming tie up for 14 cows and 3 calf standings. Cart horse stable for 6, with chaff house. Blacksmith Shop. Another range of buildings to tie up 8 cows and two calving boxes with large fore courts. 3 Dutch Barns (11 bays) 4 Bay lean to to Dutch Barn forming Implement shed. Barn, fitted with large Corn Bins and platform. Nag stable for 2. Two enclosed cattle sheds with large concreted yards. A further tie up for 11 cows. 2 calving boxes. Wood house.Large fitted dog kennel. Men's Mess Room. 7 bay implement shed. Goose and fowls' houses.

The tenants fixtures comprises: in house, Triplex grate, drawing room grate, grate with tiled hearth in bedroom, bathroom furnishings, together with the hot water system throughout the house, including Airing Cloak Room and soft water supply tank.

Buildings: The lean to G.I. erection to Barn, forming two loose boxes. Wood and engine houses. Garage and oil houses with the two storage tanks. Blacksmith Shop. 3 Dutch barns and lean to implement shed. The 2½ h.p. Lister Engine and pump to main water supply. The Drinking Bowls and piping to cow sheds. Three G.I. supply tanks to receive water from Cooler. Three large wooden corn bins and platform in barn. Summer house in garden. Footbridge across brook. Cement drinking place to the four acres. Cement bottom to front yard.

Two capital cottages being well built of stone with slate roofs, each containing Living room and kitchen, 2 bedrooms and box room, lean to Wash House, together with spacious and productive garden.
Being O.S. No. 279 Area .579 acre
Tenants fixtures: Two G.I. Store houses in garden

Let on a Ladyday Tenancy to Mr F.W. Rumming.
Apportioned Rent £264 Tenant paying rates

Tithe Annuity £59 10. 0. Land Tax £11.10.0

Pending completion of sale of timber, referred to in Condition 9, The Ministry of Supply have a defined way for removal of timber over this lot.

The farm is better known today as Park Farm and is still owned by the Rumming family.

This Victorian photograph of Windmill Leaze Farm is thought to include members of the Kinchin family - published courtesy of the Rumming family.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Portrait of the week - Sir John St John (c1585-1648) later 1st Baronet

painted 1603 English School

This portrait of dashing John St John, dressed in blue silk and wearing a pearl earring, would have caused the fluttering of a few young hearts no doubt, but John was already spoken for. He was about 17 years old when this was painted in 1603, the year before his marriage.

John was the second son of Sir John and his wife Lucy Hungerford. His father died in 1594 when John was about 8 years old. His mother quickly remarried but by 1598 she too was dead.

The guardianship of the young, wealthy boy, went first to a member of the senior branch of the family, another Sir John St John, 2nd Baron St John of Bletsoe and after his death in 1596 to the boy's uncle Oliver St John. However, another gentleman had his eye on the St John family fortunes.

Sir Thomas Leighton, Governor of Guernsey, was already close to the St John family and perhaps especially so after the tragic events of the summer of 1597. On that inauspicious day in August Sir Thomas had planned a day's hunting on the nearby island of Herm, one of the perks of being Governor of Guernsey. It had not been his intention to take the party of teenagers staying with him and at Castle Cornet, but they nagged him so much he eventually succumbed. The youngsters included Walter St John, our John's elder brother who was about 15 years old at the time. Whether Sir Thomas was young Walter's guardian remains unknown.

While Sir Thomas and his party enjoyed the hunt the boys worked at their lessons, after which the whole party sat down together  to dine.

After they had eaten, the boys asked if they could go bathing, a request that was at first denied by the Governor. But these youngsters didn't give in easily and eventually Sir Thomas gave his permission on the understanding that three older men in the party accompanied them and that they didn't go too far out to sea.

The impetuous young Walter leapt into the sea ahead of the rest of the party and immediately ran into difficulties. His tutor Isaac Daubeny dived in and shouted to Walter to climb on his back, which he did, causing them both to sink. Another man called John Andros, who had hurt his foot in a previous rescue attempt, plunged into the sea again, but became entangled in the weeds. He narrowly escaped disaster by grabbing hold of a submerged rock to which he clung. 

