Archaeological investigations at Lydiard Park have usually been in response to restoration and development initiatives by Swindon Borough Council, the most extensive being undertaken in 2004 by Wessex Archaeology. Wessex were commissioned to make a series of targeted excavations to help inform The Lydiard Park Project, a major landscape restoration programme completed in 2007. With the involvement of over 1000 local volunteers, they led excavations in the Walled Garden and many other areas including drives, avenues and paths, the park pale and ha-ha, lakes and church field. Exciting discoveries included a well in the walled garden, a rare plunge pool by the lake, lost areas of the ruinous dam wall and Roman villa material. Their comprehensive report is reproduced here along with photographs featuring the excavations and work in progress. We have also included Caroe and Partners report on standing structures such as the Ice House which was subsequently restored.
However, the earliest archaeological investigations at Lydiard Park took place in 1972, when Swindon Archaeological Society, with the help of RAF divers, discovered a lakeside structure containing a quantity of material relating to the 17th and 18th centuries. A stand-out find was a wonderfully preserved bowling ball - was it a bad shot that ended up in the water? In 1980 further excavations prompted by Swindon Council's attempt to re-dam the lower lake, revealed oyster beds and fish breeding tanks. Oysters were clearly on the menu at Lydiard House; large numbers of shells being unearthed near the old service wing.
By the turn of the century the opportunity to secure a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the whole park beckoned, prompting an excavation and field evaluation in the Walled Garden by Bernard Philips + which identified many of the garden’s original features. In the same year, a Level 1 survey of the park was carried out by English Heritage, to access the condition of surviving landscape and earthwork features within the park. It suggested the presence of earthworks relating to various phases of the park development from the medieval period to the early 20th century. English Heritage subsequently carried out the first comprehensive plan of the earthworks which formed part of Swindon Council’s successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funds to restore the historic landscape (The Lydiard Park Project 2004-7).
This collection will continue to expand as we locate reports, photographic evidence and as new finds are made. To date we have concentrated on the archaeology of Lydiard Park but we intend to incorporate the Parish of Lydiard Tregoze. For anyone wanting to find out more about the archaeology of Lydiard Tregoze in the context of wider Swindon, 'The Archaeology of the Borough of Swindon' by Bernard Phillips (published by Hobnob Press 2021) is a comprehensive, well illustrated and enjoyable read. See also the online Wiltshire and Swindon Historic Environment Record.