As a Swindonian I was always familiar with Lydiard Park and House, especially the magnificent church. It is only in recent years that I have been a more frequent visitor, taking my mother there on a Sunday afternoon for a walk around the park followed by tea and cake and a look around the church. We especially liked to visit when the snow drops were out. My mother had lived at the park in the temporary homes set up after the war, and she say how afraid she was walking back through the park in the dark, on her return from work in Swindon.
Following retirement I started looking for some voluntary work and by chance saw that the Friends were looking for volunteers, there were lots of possibilities but what really interested me was to be involved with something relating to the history of the house and family. Who could not be excited by the family history displayed in the church, especially the polyptych? Then I noticed on the Friends website something called ‘Project Archive’ and I contacted Sarah to find out if volunteers were needed for this.
I mentioned in conversation with Sarah that I was a long-time member of the Richard III Society and was on their research committee, having served as research officer for some years, and was currently the research conference organiser. I have also written articles for both the quarterly newsletter and the annual journal and give talks to Society branches and groups on aspects of late fifteenth history as well as Richard III. My primary interest is in the Woodvile family, and having completed a part-time PhD in 2012, my book based on that research, ‘Brought up of Nought – A history of the Woodvile Family’, finally came out in December 2019. I am something of a research addict. Before I knew it I was involved in ‘Project Archive’!
The advent of covid-19 and lockdown meant some early plans had to be abandoned. However lockdown has provided some unexpected opportunities. Restricted to what could be done on line, I have been able to search The National Archives catalogue to find out what records existed for the St.John family and Lydiard Park. This also provided a database of various archives around the country and their holdings on the family. More exciting was that I could trace wills relating not only to the St.Johns but to people living at Lydiard during the period 1384-1858, and the National Archive was offering access to these digitised wills free of charge. Originally limited to fifty a month this increased to a hundred and I have just completed downloading all the wills I could trace. Thus the ‘Wills Project’ was born.
Having collected all the wills, they now need to be transcribed. If anyone is able to help out please do get in touch. There is so much to discover!