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Monday, 29 May 2023

Lydiard House Revealed

 For our April talk, we were very fortunate to have Michael Gray, heritage architect, talking about the history of Lydiard House and what we know about the building from records and what is present today. It was fascinating and for me quite revelatory, hence the title. We are very fortunate to have such an interesting building on our doorstep and open to the public.

Lydiard House was remodelled between 1738-43, and this photo was taken in 1825, it's interesting to think even in the eighteenth century remodelling was taking place.
The drawing above from that time shows that there was a long wing to the left of the house
And here in this watercolour, the same wing can be seen
In this slide we can see portraits of members of the St John family who had lived in the house since the fourteenth century; they are all wearing Coronation gear to show how important they were.
Influenced by marrying Anne Furness in 1750, Lord Viscount St. John wanted to create a Palladian mansion such as Frome Park, seen above. The buildings follow a pattern, there's a Roman/Greek portico on the front, kitchen, everyday rustica on the lower ground floor, a piano nobile on the first floor where you see big windows, and above those smaller windows. 
Above there is a house plan, with dark shaded areas dating back to pre seventeenth century
The house was admired by Inigo Jones who died in 1652, and was responsible for adding a classical fabric to the stonework. Around this time 4 towers were added to the house giving it a more important look.
The lake was intended to add the illusion of grandeur, a bit like creating a stage set
Over the front door, the arch details are worth looking at, there are decorated roundels: oxen skulls decorated with flowers, as you enter the house it's like entering the temple of Zeus, a god so it's very special!
Inside the house, nothing is at right angles, there's a rectangular shaped entrance hall intended to impress with classical mouldings and sconces, characteristics from classical antiquity. The plasterwork is special to Lydiard and you would be invited to dine in the dining room if you were an honoured guest.
Above you can see a green man in the plasterwork. Having dines, depending on the level of intimacy, you might be invited into the drawing room where there's a fireplace by Inigo Jones and hand painted Chinese wallpaper among other marvels
This is the state bedroom, also on the first floor, having the bedroom here created the impression that if royalty visited, there would be somewhere to stay, and in fact Elizabeth I did stay here for a month apparently. There's Apollo in a sunburst in mouldings on the ceiling, a classical fertility moulding indicating fertility and resurrection. Special friends would be taken into the closet where there's a sixteenth century stained glass window. Ann Furness and her husband died in 1840, their son inherited the estate and drank and gambled all the money away.
Thank you to Michael for this fascinating talk, we will be organising a guided tour given by Michael Gray followed by tea and cake in July/August. For the recorded version of the talk, please click here and scroll down until you find the Lydiard House recording.