Saturday, 23 February 2008

"The Church in the Park" - St Mary's, Lydiard Tregoze

The Yew Tree in the churchyard at St Mary's, Lydiad Tregose
Almost every churchyard has a yew tree - the common name is derived from Old English iw signifying its evergreen character. Both foliage and berries are poisonous though it was thought to protect from evil spirits. The ancients would not sit in the shade of a yew tree or place their bee-hives nearby in case the bees sucked the poison - nor would they drink wine from a bowl carved from the wood.

A snapshot of the "church in the park"
Once part of the village Lydiard Tregoze, the little church is all that remains of a village that disappeared 300 years ago. The Lydiard Manor House stands adjacent to the church and dates from the 1700's (although a house could have been on the site since the middle ages). The name Lydiard occurs in many forms and is a derivation of Anglo-Saxon - Leod (people) and Geard (enclosure).

St Mary's Church is one of England's finest small churches. It is richly packed with monuments to the St John family, including the Golden Cavalier - a life size effigy of Edward St John. There are wall paintings, beautiful stained glass windows and a ceiling that is painted with the sun, moon and stars.
Antedocks-well, Lydiard Tregoze
Aubrey reported in 1862 'At a place in this parish, is a Well, the water whereof, as I am informed, was heretofore famous for curing many diseases and working miracles, in the old time'. I don't know if this well still exists - tracking it down remains for another day.
A gargoyle - a cat ?

The St John family Coat of Arms - dated 1633
Coming upon this mellowed little church is one of the joys of a visit to Lydiard Park - it stands in its own churchyard, complete with ancient yew and lichen covered gravestones, it just belongs totally to its setting. Also reputed to have a healing well nearby (see above).