A £1.1 MILLION project to carefully restore a 13th century church next to Lydiard Park is finally finished.

Conservation experts, students and contractors spent many months carefully cleaning, uncovering and repainting parts of St Mary’s at Lydiard Tregoze.

Work began in 2019 and continued throughout the pandemic, with the church still hosting weddings and services when possible, but now the scaffolding has come down and members of the public can pop in to see rare and incredible sights.

Religious artwork, inscribed Gothic text of the 10 commandments and Lord's Prayer, and elaborate patterns which have not been seen for hundreds of years are now on display and worn-down wall paintings have been fine-tuned.

During this painstaking process, the team found the head of a 13th century statue of St Christopher which had been hidden away in an alcove during the Reformation, when the church’s imagery was covered over and religious icons had to be destroyed.

That ancient artifact is proudly on display near the pews and church organ.

Paul Gardner managed the extensive project and is thrilled to see the final results.

He said: “Despite Covid’s best efforts, we kept going, which was excellent. This church has seen many pandemics, like the Spanish Flu, and an extension was added during the Black Plague.

“It’s fascinating and so exciting to see the church like this."

An annex near the front entrance features a painting from 1520 of Jesus Christ with a crown of thorns, blonde hair and no beard - thought to be the only one of its kind in the UK.

A re-gilded royal coat of arms under the nave arch looks as good as new - and its unicorn had a new horn attached to replace the old one from a Victorian broom handle.

The congregation fundraised just under £1,500 to pay for the professional cleaning of a stained glass window showing St Mary and the child Christ.

A look round the church can be seen below and in the gallery at the top of this article.

To book your own visit, call 01793 87422 or email gp.gardner@btinternet.com