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Historic church still short in its bid for £1m restoration
A church once owned by one of the most powerful women in history is still seeking funds for a huge £1m restoration project.
St Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze Church, in Lydiard Park, benefited from its strong connections to Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and a prominent character in BBC drama The White Queen, based on a novel by Philippa Gregory.
Beaufort was one of three women vying for power during the so-called ‘Cousin’s War’, the War of the Roses, and was dubbed the Red Queen.
As mother of the king, she enjoyed powers far in excess of other women of the time, and was granted special commission to administer justice in the north of England.
Paul Gardner, of St Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze, said: “The owner of the church and the lands in the 15th century was Oliver St John, who married a woman called Margaret Beauchamp in 1420.
“After he died in 1487, she remarried to John Beaufort. They kept the lands around Lydiard Tregoze, later becoming the first Earl and Duchess of Somerset. They had a daughter, who was Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII.
“After Henry came to the throne the St Johns had unprecedented access to the Tudor court, because they could claim they married into the Tudors, and could benefit from a great deal of patronage.
“Beauchamp was the key to how the family became so powerful and influential. On the triptych by the altar, there is a family tree of all the major players in their history. By the time they were able to put that together they had done quite well out of the Tudor court.”
The church boasts a number of paintings and sculptures from the time, some of which are in desperate need of restoration.
“Over the next 12 months we will be doing conservation work to repaint some of the walls, which date back to the 15th century,” Paul added.
“In 1545, during the Reformation, they were all painted over and lost, so we would like to bring them back to life. We are looking for funds from the English National Heritage Lottery Fund, and have had the work we need done costed at around £1m.
“We are just about to put the bid for funding in at the end of summer, and we expect to hear back by the start of next year. We would hope to get around three quarters of the total cost from the lottery fund and raise the remaining £250,000 ourselves.
“We only open the triptych two or three times a year, but will be opening it up to the public as part of the English Heritage weekend on September 14 and 15. Every century has left its mark on this church. If we can get the wall paintings back for the 20th century we will be doing our bit.”
To donate to St Mary’s, write to Reverend Clive Deverell, 26 The Bramptons, Shaw, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN5 5SL or visit stmaryslydiardtregoze.org.uk.
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