Heraldry cannot be overlooked at St. Mary’s. It adorns the painted windows and seventeenth-century monuments, appearing in carvings and paintings and reaching almost obsessive concentration in the great St.John family polyptych.
Heraldry in ancient churches is not unusual. Local lords of the manor were keen to have their coats of arms on display, but Sir John St.John, 1st Bt (d.1648) took this to new heights at Lydiard Tregoze. A respected member of the landed gentry, Sir John combined artistic ambition with a desire to demonstrate his noble birth, commissioning the finest artists and an expert genealogist to achieve both ends.
Helpfully for Sir John, his uncle by marriage was Sir Richard St.George (d.1635), an experienced officer in the College of Arms in London, the organisation responsible for granting new coats of arms and maintaining the genealogy of the landed families.
The two men shared a common ancestry. Both were descended from Margaret Beauchamp, grandmother to King Henry VII. Sir Richard was a noted scholar and antiquarian and was appointed Clarenceux King of Arms in 1623, the second most senior heraldic position in the country. His work is exemplified in the St.John polyptych and three precious manuscript volumes known as the Grandison Books, which he compiled for Sir John’s uncle and benefactor, Oliver St.John, 1st Visct Grandison.
A royal Stuart Coat of Arms also holds a prominent position in the church, surmounting the chancel screen. It was most likely installed following the restoration of the monarch in 1660 to demonstrate allegiance to King Charles II. Unusually, the Arms are carved on both sides. They were painstakingly restored in 2019 as part of the St. Mary's Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project.