Gill Carne Part 2

What was it like to be immersed in parish life in the 1960s, bring up a family and enable her husband, Revd. Brian Carne, to pursue his fascination with the history of Lydiard Tregoz*?  In Part 2 of her reflections Gill Carne describes how the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz came about and how history can become just a little tedious!

‘Brian worked in his study in just a shirt, no pullover in all weather – very keen to start and do well at his church work at the Lydiards.  One day, he came back from Tregoz very frustrated, this feeling escalated.  He knew nothing of the history of the church memorials and had to admit to failure when visitors questioned him. Admitting defeat was not in his nature!

However, a great day arrived– he was at Tregoz (St .Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze) and a man walked in who had worked on the history of the church for years – Mr Frank Smallwood, a history master at The Sir Walter St.John School in Battersea. The two immediately made friends and began working together on the history;  visiting libraries and museums in London and Oxford. Brian worked on the people’s notes at first putting facts in order, reading books on the St.John family, reading inscriptions, anything about the family.  Mr. Smallwood read what he had written and together they meticulously verified the facts they’d gleaned. Every spelling, comma, the size of plaques, pictures and triptych needed to be accurate.  They found mistakes in books, lectures, all kinds of mistakes. The two of them wanted to provide as true a history as was at all possible.’

Revd. Brian Carne pointing out details on the St.John family Polyptych (formerly known as The Triptych), 1960s.

Pursuing the history of Lydiard Tregoze brought many visitors to the Rectory, quite apart from visiting clergy and church workers, many of whom would stay overnight.

‘Visiting clergy, wall mural experts, Mr Smallwood, church workers stayed the night or joined us for meals. Often we were at the other end of the diocese – the M4 motorway hadn’t been built so travel was slow and somewhat difficult.  Mr Smallwood came to stay quite often.  I had the two children and meal times were awful and took hours with meticulous explanations of historic details. So if you were discussing a horse for example – what type of horse was it? The Latin origin of its name?  On and on!  Brian and Mr Smallwood expected us all to stay the course and the children found this hard going.  However, one day Mr Smallwood had a child each side of him on the sofa. He had a comic which he was to read to them. Hours later he had read and described three of the pictures in the comic and the children were enthralled. It was hugely amusing. I would have read three of four whole comics to them in the time he took with those three pictures on the first page.’

The upshot of Brian and Mr Smallwood’s collaboration was their formation of The Friends of Lydiard Tregoz in 1967, with an annual lecture and a historical Report which proved laborious to produce.

‘Brian no longer felt defeated when visitors asked questions and became more and more knowledgeable. He spent all of his time on church maters and Friends of Lydiard Tregoz. He loved it and I tried where possible to help.  He typed all the early reports.   We had a copier which had a handle you turned to push the sheets of paper through.  It took time.  Each side had to be done in turn and then they were stapled together.  One day Brian decided to do this in the garden. The wind blew and the papers ended in somewhat a mess. This was not repeated.

Gill Carne with her Friends of Lydiard Tregoz celebration cake, c1967

The Friends of Lydiard Tregoz meetings were in the entrance hall of the mansion. It was all very erudite and again meticulously organized.  People came and received their annual reports and listened to excellent speakers. Joan Rumming always came with her band of helpers and prepared tea, sandwiches, cakes etc. I used to make about five dozen cakes and I also made celebration cakes when needed.  Tea was in the Dining Room usually followed by Evensong in church.

One of many wedding receptions at Lydiard House in the 1960s. Does anyone know the bride that Revd. Brian Carne is standing next to?

I made masses of cakes and sandwiches for events, school parties and The Friends of Lydiard Tregoz as well as things to sell in bazaars. We entertained at the Rectory and went to parties in people’s homes as well as weddings and funerals. There were some wonderful parties – tables groaning with food, whole salmon, duck, hams, beef, pheasant etc. followed by huge bowls of trifle and double cream on top, plus much much and many many more. I remember a whole Stilton scooped out a bit in the middle (I think) with brandy poured in. We went to one party in a Swindon hotel, then on to church and mince pies, ending up at Restrop Manor where there was haggis followed by wonderful wines. I remember Brian and I driving home doing a slalom from one side of the road to the other in the early hours of New Years Day’.

*The Friends of Lydiard Tregoz were the forerunner to The Friends of Lydiard Park. (The ‘e’ was left off Tregoze on the insistence of the late Mrs. Large, a stalwart of the church, who preferred that spelling)   In 2005, during the restoration of Lydiard Park the Friends decided to change their name and become a Registered Charity.

Next month read the third and final part 3 of Gill’s reflections, with some startling and subterranean recollections of the St.John family.

Gill Carne with her son David and daughter Pip, Lydiard Park, May 2022

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