St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoz, has exciting plans to host an evening of music and poetry.
The event, will take place on Saturday 15th July, and will see two local music groups, Strictly Recorders and the Wentworth Singers, combine forces to raise funds for St Mary’s Church Conservation Project.
Inspired by summer, and nature, the concert’s theme is All things Bright and Beautiful. The evening will feature a mixture of traditional, and not-so-traditional, pieces by the two local groups; including some popular classics, such as For the Beauty of the Earth, arranged by John Rutter, and a selection from Handel’s Water Music.
There will be light refreshments, tea and cake, on offer, and the event, as well as rising vital funds, will provide an enjoyable opportunity to appreciate the unique acoustics of the church.
The tradition of choral music is probably as old as the church itself. The recorder, in one form or another, is one of the earliest instruments, its origins laying with the strolling troubadours of the South of France. Perhaps not surprisingly then, organiser, Susan White, likes to imagine the evening’s players following in the footsteps of their ancient forebears, going back to their roots. Certainly, the church will provide a unique venue for the event, with the players seated in the St James family pew.
Despite being on our doorstep, St Mary’s, remains something of a hidden gem. Dating back to the twelfth century, it has been described as one of England’s finest small churches. Although host to an increasing number of visitors, many of us remain unaware of its significance, and little known treasures.
Church Care has identified St Mary’s as having one of the 100 art works most in need of restoration.
The diminutive church has an extensive collection of medieval wall paintings, fragments of angels with banners, crowns and sun, as well as the more famous 17th century monuments. These include the Golden Cavalier, a full-size effigy of Edward St John, who died of injuries sustained in the Battle of Newbury, during the English Civil War, and the St John Polyptych (often called “the Triptych, although it has eleven visible panels when open).
The 17th century antiquarian John Aubrey described St. Mary’s Church as ‘exceeding all the churches in this countie’ on account of its fine monuments to the St. John family. And, more recently, historian and writer, Simon Jenkins, has said of the church, that, “Were the South Chapel to be removed lock, stock and barrel to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, it would cause a sensation.”
However, despite its treasures, until relatively recently, the church was on English Heritage’s Grade 1 Buildings At Risk Register. Fortunately, St Mary’s has started to see a turn in its fortune. A conservation project, and fund raising, supported by the Friends of Lydiard Park, aims to restore the building to its former glory, and in December 2016, this beautiful little church secured an initial Heritage Lottery Funding grant. This provided £131,700 towards the £186,700, required for the first phase of the restoration project.
A second phase of restoration will seek additional Lottery Funding, and allow the church to continue with its restoration work. This will include work to improve public access and community engagement. For example, the church plans a welcoming interpretation and activity area, and to develop its educational work.
Tickets for the event are available on the door, and are priced at £5.00. Why not come along, and enjoy a relaxing evening of musical entertainment, and help to support one of the jewels of our local heritage?
St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoz, Saturday 15th July 2017, 7.30pm.