St. Mary’s Church is attracting record numbers of visitors with well over 7,000 people enjoying the building and taking part in project events this year. And as the church waits for news on its Heritage Lottery Fund bid in December activities and events continue.
Heritage Open Days: Autumn got off to a flying start with Heritage Open Days in September when the church laid on talks, tours and the chance to climb the bell tower and see the ancient bells close up. St. Mary’s also took part in the 500 church bell ringing event which rang simultaneously across the country.
The Big Draw: In October Swindon College Students studying creative arts, design and illustration set up their drawing boards in St. Mary’s as part of The Big Draw – a nationwide celebration of drawing. Swindon College Associate Lecturer Joanna Billingham said “We heard about the conservation project at the church and saw the amazing medieval wall paintings and the church’s artefacts and we thought it would be great to have a trip with the students. … not only so they could see these amazing things in the church themselves, but also to spend some time really looking. Because that’s what drawing forces you to do – to really look closely at things as though it were the first time you have seen them.”
Alan Titchmarsh has also dropped by, filming in the church for the ITV Masterpiece which will be broadcast in spring 2017. The programme will feature the famous 17th Century St. John family Triptych.
Meanwhile, not a month goes by without several academics visiting St. Mary’s as part of their research, often providing new insights and observations on this extraordinary building – not least Julian Orbach who is currently producing the 3rd edition of ‘Pevsner’s Buildings of England, Wiltshire’.
Annual Garden of Remembrance: On a more solemn note November 10th saw the annual Remembrance Service in Lydiard’s Walled Garden –opened by HRH Prince Harry in 2010, it is one of the 7 National Gardens of Remembrance in the country. Revd. Clive Deverell of St. Mary’s officiated the service which was attended by the family and friends of those fallen or harmed in recent conflicts together with representatives of the armed services, the Royal British Legion and local dignitaries. West Swindon school children brought a new dimension to the service, singing “Respect and Unity “which was originally composed by St. Mary’s Primary Age School Worker Gayle Bryon, for the Queens 90th birthday celebrations at the church.
The Walled Garden and St .Mary’s Church opened every day between 10th and 20th November 2016. A short service of remembrance including a two minute silence was held at 11am and 2pm in the walled garden every day, concluding with the closing service of the field of remembrance on the 20th November 2016 by St Marys.
One of St. Mary’s project ambitions is to create a permanent memorial within St. Mary’s for the many people making the pilgrimage to the garden during the rest of the year.
If you would like to find out more about the conservation project, whether to become involved or perhaps you belong to a local group that would enjoy a tour of the church please do contact Paul Gardner on email@example.com