Lifting the lid on the history of one of the town’s most fascinating churches

A TALENTED team of heritage conservationists have begun a lengthy process of discovering the hidden history of one of the most important church buildings in the borough.

St Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze has seen conservationists from Rutherfoord Conservation Limited begin their detailed examinations of the historic church within the grounds of Lydiard Park following the success of a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) earlier this year.
The team is led by the internationally acclaimed conservator Jane Rutherfoord and includes monuments conservation consultant Deborah Cartly and polychromy conservation consultant Eddie Sinclair, as well as buildings archaeologist Jill Atherton.

Jane and her team are approaching the end of two weeks on site at St Marys undertaking a detailed survey of the wall paintings, monuments and polychromy for the project in order to inform the trusts second round application to the Heritage Lottery Fund which is scheduled for submission in March 2018.

Appeal chairman Paul Gardner said: “We are extremely pleased that we have secured Jane’s expertise again following her successful conservation of the Reredos in 2016.
“Conserving the 18th century Reredos, along with associated building works, was a £40,000 project funded by the congregation, wider public and grants.”

Scaffolding has been put up in the church to allow the conservationists to get up close to the church’s historic ceilings and walls to carry out their investigations.

Jane said: “We are preserving what we find – it is conservation to honour all the additions the church has experienced over the past 900 years.
“The next stage involves all of the work that no-one ever sees us do. Once we are off site we have an enormous amount of research into the documentation that has been collated from various sources over the years.”

The £1 million Heritage Lottery funded project will restore St. Mary’s historic interiors and make it more accessible to the public with access improvements, imaginative interpretation and lively education programmes. The main focus of the delivery phase is the conservation of the extensive medieval wall paintings, which have been identified by the Church of England as one of the 100 artworks currently most in need of conservation in their 100 Church Treasures Appeal.

In conjunction with the project, the church is also planning a whole range of activities which include the involvement of local schools, volunteers, children’s theatre, skills training, imaginative interpretation and a national symposium for professionals in the heritage and conservation sector.

Over the last five years the church has successfully raised funds to restore the buildings structure and make it weather tight and in June 2016 the conservationists celebrated the restoration of the 18th century Reredos. Conserving the Reredos, along with associated building works, was a £40,000 project funded by the congregation, wider public and grants.