Two others attempted a rescue, but it was John Bowyer who found the drowned body of Walter standing upright, entangled in the weeds.

Sir Thomas later became the guardian of Walter's brother John. Perhaps he felt a responsibility to the young man who had lost his parents and brother in a few short years. Sir Thomas's wife Elizabeth Knollys was a cousin of the Queen to whom she made an application for the wardship of the young man, stating they had 'a mind to match him to their daughter.' But maybe even this is not as mercenary as it might at first appear.

Still a ward of court, John married Anne at St John's Church, Hackney, close to her London home, on July 9, 1604. He was 19 years old and she was just 13. It seems unlikely that the couple set up home together immediately as the first of their 13 children was born eight years later  in 1612.

The portrait of the young John St John was purchased in 1965 and now hangs in the dining room at Lydiard House.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Portrait of the Week - William Stukeley (1687-1765)

British School

This fine gentleman whose portrait hangs in Lydiard House is antiquarian and natural philosopher William Stukeley.

William was born in Holbeach, Lincolnshire in 1687. He worked first as an apprentice clerk in his father's law firm before going on to Corpus Christi College (Bene't) Cambridge to study medicine. Following further study at St Thomas' Hospital, Southwark, William returned to Lincolnshire in 1710 where he practised as a physician in Boston.

By 1717 he was in London again where he gathered about him a circle of eminent friends including Sir Isaac Newton, William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury and Robert Walpole.

In 1722 he founded a new antiquarian society called the Society of Roman Knights whose aim was 'to adorn & preserve the truly noble Monuments of the Romans in Britain, & the truley great & stupendous works of our British Ancestors'... His antiquarian interests saw him travel the length of Hadrian's Wall and he had a particular interest in Wiltshire's two principal stone circles, Avebury and Stonehenge.

Further details of Stukeley's incredible life can be found on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website, but how did a portrait of this gentleman end up in Lydiard House? Records reveal that it was given as a gift in 1966 by Col Edward Richard Gordon St John - so what is the St John link.

William Stukeley married Frances Williamson in 1728 by whom he had three daughters, Frances, Anna and Mary. Eldest daughter Frances Stukeley married Dr Richard Fleming and their daughter Frances Fleming married John Francis Seymour St John in 1788. Her husband was the grandson of John 11th Baron St John of Bletsoe, from the senior branch of the St John family.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ody Family

to the
Memory of
Noah Ody
Who died Aug 22 1831
Aged 60 Years
Also of Ann
Daughter of the Above
Who died Oct 27 1820
Aged 3 Years
Also of
Jane daughter
who died Feb 24 1829
Aged 11 months
Also of Mary daughter
who died June 12 1837
Aged 23 Years

to the
Memory of Sarah Wife of
Noah Ody
Who died May 30 1872
aged 86 years

Until the western development of Swindon swallowed up part of the parish, Lydiard Tregoze was a small, agricultural community. Farms in the area, most of which were owned by the St John family at Lydiard House, had been occupied by members of the same families, generation after generation. They worshipped at St Mary's, married and had their children christened there and were eventually laid to rest in the small churchyard. One such family was the Ody family. This is the first in a series of blog posts about some of the people buried in the churchyard at St Mary's, Lydiard Tregoze.

The earliest reference to the Ody family in Lydiard Tregoze is recorded in the Churchwardens Accounts dated 1742 and by the turn of the 19th century the name regularly appears in the parish registers and rate books.

In 1811 Noah Ody married Sarah Clarke at St Michael's and All Angel's Church, Brinkworth - their sons and grandsons would eventually occupy many of the farms in Lydiard Tregoze, Lydiard Millicent and Purton at sometime or other.

At the beginning of the 20th century there were still plenty of Ody's farming in North Wiltshire. Trade directories list a George Ody at Herring Stream Farm, Purton in 1901 while George William Ody is at Wick Farm opposite the entrance to Lydiard Park; Nelson Ody is at Blagrove Farm and George Ody at Pry Farm, Purton in 1911. Another of Noah's great grandsons, Charles Victor, born at Church's Hills Farm in 1888 was the tenant at Lower Snodshill Farm. Owned by the Westminster Church Commissioners, Charles farmed there in 1912. The 75 acre dairy farm in the parish of Chiseldon was one of the casualties of the 1970s eastern expansion of Swindon and now lies beneath the Post House Motel at Coate.

