Story from the 31st March Swindon Advertiser:
180-YEAR-OLD watercolour has been returned to St Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze alongside the medieval wall painting that inspired it.
The painting of Thomas Beckett was unveiled at the church on Maundy Thursday following its conservation for the public to view and compare with the original wall painting of Thomas Becket within the church.
Thomas Becket was martyred in Canterbury Cathedral on December 29, 1170 AD, and became the national saint in England and the focus of pilgrimage to Canterbury. Over the course of around 350 years thousands of pilgrims visited his shrine.
The Friends of Lydiard Park funded the conservation and framing of the Beckett watercolour as part of their long established programme of supporting object conservation at St Mary’s Church and Lydiard House. The watercolour has been in the care of the Brake family, who have chosen to return it to the church within the grounds of Lydiard Park.
Stephen Brake said “The family is delighted that they were able to make this historic donation to St Mary’s. The painting has been protected and survived across several generations of the family many of whom have had a close connection and love for the local parish. We are honoured to continue to follow in our ancestors tradition by supporting St Mary’s Church and Lydiard.”
Alastair Stevenson, chairman of Lydiard Park Friends said: “Thanks to the generosity of the Brake family, this important picture will now become part of the fascinating history to be seen at St. Mary’s. The Friends of Lydiard Park are delighted to have played a part in its return.”
In conjunction with the return of the painting to St Mary’s, town historian Frances Bevan penned an article in the final edition of Swindon Heritage magazine.
Paul Gardner, chairman of St Mary’s Conservation Project said: “I am extremely grateful and delighted at the return to St Mary’s of the restored 180-year-old painting which is a detail of the medieval Thomas Becket wall painting.”The Brake family who have worshipped at St Mary’s for more than 200 years were so impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of the project to the conservation of the medieval wall paintings they wished to donate the painting to St Marys where it can be viewed and appreciated by the public in perpetuity.”
The Heritage Lottery Funded Conservation Project at St Marys – of which the conservation of Thomas Becket is at the very heart of – has faced the task of raising £267,000 in match funding.But the balance to raise now stands at £54,000 following the receipt of a substantial individual donation and the awards of grants from the Friends of Lydiard Park, Garfield Weston Foundation, Allchurches Trust, St Andrews Conservation, The Leche Trust, Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust, The Alan Evans Memorial Trust and continued public fundraising.
The second round application will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund in June 2108.