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Herrings Farmhouse

Herrings Farmhouse about 1960 [Z53/38/3]
Herrings Farmhouse about 1960 [Z53/38/3]

Herrings Farmhouse, formerly known as Cotton End Farm, stands in a place traditionally known as Herrings Green. The house was listed by English Heritage in May 1984 as Grade II, of special interest. It was rebuilt in 1785-1786 [see below] and comprises red brick, rendered at basement level, with a clay tiled roof. It has two storeys and attics in a double pile plan, that is, the house stands under two separate and parallel roofs.

We are fortunate that three surveys of the parish of Cardington from the late 18th century survive. The first of these was undertaken in 1782 by James Lilburne. He was the parish schoolmaster and later agent for Samuel Whitbread, who owned large estates in the parish and also the sole Enclosure Commissioner for the parish. He produced a list of all the inhabitants of the parish arranged by house and hamlet [P38/28/1]. This was published, with extensive analysis by County Archaeologist David Baker in 1973 as Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Volume 52.

Since publication a second list has been found [P38/28/2]. It carries revisions up to the year 1789. Sadly neither of these surveys includes a map. Finally, in 1794 Lilburne produced another survey [W2/6/1-3] and this one had a map with a key showing where each house was. One can use this to plot the houses of the previous surveys and this work was carried out by John Wood of Bedfordshire County Council’s Conservation Section in October 1982 [CRT130Cardington29].

The 1782 survey [P38/28/1/2] shows that Herring Farmhouse was occupied by John Nesbitt, esquire, who died on 9th September 1783. He had “Children by Sarah Lancaster his Mistress”: Sarah “born in London”; John “born in London, an officer on board the Houghton”; Harriot; Sophia; Frances; Mary Ann, born 10th December 1775; James, born 8th August 1778; Edmund, born 13th July 1780 and William, born July 1781. The last four children were all baptized on 20th September 1783. A final child, Emma, was born in London after his death. Sarah and the children, not surprisingly, moved to London in 1783.

The entry states: “This House and Buildings was greatly Repaired in 1786”. The next occupier was Thomas Coleston, aged 48, his unnamed 45 year old wife and children: William, aged 18, Humphrey “Apprentice to a Butcher at Bedford”, aged 16, Thomas aged 14, Nathaniel aged 13, John aged 9, Lucey aged 7, Sophia aged 4 and Mary aged 2. The survey of 1794 [W2/6/1-3] states that John Maule was in occupation.

Tithes were, originally, a tenth of one’s household produce, usually an arable crop such as wheat or barley but possibly livestock or manufactured produce such as shoes, given to support the local priest. They were divided into great and little tithes. Great tithes consisted of grain or large animals such as cattle. Little tithes were fruit, vegetables or other small crops and smaller farm animals such as poultry. By the 19th century this archaic practice had long been replaced by monetary tithes. The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 finally made it compulsory to replace these archaic tithes with monetary payments. The payment was calculated on the seven year average of prices for the particular commodity derived from the land in question and was worked out by the parties involved – parson, landowners or tenants if the land was not owner-occupied. The parish of Cardington, including Cotton End, was assessed for tithes in 1840 [AT9/1]. At that date Herring Farm was known as Cotton End Farm. It was owned by the Whitbread Estate and tenanted by Joseph Brimley. The total land holding was as follows:

  • Hensley Field – arable – 34 acres, 2 roods, 20 poles;
  • 1st Wood Lane Field – arable – 9 acres, 2 roods, 36 poles;
  • Hill Field – arable – 16 acres, 3 roods, 15 poles;
  • Long Close – arable – 14 acres, 10 poles;
  • 1st North of Long Close – arable – 6 acres, 3 roods, 6 poles;
  • 2nd North of Long Close – arable – 7 acres, 2 roods, 14 poles;
  • 3rd North of Long Close – arable – 9 acres, 1 rood, 4 poles;
  • Wood Lane Close – arable – 12 acres, 3 roods, 28 poles;
  • Cotton End Farm homestead (the house) and close of pasture – 16 acres, 1 rood, 30 poles;
  • Green Close – pasture – 7 acres, 2 roods, 32 poles;
  • Kirbys Closes – pasture – 11 acres, 3 roods, 25 poles.

The total acreage was thus 147 acres, 3 roods, 20 poles.

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. Eastcotts, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting Herrings Green Farm [DV1/H48/26] found it owned by the Whitbread Estate and tenanted by George Hallworth and Sons. Rent had been fixed in 1890 as £207/8/10 per annum, rising to £219/8/- in 1919. The farm had comprised 207 acres, 30 poles before the First World War, this had since declined to 179 acres, 7 poles.

The house comprised a hall, three reception rooms, a kitchen and scullery with three cellars used for apple storage, wood and wine. There was also a pantry and a dairy. There was also a larder. Upstairs lay five bedrooms and a closet [“not used!!”] with three attic rooms above that. A privy stood outside.

The farm buildings comprised: a six bay wagon hovel; a garage; a loose box; a two bay wagon hovel; a cow place for three beasts; a granary; a four bay open hovel; a cow place for two beasts; a corn barn; a seven bay Dutch Barn; four pig pens; a chaff barn and stabling for twelve horses. All were built of weather-boarding and tiles.

The property was restored by Major Simon Whitbread in 1961 and 1962 and again by Samuel Charles Whitbread between 1973 and 1974.

Herrings Farmhouse March 2011
Herrings Farmhouse March 2011