How the landscape was made

Medieval origins

Lidiar or Lidiarde is listed in the Domesday survey of 1086 as a manor of 430 acres, much of which by 1254 had been turned into a deer park for the exclusive hunting of the lord of the manor. This was enclosed by a steep fenced bank and ditch – the ‘park pale’.
 
Lydiard House and St. Mary’s Church are of medieval origin, but there is little left of that landscape of fields and houses which was swept away in the sixteenth century as the common fields, commons and marshes were enclosed.
 

A Passionate Gardener

In the early years of the 17th century the park was landscaped, formal gardens created to the south east of the present house and the three avenues of trees planted. Many of the low earthworks in the lawns in front of the house are the remains of these formal gardens. The gardens and parkland produced vegetables, rabbits and venison that were sent to the St.John’s London home at Battersea. Lady of the Manor, Johanna St.John, took a keen interest in the gardens, issuing a constant stream of advice and instruction to her steward. Many of these documents have survived and will be used in planning the restored gardens.

 

A Very English Landscape

In the eighteenth century fashion in garden design changed and the formal gardens were cleared away to be replaced with open vistas, romantic features and attractive walks. At Lydiard these were designed to compliment the newly remodelled Palladian house and the new walled garden to the north west of the house that still exists. Some of the landscape features from this period, such as the lake dam and the walled garden, are easily visible; others are hidden and searching for them was part of our work.
 

A playboy and spendthrift

Frederick, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke, was more interested in his horses than improvements to his estate. However he left a record of it in the paintings of George Stubbs who visited the Park to paint Frederick’s favourite hunter and some of his 20 racehorses. By the mid-nineteenth century the hey-day of the Park was over, trees began to encroach on the open pasture and the lake to silt up.
 

Swindon Corporation and World War II

In 1943 the house and 147 acres of the estate were sold to Swindon Corporation and so rescued from potential demolition. Under the leadership of Swindon Town Clerk, David Murray John, the house was instead restored, and Lydiard Park has been managed as a public amenity ever since.
 
During World War II American forces set up the 302nd Station Hospital camp in preparation for D-Day landing casualties. The camp was later used as a German Prisoner of War Camp. After the war it became housing, to alleviate the chronic post-war shortage, but in 1960 the buildings were demolished and the land is now dedicated to sports pitches and events.