The Friends were instrumental in Lydiard's major landscape restoration project (2001-7) and today we play an active and important role in the protection, promotion, conservation and interpretation of the House and Park and St. Mary's Church Lydiard Tregoze.
Lydiard and three different marriages
A new book entitled The Speaker’s Chaplain: A Georgian Family and Friends* by Barry Shurlock has highlighted a period in the history of Lydiard Tregoze when the mansion house was for many years occupied by the estranged wife of George Richard St John, the 3rd Viscount Bolingbroke and her three children by him, including the future 4th viscount Henry. Her maiden name was Charlotte Collins and she was a daughter of the Revd Thomas Collins, a second master (deputy head) of the public school Winchester College. Her hatchment – i.e. the lozenge-shaped banner bearing the arms of a deceased person – still hangs in the church, with the motto In quies coelo, which means ‘In heaven there is rest’.
As Mr Collins, a widower with modest means, approached retirement in the 1780s he was faced with the problem of having to support three unmarried daughters. The first of these, Sarah or Sally, married a fellow of the college, the Revd Philip Williams, who had long been keen to take her hand. For several years he acted as the chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, his main role being to open parliament with prayers, as is still done. This required him to spend long periods in London, away from his young wife and family, and it is the letters they exchanged that are the basis of the new book.
As well as teaching the scholars of the college, Mr Collins was able to take external pupils of school age, called commoners, but as the letters make clear he also tutored older men, often described as ‘superannuated’. Two of these, and perhaps the only superannuates is his care, were young men who had been up to Christ Church College, Oxford, but failed, or not even tried to graduate, and were for different reasons at risk of going the way all young men do if they have no clear goals. One was George Richard, whose parents had divorced, and were both living unhealthy lives. Lady Diana Spencer had been unable to cope with the erratic behaviour of the 2nd viscount, Frederick, nicknamed ‘Bully’, and he was sunk in a dissipated life and gambling. The other was Jeremiah Dyson, whose namesake father was clerk to the House of Commons – a much more powerful position than it sounds – and had a rather inflated view of his future. The two had chummed up at Oxford and were in the hands of Mr Collins. Perhaps for laudable reasons, or perhaps not, both men were to marry his other two daughters, enabling the schoolmaster to retire free of dependents.
One chapter of the new book details the three very different marriages. George Richard was to enter an incestuous relationship with a half-sister Mary Beauclerk, before settling in the USA with Baroness Isabella Hompesch-Bolheim. As soon as his wife died he married the baroness and returned to England. The story draws on the research of Canon Brian Carne, well known to the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz, who first chronicled a low point in history of the estate.
*Available, price £25, post free, from: Scholarly Sources: firstname.lastname@example.orgSupport from the Friends has included the purchase of a portrait of Robert Rich, 3rd Earl of Warwick (1611-1659), now returned to Lydiard House after 70 years in a private collection.
Reports 1 to 40 published annually from 1968 to 2007 are being made available to members of the Friends of Lydiard Park as downloadable pdf files. Over the years the printed paper-back copies of the Reports, held in the Friend's Archive at Lydiard House, have deteriorated due to both aging and repeated use. The data held in these Reports is used by many researchers and the Reports are often quoted in other publications. In particular the first ten Reports which were produced on Gestetner technology required retyping to enable modern search engines to read the text. Click on a Report to download it (not all reports are currently available).
This project is not yet complete and would not have been possible without the wonderful work of volunteers.
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|Report 2||Report 12||Report 22||Report 32|
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|Report 5||Report 15||Report 25||Report 35|
|Report 6||Report 16||Report 26||Report 36|
|Report 7||Report 17||Report 27||Report 37|
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