Saturday, June 17, 2017

Strawberry Tea and Noah Ody.

Why don't you treat dad to a strawberry tea at St Mary's Church, Lydiard Park on Father's Day and while you're there have a wander around the ancient churchyard where burials have taken place for more than 700 years?

The oldest burial on record at St Mary's is that of Rebekah Jacob the daughter of Charles Jacob who was buried on May 6, 1666.

The first member of the Ody family laid to rest in the churchyard is that of Richard Ody who was buried on February 21, 1749.

My interest in the Ody family began with Noah, the son of George Pike Ody and his wife Mary. Noah married Sarah Clark at Brinkworth parish church on November 25, 1811 and the couple went on to have twelve children. Their sons became farmers and their daughters married farmers and this large family populated many of the farms in the local parishes.

With his large family of sons, Noah worked three farms; Hayes Knoll in Purton and Purleys and Flaxlands in Lydiard Tregoze. At the time of the 1841 census Noah can be found at Hays Knoll while his sons George 25, Noah 22 and William 19 are in Lydiard Tregoze with their 17 year old sister Sarah and younger brother Walter aged 10.

By 1871 two of Noah's sons are established in the Lydiard Tregoze farming community. George, who took over Purleys on the death of his father, is now at Wickfield Farm, part of the neighbouring Meux estate. Walter is at Lord Bolingbroke's Flaxlands Farm while brothers Thomas and William are farming in Purton and John and Noah in Brinkworth.

At the beginning of the 20th century there were still plenty of Ody's farming in North Wiltshire. Trade directories list a George Ody at Herring Stream Farm, Purton in 1901 while George William Ody is at Wick Farm opposite the entrance to Lydiard Park; Nelson Ody is at Blagrove Farm and George Ody at Pry Farm, Purton in 1911.

Another of Noah's great grandsons, Charles Victor, born at Church's Hills Farm in 1888 was the tenant at Lower Snodshill Farm. Owned by the Westminster Church Commissioners, Charles farmed there in 1912. The 75 acre dairy farm in the parish of Chiseldon was one of the casualties of the 1970s eastern expansion of Swindon and now lies beneath the Post House Motel at Coate.

Here we have a headstone with the details of Noah and Sarah on it, although whether Noah actually lies here remains a mystery as there is no mention of his burial in the parish registers. His mother Mary and father George are buried close by.

Noah and Sarah's gravestone is badly weathered but thanks to transcriptions collated by the late Rev Brian Carne in the 1970s it is possible to read the details on this and many of the other gravestones in the churchyard at St. Mary's. The list is published in The Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report No 12 published May 19, 1979. Copies are held in the Local Studies Collection at Swindon Central Library,

You might like to consider joining the Friends of Lydiard Park. Visit the website for more information.

Strawberry tea served every Sunday in June - the first one was a bit wet!

Photographs of Noah and George Ody's headstones are published courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

An Imaginary Tour by George Rose

This month Lydiard House celebrates 62 years of opening its doors to the public. However, the gorgeous Palladian mansion we see today was in a state of dereliction when Swindon Corporation bought the estate in 1943 and it would be more than ten years before Lydiard House was accessible to the public.

In May 1955 Lord Lansdown opened the state rooms at Lydiard House and even provided some furniture for the empty rooms from his home at Bowood House, which was also undergoing some significant changes.

The following year George Rose was appointed as caretaker and guide and lived with his wife in the caretaker’s flat for 12 years. George retired in 1968 but two years later suffered a devastating stroke. Although severely disabled, George wanted to leave a record of the House he had loved and cared from during its period of restoration.

His account was published in June 1975 in the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report No 8, just six months after his death. George’s work was entitled ‘An Imaginary Tour’ during which he shows us around areas of the House largely unseen even today.

He begins outside with the coach house and stable block, now transformed into a tea room, but then used as hostel accommodation for youth organisations. George writes:

“The ground floor of the stable block is taken up by six loose boxes, craftsman built and well ventilated, each with its own manger and soak away, together with a harness room. The latter has a fireplace – not to keep the stable hands warm but to keep the harness pliable!”

George mentions the newly built accommodation block for the Management Centre (Lydiard Park Conference Centre), which he describes as being a “monstrosity, more suited to a concrete jungle than a Georgian building.”

As the tour continues George takes the reader across a cobbled courtyard. Here there was a large barn for storing hay and various outbuildings, one used as a pig sty, another for rearing pheasants.

Entering the building we now wend our way through wash-house and drying room, to the bake-house and the kitchen with a tall iron cooking range and “a large recess, backed with a cast-iron plate, formerly for an open fire and spit. Hooks for hanging game and other meats hang from the ceiling and down the centre of the room stands a huge wooden preparation table with a scrubbed deal top.

In his mind’s eye George leads us through the house with which he was so familiar. We enter the bedroom where Lady Bolingbroke spent her last bedridden days, looking out the window to the church below where she watched people on their way to worship.

George takes us upstairs to the attics where he points out the stone plaque commemorating the rebuilding of the house in 1743.

Now we are back downstairs in the wine cellar where George describes “slate shelving under arched brick work.”

The high blank wall demolished, the stone floors covered over and the old laundry fitted with shower baths, George looked forward to the day when the Mansion would be put to good use.

George died on December 1, 1974. His request that his ashes should be scattered in Lydiard Park was granted by the local authority.

Lady Bolingbroke taking tea on the lawn in front of Lydiard House

wisteria climbing the Coach House Tea Rooms

“The ground floor of the stable block is taken up by six loose boxes, craftsman built and well ventilated, each with its own manger and soak away ....

The commemorative plaque in the attic

Wine Cellars

The view from Lady Bolingbroke's bedroom

View of the back of Lydiard House

Another view of the back entrance to Lydiard House
View of Lydiard House from St Mary's churchyard

Floor plan made following the purchase of Lydiard House and Park by Swindon Corporation in 1943