ST Mary’s Church, in Lydiard Park, is at the halfway mark in its bid to raise more than £1m to renovate the ancient building.

The appeal was launched last year to help the church bring the artwork and monuments in the historic church back to life, and organisers have approached the Heritage Lottery Fund to cover 70 per cent of the funds.

More than £160,000 has been raised since the appeal was launched last summer, and the church is continuing to appeal for help from its parishioners and the public to help maintain one of the oldest buildings in the town.

“We have gone through the first bid with English Heritage and made a submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund for our £1.2m scheme,” said Paul Gardner, the chairman of the building appeal at the church.

“Half of that would bring the back wall paintings back to their full glory and help complete restoration work to the momuments and stained glass windows.

“We are asking for 70 per cent from the fund so we need to raise another £370,000. We have already raised cash in excess of £160,000, so almost half of what we need.

“We will hear back in early September from the fund, and we are still appealing to the general public for donations.

“This is the big push, but if we do not get the funding bid this time around we will try again.

“We have put a persuasive bid in, so we are very hopeful.”

Throughout June the church has been opening up its treasured polyptych to the public on Sunday afternoons.

It will now be closed again until the heritage weekend in September when the Archbishop of Canterbury is due to visit.

“The triptytch shows the whole family tree of the St Johns, who owned the land after they arrived here with William the Conquerer,” said Paul.

“When it opens out there is a huge family painting which was done in 1615.

“We only open it up three or four times a year to the public, because it is nearly 400 years old. It doesn’t take kindly to being opened on a daily basis so we have to be very careful with it.

“There are only three of us allowed to open it for display, because there is a technique to open it .

“That gives it an impact and itdoes capture people’s imagination .

The church is the oldest building in Swindon by far and this is part of the history of the town.

“The Archbishop is visiting the church on the Saturday of the Heritage weekend on 13 and 14 of September, which is when we will open the polyptych up again.”

  • To donate to the building appeal write to the Rev Clive Deverell, 26 The Bramptons, Shaw, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN5 5SL.