Lord Bolingbroke’s 21st Birthday Remembered – a stunning solid silver rosebowl restored

Category: 20th century News

In March 2024 a special party gathered on the steps of Lydiard House to recreate a historic occasion captured in photograph by The Daily Sketch on March 15th 1917.  It was Vernon St.John’s 21st birthday and the young viscount was presented with a surprising present.

Presentation of a silver rose bowl to Lord Bolingbroke by the Lydiard estate tenantry, March 15th 1915.

Celebrations were low-key on account of the war, but the tenants of the Bolingbroke estate at Lydiard Park were determined that the event should be properly marked.  Months in advance they began planning a surprise present, forming a committee to fundraise for a suitable gift.

Though everyone was suffering from hard economic times due to the war, there was genuine warmth in the relations between the Bolingbrokes and their tenants and many others associated with the old estate.  When they committee made their rounds they were handsomely rewarded. 92 people from the farm tenants to the rector to the gardeners, woodsmen, keepers, tradesmen and bailiffs clubbed together to raise an impressive sum of over £75, around £6.000 in today’s money.

Lydiard farmer Elliot Woolford recorded in his diary that the committee had intended to travel to a high end jeweller in London to select a gift but decided that was quite unnecessary as H. J. Deacons & Son Ltd, Jewellers and Silversmiths of Wood Street Swindon, could equal anything they might find in the capital.

H. J. Deacons & Sons of Swindon, early 20th Century.

Mildred Deacon who was running the family’s jewellery business at that time provided a selection of silverware from which the committee chose a magnificent solid silver rose bowl weighing over 12lbs. In addition to getting the rose bowl engraved, Elliot Woolford and his committee colleagues commissioned a beautiful presentation volume containing a list of all the subscribers. You can see a special collection of items associated with Lord Bolingbroke’s 21st birthday in The Lydiard Archives.

All these years on the rose bowl has been stunningly restored by Deacons, still in business after 175 years.  Managing Director, Richard Deacon said:

I am delighted that Deacons, as Swindon’s oldest retail business, is able to lend its support to Lydiard Park and its role in the history and story of Swindon.

A modern take on The Daily Sketch photograph of 1917. Richard Deacon presents the restored rose bowl to Swindon Museum’s Manager Frances Yeo. Behind Frances are James Woolford and his grandson Sam. Sarah Finch-Crisp stands to the left and Cllr Marina Strinkovsky is in front of the door.

Chair of the Friends of Lydiard Park, Sarah Finch-Crisp said:

It is fantastic that the rose bowl has been so beautifully restored by Deacons of Swindon, the same family business that sold it to Lord Bolingbroke’s tenants in 1917. We are delighted to  bring together Mildred Deacon’s great grandson Richard Deacon with Elliot Woolford’s grandson James Woolford and great-great grandson Sam of Hook Farm Lydiard Tregoze to recall such a historic occasion.

This year The Friends of Lydiard Park are marking the 50th anniversary of Lord Bolingbroke’s death in 1974, the last Lord to live at Lydiard Park, with a number of special events throughout the year beginning with a talk ‘Vernon St.John, 6th Viscount Bolingbroke – from out of the shadows‘.

Lydiard House re-opens to the public on March 30th when the magnificent rosebowl, and the accompanying presentation volume will be displayed.