The project aims include conserving the buildings extensive medieval wall paintings, 17th Century monuments like the famous Golden Cavalier, ancient carved woodwork and star spangled ceiling.
The grant of £131,700 towards this £186,700 phase will enable the church to complete its development plans and progress to applying for a full grant of £746,700 in 2017/18. The project aims to rescue the church from deteriorating further and improve public access, re-open the hidden south porch and create 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, school children 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.
It currently attracts over 8,000 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.
Recently Swindon College students honed their drawing skills in the building as part of the national Big Draw event.
Rt. Reverend Dr Lee Rayfield, Bishop of Swindon said: ‘We are delighted that Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. St. Mary’s is a national treasure and preserving its unique features will benefit both local people and the nation’s heritage.’
'It is wonderful news and we are immensely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and very excited about taking our plans forward, especially working with the many organisations from across the town – The Friends of Lydiard Park, schools, colleges, NADFAS groups, Swindon Festival of Literature, Prime Theatre, Swindon Heritage and many more – that have enthusiastically supported the project and pledged their support and involvement,’ said Project Manager Hilary Gardner.
‘We have successfully raised the match funded of £55,000 needed for this stage of the project and thank the Heritage Lottery Fund whole heartedly for making this crucial award. We are looking forward to beginning this new and exciting phase early in the New Year,' added Paul Gardner, Chairman of the Fund Raising Campaign.
Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West said: “At the heart of Swindon’s Lydiard Park, St Mary’s 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’re delighted to support this vital first step towards securing the future of the collection and its historic Grade I Listed home and enabling even more people to enjoy the stories they hold.”
St. Mary’s Church belongs to the Church of England and is a member of a Partnership of churches in West Swindon. It is a vibrant working church with a dedicated vicar and regular Sunday services.
Among the treasures you can see inside the church are the medieval wallpaintings which include the risen Jesus on the Pillar (dating from around 1450) and a rare example of the Martyrdom of St Thomas a Becket and the spectacular polyptych recording the St John family tree, complete with family portrait of John St John 1st Baronet, his parents, wife and six sisters.
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.
This Christmas join the congregation for Open Air Carols by lantern light in front of Lydiard House, Wednesday December 21, 6.30 pm.
Christmas services include the Family Crib Service at 4 pm Christmas Eve and the First Communion of Christmas at 11 pm Christmas Eve. The Christmas Day Family Service with Communion takes place at 10 am.
*Heritage Grant applications are assessed in two rounds. A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.