FUNDRAISERS keen to safeguard the future of a historic church in the grounds of Lydiard Park are celebrating after receiving initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to conserve its interiors.

The restoration project at St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoze, aims to conserve the building’s extensive medieval wall paintings, 17th century monuments like the famous Golden Cavalier, ancient carved woodwork and star spangled ceiling.

The grant of £131,700 towards this £186,700 phase will enable the church to complete its development plans and progress to applying for a full grant of £746,700 in 2017/18.

The project aims to prevent the church from deteriorating further and improve public access, re-open the hidden south porch and create a welcoming interpretation and activity area.

The church plans a wide range of educational activities and events as well as offering training and volunteer opportunities for local people, families, schoolchildren and higher education students.

St Mary’s stands behind Lydiard House and is famous for the richness of its monuments to the St John family who lived at Lydiard for more than 500 years.

It currently attracts more than 8,000 visitors a year from this country and abroad and is well used by local schools researching heritage on their doorstep and visitors to the adjacent house and park.

Recently Swindon College students honed their drawing skills in the building as part of the national Big Draw event.

Project champion, the Rt Rev Dr Lee Rayfield, the Bishop of Swindon said: “We are delighted that Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support.

“St Mary’s is a national treasure and preserving its unique features will benefit both local people and the nation’s heritage.”

Heritage Grant applications are assessed in two rounds. A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding.

Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at a second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

Project manager Hilary Gardner said: “It is wonderful news and we are immensely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and very excited about taking our plans forward, especially working with the many organisations from across the town – The Friends Of Lydiard Park, schools, colleges, NADFAS groups, Swindon Festival Of Literature, Prime Theatre and many more – that have enthusiastically supported the project and pledged their support and involvement.”

Paul Gardner, the chairman of the Fundraising campaign said: “We have successfully raised the match-funded £55,000 needed for this stage of the project and thank the Heritage Lottery Fund whole -heartedly for making this crucial award. We are looking forward to beginning this new and exciting phase early in the New Year.”

Nerys Watts, the head of HLF South West said: “At the heart of Swindon’s Lydiard Park, St Mary’s is an important part of the town’s history and home to a unique and nationally significant collection of medieval wall paintings. Thanks to National Lottery players we’re delighted to support this vital first step towards securing the future of the collection and its historic Grade I-listed home.”

and enabling even more people to enjoy the stories they hold.”

Lydiard Park’s 18th Century landscape was restored in 2004-7 in a £5.3million project which was also supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.