Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thomas Kinchin and family

Famed for her 17th century version of online shopping, Lady Johanna St John’s first stop shop was the Lydiard estate home farm Windmill Leaze.

courtesy of the Rumming family, Park Farm, Lydiard Tregoze

The farm appears on the 1672 estate ‘Rent Roll’ when Anthony Street paid £116 per annum for lands at 'Winmill Leeze'.  Elizabeth Beames was the tenant at the beginning of the 19th century but by the 1820s Thomas and Maria Kinchin had taken over the reins, a tenancy that would last for more than 80 years. 

Following Maria’s death in 1837, Thomas married for a second time.  He died on July 18 1840 and is buried with his infant grandson James Henry Pyke Kinchin at St Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoze.

Thomas had written his will the previous year.  He dispenses with the usual religious preamble and cuts straight to the chase.

‘This is the last Will and Testament of me Thomas Kinchin of Liddiard Treegooze in the County of Wilts Yeoman I give and bequeath unto my wife Martha all the goods and plate which she possessed before our marriage to and for her own absolute use and benefit.’

He names his executors as neighbour Henry Eveleigh and William Bryant of Broad Town and sets aside the sum of twenty pounds a piece for them.

‘My will and mind is that my said trustees or the survivor of them his executors or administrators shall in the meantime carry on the farming business now carried on by myself for the benefit of my said wife and children if permitted by my landlord to occupy the farm now occupied by me and from the profits arising therefrom to maintain my said four children and my said wife Martha,’ Thomas writes.  If this is not possible he instructs that his executors to sell everything and divide the proceeds between his four children and Martha, providing she hasn’t remarried.

courtesy of Lydiard Park www.lydiardpark.org.uk

But just three months before his death he adds a codicil to the will.  William Bryant, his named executor, has recently died and Thomas appoints Thomas Withers of Haydon, Rodbourne Cheney in his place.  Thomas’s wife’s maiden name was Withers, so this is no doubt a member of her family.

Lord Bolingbroke was obviously happy for the farm to remain in the Kinchin family hands, which it did until the next century.

Marriages with neighbouring Plummer and Cole families followed and the Kinchins spread their wings. Thomas’s great grandchildren, William John Plummer Kinchin, Thomas Stephen Cole Kinchin, Annie (Elsie) Elizabeth Kinchin and their newly married sister Eleanor and her husband Frederick Sutton all left for Australia in 1913.  Annie (Elsie) eventually returned home where she married William Grewcock in 1923.  William and Thomas appear on the Victoria electoral roll where William is working as a fencer while Thomas is a labourer.  Thomas came home to visit his sister Ethel who farmed at Elm Grove in Shaw during 1949 but by 1962 he was back in Australia.

courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball - www.oodwooc.co.uk

Sisters Hilda and Ethel never married and continued to live in the Lydiards.  Hilda died in 1973 – a chair in All Saints Church, Lydiard Millicent is dedicated to her memory.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Johanna's Miracle Garden

The 18th century walled garden at Lydiard Park is the perfect setting for Swindon's Youth Theatre summer production - Johanna's Miracle Garden.  This is the story of Lady Johanna's challenge to the greatest medical and philosophical minds of the day, to find the ultimate recipe to complete her book of cures for all ills.

Lady Johanna St John and her husband Sir Walter spent most of the year at their Battersea home, convenient for Westminster where Sir Walter represented Wiltshire in 1656, 1659, 1679, 1681, 1690 and Wootton Bassett in 1661.  His political career was pretty lack lustre and apparently he made no speeches and served on just 34 committees, although to his credit he did turn up regularly.  Walter and Johanna were described as being 'eminent for owning and practising religion' and the impression is that they were quite a serious couple.

During their absence the Lydiard estate came under the watchful eye of the couple's steward Thomas Hardyman with whom Lady Johanna was in constant correspondence.  Letters survive between the two exchanging news and gossip, housekeeping tasks and of course Lady Johanna's garden, which stood to the south east of the old mansion house.  The old walled and formal gardens were swept away when her grandson John landscaped the parkland in the 18th century.

Lady Johanna's 1680 Booke, a collection of pills and potions, includes recipes for everything from cosmetics and perfumes to cures for a persistent cough and rickets.  Left in Lady Johanna's will to her daughter Anne Cholmondeley the book is now held by the Wellcome Library, a repository of books, manuscripts and archives recording the history of medicine, and can be viewed on line.

Written by Mike Akers, directed by Chris Gardner and designed by Sue Condie, Johanna's Miracle Garden has a cast of geeky scientists pitched against wizards and witches who battle it out to win Lady Jo's challenge - with astonishing results!  The open air theatre production takes place across the weekend of August 10 -12 with performances at 1pm and 4pm.  For more information visit www.wegottickets.com/swindonartscentre or telephone the box office at Swindon Arts Centre on 01793 614837.

This modern production heralds a series of forthcoming events to celebrate the life and work of Lady Johanna St John.  Visit the website on www.lydiardpark.org.uk for more details.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace

On Sunday July 29 the Walled Garden at Lydiard Park opens its doors as part of the National Garden Scheme.  Admission charges are adults £2.50, seniors £2 and children £1 with all proceeds going to the NGA.

And if the cold, grey British summer weather is playing havoc with your hot house plants, spare a thought for Gillian Cox, Keeper of the Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace.

Planted more than 240 years ago by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the present keeper has a fatalistic approach to her famous charge. Although vines are long lived plants 'there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,' and when the Grim Reaper calls time, well - it's been 'grape' fun.

With exotic fruits available in supermarkets the year round it is difficult to imagine a time when grapes were a luxury item. The Black Hamburg was something of a status symbol when Capability Brown planted it in 1769.  The original cutting was given to Brown by Charles Raymond from a plant at Valentine's Mansion, near Wanstead, Essex.  Today the vine measures 12 feet (4 metres) round the base and the longest rod is 120 feet (36.5 metres).

At a talk in the magnificent King's Apartments, Gillian described a year in the life of the vine she has carefully attended for more than twenty years.  She explained how, if left to its own devices, the vine would produce an abundance of fruit and then shut down and lie dormant for a year or more.  Too many grapes at this stage in the vine's long history might even spell it's end, so careful pruning takes place early in the year.  An average crop is about 600lbs with the grapes ripening at the end of August and sold in the Palace gift shops during September.

The present greenhouse dates from 1969 when a new aluminium framework was constructed over a former wooden one.  Daily visitors once numbered 6000 but on a bleak, wet day in July my daughter and I were the only ones in the viewing area.

The prestigious Hampton Court Flower Show has just three more days to run.  For more details visit the website on www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events/Hampton-Court-Palace-Flower-Show, while the Great Vine can be seen any time - Hampton Court Palace is open Monday-Sunday 10.00 to 18.00.

And closer to home don't forget the NGA event in the Walled Garden at Lydiard Park.  For more details about this and the Swindon Youth Theatre presentation 'Johanna's Miracle Garden,' visit the website on www.lydiardpark.org.uk.