Swindon's Hammerman poet Alfred Williams mentions Noah's grandson Charles Albert Ody in his book about South Marston - A Wiltshire Village published in 1912.

'Farmer Ody was alive then; to-day the farm is conducted by his widow. He was short, fat and corpulent. He would have been better and might have lived longer if he had worked harder...There was a big family of children. When any of these had got into mischief they were tied up to the posts in the yard with a loose cord all afternoon. They feared their papa very much; if he only looked at them severely when they were young they burst into tears.'

Noah and Sarah's gravestone is badly weathered but thanks to transcriptions collated by the Rev Brian Carne in the 1970s it is possible to read the details on this and many of the other gravestones in the churchyard at St Mary's. The list is published in The Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report No 12 published May 19, 1979. Copies are held in the Local Studies Collection at Swindon Central Library, Regents Circus.

Wick Farm - home to George William Ody in 1901

Mary Ody pictured outside Pry Farm, Purton.

Lower Shaw Farm, home to George and Elizabeth Ody and their eight children in 1871.

Alfred Williams - for more information about his life and work visit the Alfred Williams Heritage Society website.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Time Travelling in Lydiard Park

A look at last year's visit by the Woodvilles.

The Woodville re-enactors won over the locals at Lydiard Park this weekend when they set up camp on the edge of the front lawn.

Head of the household gave us a top to toe run down on those all important fashion accessories.  The lady wearing a black hat was flaunting her wealth as was the woman in white, neither did much housework apparently.  And we were told not to be fooled into thinking the man rattling his armour was a knight -  none of his bits matched and the provenance was questionable too.

The archer checking his equipment told some gory stories of the wounds inflicted by the various arrow heads while the talk on 15th century medical practices sounded marginally more painful.

A display of archery in the walled garden revealed that women were equal to the job and did you know it was the Victorians who named the famous 15th century weapon the longbow.  At the time bow was considered a perfectly adequate name.

Here are some photographs from the weekend.  If you would like to know more about the Woodvilles visit their website on

The encampment in the woods

A pint sized crossbow apprentice

Wealthy black hat wearing lady

Two posh ladies

A one knight stand - check out his armour!

At home with the Woodvilles


Handy tips - visitors were being instructed on how to get a knife through the visor of a helmet

Arriving in the Walled Garden for the archery display

Getting dressed for the part.

Warming up.

A view of the Butts

 Bow versus crossbow contest experiences technical hitch  - crossbow 5, bow 'I wasn't counting.'

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gravestones at St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze

At the March meeting of the Swindon Society guests Duncan and Mandy Ball urged us all to take photographs, lots of them. Their talk was entitled 'They didn't tell us they were knocking it down' and began with an intriguing set of photographs of piles of rubble. A salutary lesson in taking photos of buildings that sometimes have a lifespan of less than fifty years and quickly become history.

The couple's hobby began when they set about photographing the churches where their own family members had been married, brought their children to be christened and eventually were buried in the churchyard. Then they began to travel around Wiltshire taking photographs of local buildings, monuments and in particular churches, memorials and gravestones. In 1999 they built a small website to upload their photos to share with other people researching their own family history. And like Topsy the website grew and grew and grew and today comprises 2,336 pages with more than 36,000 photos.

Along with the photos of buildings past and present, Duncan and Mandy showed us gravestones to which they had made a return visit.  Some they had photographed just a couple of years ago were already so weathered that the inscriptions were lost.

The message that came across loud and clear was get out there and take some photos - which is exactly what I did this week. I returned to St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze and instead of looking up and around, I looked down and found some fascinating features I'd not noticed before.

But just to emphasise the point, here are some gravestones where it is impossible to get even a glimpse of any inscription.

Over the years gravestones have been used to patch and repair the footpath

Including one marking the death of John Jeremiah St John, the infant son of George Richard 3rd Viscount Bolingbroke and his wife Isabella.