John St John 2nd Viscount St John is the man we have to thank for Lydiard House as we know it today. Well actually it's his wife,wealthy heiress Anne Furnese, we should really thank as while he might have had the vision it was her money that paid for the remodelling of the old medieval mansion.
John was born on May 3, 1702, one of four surviving children from the marriage of reprobate Henry St John and his second wife Angelica Pelissary.
John studied at Eton before being sent to complete his education in Paris in 1720. On his return to England he took up the position of Comptroller of the Customs of London in reversion, a post his father had negotiated with the Duchess of Kendal, George I's mistress. It is believed Henry had paid the Duchess £4,000 for the reversion of the customs sinecure worth £1,200 a year for the lives of his two younger sons John and Holles. This wasn't the first time Henry had used his royal connections to advantage. He was said to have bought his title from the Duchess in 1716 as well.
John married Anne in 1729 and the newly weds set up home at 51 Brook Street in a new property that today lies beneath the foundations of Claridges. Once Anne came into her inheritance the couple began work on Lydiard, dividing their time between these two properties and the manor house at Battersea. One can't help but wonder how much time and effort John put into his role as Tory MP for Wootton Bassett as he completed his grand designs on both a London and a country property.
This portrait of John in his coronation robes is one of two that hang in Lydiard House. I suppose once you've shelled out on a bit of ermine you want to get your money's worth out of it.
The coronation of George II took place in 1727 which would tie in nicely with the youthful appearance of John in this portrait and the lifespan of the artist, Scottish portrait painter William Aikman who died in 1731.
Anne died in the summer of 1747 and within a year John had remarried. He married his second wife Hester Clarke at St Anne's, Soho on June 19, 1748 but within less than six months he was dead. John is buried in the St John vault beneath St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze.
A plan of the new and the old
Lydiard House as it is today.