Sonia St. John expresses an appreciation for a historian whose passion for telling the story behind the monuments in the church in the park has told us so much about the church and the St John family of Lydiard
Canon Brian Carne, who retired to English Bicknor in the Forest of Dean, died peacefully, with his wife and daughter at his bedside, on 18 March 2016.
Brian Carne was Rector of St. Mary’s Church at Lydiard Tregoz from 1960 to 1968 and during that time many people asked him about the Triptych multi-panel family tree artwork adjacent to the altar, Sir John’s tomb and whether that babe, in his mother’s arms, had died with his mother in child birth? He realised he really ought to find the answers to these questions.
That was the start of Brian’s research into all aspects of the ‘Lydiard Tregoz’ history. This quest for knowledge became a passion which included studies into the history of art, analysis of heraldry, transposition of letters and manuscripts. Visits to the Bodlian Library in Oxford, the British Library, British Museum, Greenwich – and many more. Brian even managed to get us into Hoars’ Bank in Fleet Street to search through the late 17th to 18th Cntury St.John family bank statements.
Brian’s research was always thorough. For example, when he was preparing his book ‘Curiously Painted’ for publishing he carefully researched the best word to replace ‘triptych,’ because this monument has eleven visible panels and his book explains that there are an extra four hidden panels. So the monument might be a Hendecatych or a perhaps a Quindecatych? Fortunately he found the word Polyptych.
From the structure and contents of St. Mary’s Church, the parkland which surrounds the church, to Lydiard House which looms benignly to the south of St. Mary’s, nothing was missed out from his scholarly research, but perhaps most of all, was his rigorous detail in collecting the history of the people.
Having started as Rector in 1960, Brian recognised the need for accuracy in the available information about the history of the family and for funding for repair and maintenance of monuments. He, with Mr Smallwood who had been a master at Sir Walter St. John’s School in Battersea, rallied people to form a group which became the ‘Friends of Lydiard Tregoz.’
By 1968 the ‘Friends of Lydiard Tregoz’ was well established and Brian edited the first of 40 Friends Reports, annual journals with articles written by him and other collaborators. Brian encouraged first time writers to add their research to the body of knowledge which built up over the years. For some, this opportunity, help and encouragement was the step which launched them into publishing other work.
The Reports are so important to so many scholars that they can be found in the major university libraries of the USA and Britain, they are in the Bodlian and several Museum collections across Britain.
When a successful multi-million pound Heritage Lottery Funding bid for major restoration work at Lydiard was put together at the beginning of this century, Brian’s knowledge and published Reports were put to good use supporting the importance of Lydiard’s heritage to the nation.
There are many at Lydiard who will agree that it is no exaggeration to say that Brian’s research put Lydiard Tregoze and its church of St. Mary’s on the heritage map of Britain.
The loss of such a loyal scholarly supporter will be greatly felt at Lydiard Tregoz but he has left a valuable legacy in the form of the many learned papers, the Reports and his book ‘Curiously Painted’.
Brian took the lead in ensuring that all aspects of the history of the house, the church and the families should be recorded for posterity. His work is often quoted by authors and the archive he has collected will always be available for future researchers.
We at Lydiard will miss him greatly, both as a colleague and as a very good friend. Brian Carne was one of those rare and special people for whom it was a privilege to know and to work with. Lydiard has been especially fortunate that he gave his considerable and diverse talents to its preservation and future.