One of the striking features of the £5 million restoration project at Lydiard Park is the crenellated walkway along the renovated dam wall overlooking the former gamekeeper’s cottage.
Robert Hiscocks, born in Lydiard Tregoze in 1809, was employed as gamekeeper on the Lydiard Park estate through much of the 19th century. At the time of the 1841 census he lived at Brook Cottage with his wife Mary and their four daughters Elizabeth, Susannah, Hannah and Emma. Ten years later and the family had increased by three, another daughter Charlotte and two sons, Giles and Henry, also known as Harry.
The duties of the Lydiard Park gamekeeper included the rearing of his lordships pheasants, controlling predators such as foxes and warding off poachers. Victorian gamekeepers were known to shoot at anything that threatened the birds under their protection.
Sporting rights across the estate were protected in the farm leases, reserving all game and the exclusive right of sporting for the titled family at the mansion house.
Harry worked alongside his father as gamekeeper and by 1871 he was married, still living at Brook with his parents, unmarried sister and his niece, (Mary Emily) Elizabeth Howard in the census taken the same year.
Like his father Robert, Harry continued in the employment of Lord Bolingbroke when the fortunes of the Hiscocks family took a surprising turn from which Harry’s son Edward would ultimately benefit - but he had to wait a long time.
In 1881 Henry, 5th Viscount Bolingbroke, already engaged in a clandestine relationship with another woman, became acquainted with Mary Emily Elizabeth Howard, Robert Hiscocks twenty-two year old granddaughter. Insistent that this affair, like his other, should also remain secret, Lord Bolingbroke moved Mary to Bath where the couple lived under the alias Mr & Mrs Wilson. On their occasional visits to Lydiard Park Mary resumed her former role as Miss Howard, housekeeper, with the two sons she had borne Henry remaining in Bath.
Lord Bolingbroke did eventually marry Mary and a third, legitimate, son Vernon was born in 1896, but the saga did not become public knowledge until after Henry’s death in 1899.
Left to manage the debt ridden Lydiard estate, Mary turned to her cousin Edward for help, installing him in the mansion house as her ‘estate agent.’ Less than popular among the tenant farming families with whom he had grown up, Edward’s arrogant, overbearing attitude earned him the derisory title of Lord Ted. Edward did rather well out of his improved circumstances and the Inland Revenue returns of 1910 saw him occupying 134 acres at Parkside Farm, Lydiard Millicent and another 198 acres at Flaxlands in Lydiard Tregoze.
As executor of Mary’s will, it was Edward who brokered the sale of the mansion house and 147 acres of parkland to Swindon Corporation in 1943.
Mary died in 1940 and with Lydiard House falling down around them, Edward and his cousin Vernon moved out and down the lane to Brook Cottage. Vernon, 6th Lord Bolingbroke spent the last of the family’s 500 year reign at Lydiard Park living in the cottage once occupied by his great-grandfather, gamekeeper Robert Hiscocks.
Vernon eventually made his home in Ringwood, Hampshire where he died on May 1, 1974.
Images are courtesy of Lydiard Park visit www.lydiardpark.org.uk