Lynn Farm Elstow
Lynn Farm February 2012
Lynn Farmhouse was listed by English Heritage in May 1984 as Grade II, of special interest. The house dates from the 17th century with considerable 19th century additions. The original part of the property is timber-framed with pebbledash render, the later additions are in chequered brick. The buildings have clay tiled roofs and comprise an L-shape of two storeys with a single storey addition “within the angle” at the rear.
The farm, like most of the rest of the parish, was owned by the Lord of the Manor of Elstow. In 1912 Mary Prole was faced with compulsory purchase of the farm by Bedfordshire County Council under the Smallholdings and Allotments Act 1908: Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has the papers [Z720/231]. Mrs. Prole had a powerful ally convinced of the justice of her cause. In a private letter Sir H. Trustram Eve, valuer and estate agent wrote to the chair of the Smallholdings Committee [Z720/231/1]: “Mrs. Prole of Elstow came to see me on Saturday and was in great trouble. She asked me to act for her in opposing the compulsory acquisition of Lynn Farm. First of all I said I could not do so because no doubt the Small Holdings Committee had done the right thing, but when I heard more of it I told her I would go and look, and I have been. I hear there are only four men in Elstow amongst the applicants and their total requirements are less than 30 acres, while two of them have since said they will not have any land if it is to be taken compulsorily from Lynn Farm – the reason being that everyone likes Mrs. Prole. The rest of the applicants are two or three Greengrocers from Bedford and one Pork Butcher. I have now consented to act for Mrs. Prole and to appear for her at the Enquiry. I am gathering up a petition asking the Small Holdings Committee to cancel the order”.
The petition [Z720/231/2] was circulated which was worded as follows: “We, the undersigned, being inhabitants, owners and occupiers of the Parish of Elstow understand that it is proposed to take by compulsory powers the Lynn Farm, Elstow, comprising some 248 acres, in the occupation of Mrs. Mary Prole, widow of the late John Prole, who died in 1909”.
“The Proles have been in the occupation of Lynn farm for 50 years changing thither from a farm in Cardington which they had cultivated for generations”.
“Mrs. Prole is one of Mr. Whitbread’s oldest tenants. She was a Miss Manning whose family occupied Medbury Farm for over 200 years”.
“The late Mr. John Prole was well known and universally respected. He was Guardian [of the Poor] for over 30 years and also held several other public offices”.
“The Lynn Farm has been farmed by the Executors of the late Mr. John Prole up to Michaelmas 1911 and at that date Mrs. Prole became tenant under a new Agreement with Mr. Claud Prole as manager under his Mother”.
“We understand that there are four Elstow men who require Small Holdings with a total of under 30 acres and that the remaining applicants are tradesmen from the Borough of Bedford”.
“We respectfully ask the Small Holdings Committee to reconsider their decision to acquire Lynn Farm so that Mrs. Prole may be left in possession as means of a livelihood for the remainder of her life. She is 60 years of age”.
“The regular labour employed on the Farm at ordinary times of the year consists of 9 men and 2 boys – 8 of the men and 1 boy are Elstow men. The other man is single and lodges at South End”.
“Your petitioners beg to respectfully represent to you that as friends of the Prole family and holding them in high esteem they deeply regret the possibility of seeing them dispossessed of the farm on which they have been so long settled, and compelled to leave a village whose welfare they have always served”.
114 of the 115 electors in Elstow signed the petition. The result was that the order was not enforced but Mrs. Prole did, unwillingly, have to give up some land for the Elstow men who wanted smallholdings.
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. Elstow, like much of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting Lynn Farm [DV1/H48/14] found that Mrs. Prole was still the tenant of the farm, which now comprised 221 acres sop she had clearly had to give up 27 acres. Her rent to the Southill Estate was £332 per annum, fixed in 1919; the previous rent, fixed in 1910, had been £280 per annum. The valuer commented: “Rent very high. Buildings poor. Position of house and homestead bad for working”.
The house comprised three reception rooms, a scullery, a dairy and an old brew room with six bedrooms and two storerooms upstairs. A privy and a garage both stood outside. Drainage was to a cesspool.
The farm buildings (“dilapidated”) comprised the following: a mixing and meal room; a loose box; three calf boxes; a corn and stock barn; a two bay open hovel; a granary; a mixing room; a chaff house; a corn barn with two fence and two open bays; a cow place for eight beasts; another loose box; a four bay open hovel; another loose box; a chaff barn and a stable for six. In the rickyard were: two trap houses (“one roof falling”), a three bay open hovel, a trap house and a two division loose box.