‘Not long ago’ becomes history quite quickly! The Friends of Lydiard Park want to make sure that we capture photographs and people’s memories of Lydiard’s 80 years in public ownership. Your pictures help preserve this remarkable story, told below.
In November 1943, against a backdrop of World War II, Swindon Corporation purchased Lydiard House and 147 acres of surrounding parkland for £4,500. It was a brave and visionary move, led by the then Town Clerk, David Murray John. It was also controversial, given the needs of the town, the presence of an American Hospital Camp in the park and the potential cost of restoration. However, Murray John and the Corporation had a vision for the future in which Lydiard Park would play an important role, providing access to the countryside and recreation as well as culture, heritage and education.
From 1950 to 1960 Lydiard Park provided temporary homes for hundreds of local people in the converted military camp. The parkland was a children’s paradise. Many had left cramped housing conditions in the town and surrounding villages and the huts with inside toilets, heating and new kitchen appliances were a boon.
The House opened to the public in 1955 and the park began to draw a wider townwide audience enjoying picnics and walks. It also became an exciting destination for Cub Scouts and Brownie camps. In the 1980’s the council introduced sports pitches, purchased a further 113 acres of the original parkland and built the Visitor Centre with its refreshment facilities.
In 2004-7 over one thousand local people got involved in the £5.3 million Lydiard Park Project Restoration Project which reinstated the lost lake and Walled Garden and installed miles of paths and new woodland. The restored park was formerly opened by HRH Princess Anne in June 2007. Since then, the popularity of the park has soared and it provides a venue for music festivals, steam and vintage rallies, Parkrun and many other activities.
Sarah Finch-Crisp, Chair of the Friends of Lydiard Park, said:
“In 1943, an estate that had belonged in private hands since medieval times became a people’s park. The restoration of the landscape and the rescue of the house took decades to achieve but the journey has been shared by local people. We are now asking everyone to dig into their memories and their photograph albums for pictures and stories that capture their experience of Lydiard Park over the past 80 years.”
Brian Pinchbeck, Director of Operations at Swindon Borough Council said,
“Lydiard Park is a special place and this milestone year marks 80 years under public ownership.
In May we reopened the refurbished hotel and events centre, a fantastic facility which will help support the upkeep and enhancement of Lydiard Park for years to come. We are delighted to be sharing this anniversary celebration with The Friends of Lydiard Park and Swindon residents.”
People are asked to continue sending in their stories and photographs to [email protected]