Life Member of the Friends, Christine has clocked up a fantastic record, transcribing 50 historic wills relating to Lydiard Tregoze. Here she tells us how she got involved in volunteering for the 100 Wills Project and why it’s so compulsive.
‘Having lived in Swindon for most of my life I remember coming to the park as a child and adult, bringing my children when they were young to play in the play areas and have picnics. In 2015 I found out about The Friends of Lydiard Park, (can’t remember how, possibly via social media or the council website) and decided to join as a life member. I have been interested in local history for many years and enjoyed visiting the house when I could. Since then, I have enjoyed attending the literary talks, Christmas socials and summer outings.
When I read about the 100 Wills Project in 2021, it sounded interesting and as a touch typist something I could do easily at home. I contacted the project leader, Lynda Pidgeon, and she emailed me my first will which was for Revd. Timothy Dewell, 1692. Revd. Dewell was Rector of St. Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze for 42 years and a close friend of Sir Walter and Lady Johanna St.John of Lydiard Park. At that time the substantial Lydiard Rectory stood just East of the churchyard. You can read about Timothy Dewell in Report no 6 of the Friends of Lydiard Park.
The first few wills were quite difficult to transcribe due to the handwriting and spellings especially surnames. However, I found it interesting to try and find information online regarding people and places mentioned. As with everything the more you do the easier it becomes and you get to recognise commonly used phrases and words of a particular period. The earliest one I have done is Adrian Frye 1603, who was a resident of Lydiard Millicent. Most of the wills I have transcribed recently were written in the 19th century. There were a lot of clergymen in the St John family some of whom appear to have been quite well off!
One interesting and rather long one, was the will of General Frederick St John, second son of Lady Diana Spencer and Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke who died in 1844. Frederick had a distinguished military career and many adventures, surviving shipwreck and capture by pirates in 1800. You can see his portrait hanging in the State Bedroom at Lydiard House.
The will I have just started to transcribe will be my 50th one and is 13 pages long!’
If you are interested in being a volunteer transcriber find out more here.