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Clapham Park Farm

Clapham Park Farmhouse was listed by English Heritage in 1985 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing gives a probably date of late 16th or early 17th century. It is a timber-framed building with a wing added at the left-hand side which has a stone gable end. The south gable end and the ground floor of the west elevation were rebuilt in red brick in the late 17th or early 18th century. The original house comprises two storeys with an old clay-tiled roof. The wing with the stone gable end has two storeys and attics.

The farm formed park of the Manor of Clapham Greenacres. In 1812 a sale particular [BS188] has the farm as Lot 5, described as: “A capital Farm-House and out-buildings, Yard, Orchard and Garden”. With buildings the farm comprised 213 acres, 1 rood, 35 poles of which just over 80 acres was grass and 132 acres arable. “The buildings on this farm are all in good condition, and the farm compact”. The fields were as follows: Home Close; part of Hall’s Close; Rose Close; Ploughed Close; Forty-Acre Close; Six-Pound Close; Robinson’s Close; Near Lodge Close; Middle Lodge Close; Far Lodge Close; Over Close (with a cottage); Brides Close; Lavender Hill; Cow Butts; Bushy Close; Bell’s Close; Copt Hall Close; part of Carrol Field; Mashing Fatt and part of Crow Hills.

The farm, together with the rest of the Clapham Park estate, does not seem to have been sold and in 1831 it was again put up for sale [WG2524]. The particulars here make it clear that the farm then known as Park Farm was on the site of the present Clapham Park, whereas Park Farmhouse was part of a farm simply described in the particulars as “another freehold farm”. The tenant was John Robinson and the annual rent £260. The house was described as “A good Farm House, principally lath and plaster, with tiled roof, containing a Kitchen, Back Kitchen, Dairy, Parlor, Leanto & Cellar; a Staircase from Back Kitchen leads to Two Rooms for Men Servants; Three good Bed Rooms, a smaller one with convenient Closet, and Three good Attics”. Outside were: “A Wood House, timber built, boarded and thatched. Granary and Barn, timber boarded, underpinned and thatched. A timber built Waggon Lodge, thatched; and Sundry Pigstyes. A Stable for Eight Horses, with a Wheat Barn adjoining, all timber boarded, underpinned and thatched. Another Barn, part timber and part mud, with plank floor, underpinned and thatched, a Granary at End of Barn. A Range of Cow Sheds, timber built, boarded and thatched, and adjoining is a Stable for a Nag Horse, wiih Loft over”. The farmland was substantially the same as in 1812 but now measured 225 acres, 13 poles. Again it does not seem to have sold.

Perhaps a reason for the inability to sell the farm and the park more widely can be found in correspondence of the steward of the Duke of Bedford, who had evidently given purchasing it some thought. In 1843 the steward wrote [R3/4752]: “The two last lots of the Clapham estate are of little consequence to the Duke unless they could be bought at a very low price and the Duke has any wish to save the Park Wood from being destroyed as a fox covert. There was a customer for the Green Farm at £5,500 but no bidder for the Park Farm and Wood - small capitalists do not like so much woodland. They would rather not sell the Green Farm alone for that offer but, having sold the rest and having got much more than the value from Mr. Elliott for his lot, they may be prepared to sell the remainder at a low price to get rid of it. Bennett will see Hotchkin, their Steward, tomorrow and enquire”. At this date Green Farm seems to have been the name given to what is now Clapham Park Farm; the farm was, in the event, not sold.

In 1862 the Earl’s executors tried once more to sell the estate, this time they were successful, selling it to Bedford industrialists James and Frederick Howard [Z659/36]. The map accompanying the sale particulars [Z659/18] makes it clear that, at this date, the farm was definitely called Green Farm. It formed Lot 2 of the auction (Clapham Park Farm and the wood forming Lot 1). Green Farm now extended over 235 acres, 3 roods, 24 poles and was in occupation of John Crisp.

Following the death of James Howard Clapham Park, including the farm, was again put up for sale in 1889. The particulars [Z1510/1/15] describe: “A COMFORTABLE RESIDENCE with Three Attics, Five Bed Rooms, Three Sitting Rooms and Kitchen and THE MODEL FARM BUILDINGS, Brick-built with Tiled Roofs, most conveniently arranged, and fitted on Modern approved principles. They include a RANGE OF CATTLE SHEDS (now fitted up as Piggeries), a Seven-Pen Piggery with Brick Divisions, Five Pig Styes, Boiling House, Cow-house for Seven, Mill Barn, Root Shed, Store Room, a Cow-House with accommodation for Twenty-one Cows, Two Loose Boxes, Stable for Three Horses, and One for Four Horses. A PATENT SILO, ENGINE HOUSE, COAL HOUSE and TWO BARNS. A PRETTY DOVE HOUSE with Turret; and removed from the Main Buildings A CAPITAL DAIRY. Another Range of Buildings comprise - Two Loose Boxes, Two-Stall Stable, Harness Room, Blacksmith’s Shop, Double Coach-house, Store Room, another Loose Box,  Cart Shed and Carpenter’s Shop”.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting Clapham Park Farmhouse, as it was now called [DV1/H8/44] found that the owner was A Morrison and the occupier F P Tinsley (“been here March 25 1926”), whose rent was £138 per annum. As well as the farmhouse, two homesteads and four cottages the farm comprised 238 acres. The valuer commented: “Water is being laid on to homestead by Landlord, on side Road but fair”. A colleague opined, on 11th April 1927 “Don’t understand rent - is absurd. 1st Class Cow House - excellent Buildings, fair house. Onions in North Field”.

The house comprised two reception rooms, a kitchen, scullery, larder, back kitchen and cellar with five bedrooms upstairs (“one small”). Above that were two attic rooms and a boxroom. “Water laid on to sink. Pleasant house. Tennis Court” the valuer noted. The homestead was in a number of blocks as follows:

  • Main West Block: brick and tiled smithy, two loose boxes and store, harness room, coachhouse, tool shed, loose box, twelve-bay open cart shed and two shelters. This has been annotated later to add a garage for “1½” cars;
  • Main Homestead West Block: a loose box; a stable for six horses; a chaffhouse; another stable for six and another loose box;
  • Main Homestead North Block: a corn barn and store with a loft over; a large barn; a mill room with a flour mill and a loft over, the plant worked by a tractor in an engine house outside;
  • Main Homestead East Block: a cow shed for ten used for pigs; a four-bay open shed and another a cow shed for ten (“very good in course of construction”); foodroom;
  • Adjoining: five pigsties; a cow shed for nineteen (“will be store”)

The valuer summed up: “Good set of buildings”.

In a nearby field (Ordnance Survey number 68) was a corrugated iron and tiled range comprising three henhouses, a four-bay open hovel. a shed for three cows, a barn, a two-bay open shed, a cow house for four and another two-bay open shed. The valuer commented “water from a pump”.