Poplar Farm Eaton Bray
Poplar Farm March 2012
Poplar Farmhouse is a prominent building in the High Street. It is a 19th century red brick building with a hipped slate roof and some timber detailing. There is a single storey range of pantries, sheds and outbuildings attached to the rear. The house is not listed
Two buildings at the rear, however, are listed. In October 1995 English Heritage listed a stable with a hayloft over as Grade II, of special interest. This dates from the 17th century “or earlier”, though it was altered in the mid 19th century, presumably as the farmhouse was being built. It is timber-framed and clad in weatherboarding, standing on a brick plinth. The interior has six bays of which three were stabling. In February 2000 a barn was also listed as Grade II. This is 18th century, though rebuilt in the mid or late 19th century. It has a timber frame with later weather boarded cladding and stands on a 19th century brick plinth. Inside it is considered that many of the timbers date from the 16th or 17th century and have thus been reused.
In 1894 Kelly’s Directory listed Frederick George Pratt as a farmer in Eaton Bray. The next directory, 1898, stated that he was at Poplar Farm. This is repeated in the directories of 1903, 1906 and 1910. A draft lease of 1898 [BML10/22/28] indicates that Pratt paid £125 per annum to the owners, Mrs. E and her daughter Miss E. Stevens. The extent of the farm was 90 acres and 7 poles. Mrs and Miss Stevens were still the owners in 1910 but in 1911 William Edmund Wallace gave instructions to estate agents Brown and Merry to look after his interests so he had obviously just bought the place. Pratt informed the agents that he was unwell. He obviously soon retired as Kelly's gives Wallace as the farmer from 1914 until the last directory for the county in 1940. He is also called a florist in 1914 and a Justice of the Peace in 1924, 1928, 1931 and 1936. The firm of W. E. Wallace & Son is listed as running The Nurseries to the rear of the farmhouse in 1924, 1928, 1931 and 1936. The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire, published in 1912, states: "The carnation and rose nurseries and the orchards of Mr. W. E. Wallace, which are situated to the east of the market-place, were started in 1886, and are now in a flourishing state and afford employment for many of the inhabitants. A speciality is made of the culture of carnations, the flowers being sent to the London, Manchester and Glasgow markets".
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. Eaton Bray, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting Poplar Farm [DV1/H30/6] duly found that it owned and occupied by Wallace – he had “Bought about 16 years ago”.
By 1927 the farm comprised 91 acres it “included part of nursery. Part being taken over by other firm 19/10/26”. The valuer commented: “One arable field wet the other shallow (chalk). Both a long way away. Good House”. The farm included 5 acres, 2 roods in Billington.
The house comprised two reception rooms, a kitchen, a scullery, a pantry and dairy, with four bedrooms, a bathroom and a boxroom above. Outside stood a brick and slated W. C., a store room, a tool shed, a coal shed, a gas making house (“Acetylene gas”) and a garage for one car (“Good”).
The homestead was divided into three parts as follows:
- North Yard: a brick, weather-boarded and slated food store, five loose boxes (“used for pigs”), a store shed, four loose boxes (“used for pigs”) and a four bay open fronted shed (“very bad”);
- South Yard: a brick, weather-boarded and slated barn (“good”), a stable for eight with a loft over, a barn, a brick, slate and corrugated iron five bay open-fronted cow shed (“good” “new”);
- In the rickyard: a weather-boarded and slated granary, a weather-boarded and corrugated iron lean-to and an open-fronted eight bay cart shed.
By 1936 Winifred May Wallace of Poplar Farm, spinster, was one of the two Ladies of the Manor of Eaton Bray [BH/2/79/3/8], the other being Harriet Frankham Gray, wife of Ernest Gray of Comp Farm by conveyance of 2nd June 1931 from William Edmund Wallace.