Monday, November 14, 2011

St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze

The historical and architectural importance of St Mary's, Lydiard Tregoze was recognised in Simon Jenkin's book 'England's Thousand Best Churches,' published in 1999.

A church has stood on the site since 1100 and the medieval hollow way, a 12th century road along which parishioners made their way to worship runs through the parkland and across the fields.

The nave, part of the north aisle and the font date from the 13th century while building in the 15th century added the tower, the south aisle, the chancel, chapel and a new roof.

Wall paintings dating from 1400-1450 were rediscovered during restoration work in 1901.

Although the St John's brought their babies to be baptised at the 13th century font and were buried in the family vault beneath the south chapel, they invariably chose to marry elsewhere.

However the parish church has solemnized a good few weddings - over 1000 and that's only between 1666 and 1840.

It was Henry VIII's right hand man Thomas Cromwell, Vicar General, who issued a 1538 edict in the wake of the dissolution of the monasteries that the clergy keep records of all baptisms, marriages and burials. Few of these earliest registers survive but those at St. Mary's date from 1666 with the first recorded marriage between Richard Herringe and Elizabeth Holloway on February 9.

The number of marriages in the small rural parish fluctuated during this period. In 1682 there were 20 while in 1712 there was just one.

October was by far the most popular month for marriages during this time with around 180 weddings, seven in 1680 alone. With the Michaelmas tenancies secured and the harvest out the way, this apears to have been a favourite month to wed.

The summer months of June and July notched up just 128, presumably everyone was too preoccupied during this busy time in the agricultural calendar. Just 56 couples married in January during the 174 year period between 1666 and 1840.

In the mid 19th century one local family celebrated seven weddings, two of them on May 4, 1841.

Jonas Clarke, tenant at Wick Farm, married Alice Pinnel in 1853. The couple had lived together for more than thirty years but had to wait for the death of Jonas' first wife before they could marry.

The first of Jonas and Alice's five daughters to tie the knot was Alice with John Wyatt a farmer from Wootton Bassett in 1839.

The double wedding in 1841 was between two more Clarke daughters, Sarah who married Thomas Hall, a farmer from Broad Blunsdon and Jane who married Francis Carey, also from Broad Blunsdon.

Mary Clarke married William Knapp, a Swindon grocer, on May 4, 1847 and youngest daughter Anne married Walter London, a draper from Aldershot while son Jonas married widow Elizabeth Bathe Humphries in 1859.

The Village Wedding by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes (1883)

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