Thursday, October 22, 2015

Portrait of the week - George Richard

by John Hopner

purchased 1965

Like everything else in his life, George Richard's will was complicated. The original ran to 7,000 words across nineteen pages and was proved on February 14, 1825.

The summarized version reproduced in The Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report 22 published in 1989 pays particular attention to the property and estate. Woodland in the parishes of Purton, Lydiard Tregoze, Lydiard Millicent and Broad Hinton was to go on the market with George Richard's eldest, abandoned son Henry having first option to buy them for £35,000.

To George and Edward Barton the two surviving sons of his incestuous relationship with his half sister Mary Beauclerk, he leaves £1,200 each. His other children receive varying amounts. George Frederick £1,000; William James, a Cornet in the 13th Regiment of Light Dragoons, £3,000; Joseph Henry, an Ensign in the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards £4,000. His two sons Ferdinand and Charles are to received £3,000 each when they reach the age of 21. His daughters Isabella Marianne and Antoinette Diana who were then both living at Lydiard House, would receive £6,000 each when they either reached the age of 21 or when they married.

There is no mention of personal bequests in this summarized version - no bed furnishings, no pieces of jewellery, no items of clothing. George Richard writes: 'All the rest of my Manors and property I devise to my Wife Isabella, Viscountess Bolingbroke, together with 'All my household Goods and Furniture Books pictures and prints of every kind plate Linen China Wines Liquors Horses Carriages and Harness.'

Apparently everything else was devised to the executors to convert into money and to be invested.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Tale of Two Trees




Some of the lakeside trees at Lydiard Park are believed to be nearly 250 years old, dating from the mid 18th century redevelopment of the parkland. In 1743 John, 2nd Viscount St John, remodelled the medieval mansion house with his wealthy wife's inheritance before turning his attention to the parkland. He swept away the old formal gardens and introduced the new, 'natural' looking landscape popularised by leading English landscape artist Lancelot 'Capability' Brown.

In recent years the vagaries of the British weather have taken their toll on the trees at Lydiard Park and when this majestic tree (pictured above) close to the house was brought down in heavy winds, I was told the sad story of a grieving mother who planted two trees for the sons she had lost fighting in the Civil Wars.

I wondered why I had never heard this poignant story before ...

The mother in question was Anne Leighton, Lady St John, the wife of Sir John St John, 1st Baronet. But there were a few inconsistencies in the story - firstly, three sons, not two fell during the 17th century wars.

William was the first to die, killed in action fighting alongside Prince Rupert at Cirencester in 1642/3. John was killed when the Royal garrison at Newark was blockaded during the winter of the same year. The third of Anne's sons to die fighting for the Royalist cause was Edward, wounded at the Second Battle of Newbury on October 27, 1644. Edward returned to Lydiard House where he lingered, eventually dying from his wounds more than five months later.

But there was an even greater problem with this heart rendering story; Anne Leighton, died following the birth of her 13th child in 1628, long before the outbreak of war.

But then, I reflected, perhaps it was the action of a grieving stepmother, Sir John's second wife Margaret Whitmore, Lady Grobham. She married Sir John two years after the death of his first wife and played an active role in raising his young family. But Lady Margaret died in 1637, several years before the death of her Cavalier stepsons.

I duly reported all this back to the teller of the tale. 'Ah well,' he said, 'it makes a good story!'