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Church Farm Biddenham

Church Farm March 2012
Church Farm March 2012

The earliest references to Church Farm held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service, from the mid 19th century, show it owned by the Wingfield family, Lords of the Manor of Biddenham and so the obvious suggestion is that it had formed a part of the manor from early times. It forms a real presence just south-west of the church with large barns and an impressive gateway through to the house

At that date the farm was leased from the Wingfield family by William Lavender. When he died in 1886 a map was drawn up showing the crops he had in various fields [BMB14/C12]. These were:

  • 1st South Field: 16 acres, 2 roods, 21 poles of seed wheat; 20 acres, 3 roods, 28 poles of wheat and 4 acres, 3 roods, 1 pole of seeds;
  • 2nd South Field: 3 acres, 1 rood 5 poles of mangolds (a root crop used to feed livestock); 10 acres, 1 rood, 16 poles of kohlrabi (a brassica also called the Italian turnip, again probably here grown as cattle feed); 3 acres, 2 roods, 37 poles of swedes; 3 acres, 1 rood, 7 poles of swedes; 4 acres, 2 roods, 1 pole of white turnips; 16 acres, 1 rood, 12 poles fallow;
  • 3rd South Field: 18 acres, 1 rood, 31 poles fallow and 29 acres, 2 roods, 26 poles fallow.

These figures show: 64 acres, 1 rood, 29 poles fallow; 37 acres, 2 roods, 10 poles of wheat; 24 acres, 1 rood, 26 poles of root crops – total 126 acres, 1 rood, 25 poles

A plan of 1913 shows additional farm buildings were constructed at that time [RDBP1/263]. A number of stocktaking valuations survive from 1922 to 1926 [PK3/2/53] and from the late 1930s into World War Two [PK3/2/37].

Robert Whitworth from the Biddenham WI scrapbook [X535-6]
Robert Whitworth from the Biddenham WI scrapbook [X535/6]

The Rating Valuation Act 1925 specified that every piece of land and building in the country was to be assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting Church Farm [DV1/H1/76] found it still owned by the Wingfield family and occupied by Robert Whitworth, who occupied Manor Farm as well, Manor Farmhouse having become a separate residence in the late 1890s. The rent of the combined Church Farm and Manor Farm had been £1 per acre from 1904, rising to 25/- per acre from 1921. It had comprised 603 acres in 1914 and had shrunk by two acres by the time of the survey. The two separate farms seem originally to each have been about 300 acres.

The valuer commented: “Land near river floods. 50 acres are flood. Trespassers very Bad. Labour very bad too near Town. Water laid onto House and Homestead”. Another hand has written: “Know it by heart. Farm depends on June. Really a Market Garden Farm. I must value all land in this and adjoining Parishes as Farm at present. Some day they will be all Market Gardening and must be re-valued”.

The farmhouse comprised three reception rooms, a kitchen, a scullery, a larder and a pantry downstairs with four bedrooms, a box room, a bathroom and a W. C. upstairs. Outside stood a laundry, a wood shed, a greenhouse, and a potting shed. Water was laid on.

The homestead comprised the following:

  • East: a stone and tiled store; five loose boxes; an open hovel; a six bay open cart shed; a six bay open cart shed and henhouse;
  • North: a barn In the yard: two open hovels each of three bays;
  • East: a stable for eight; two loose boxes; a coal shed with a granary over; a lumber room with a loft over;
  • South: a coach house; a harness room; three loose boxes;
  • Beyond the main homestead to the west: a cow shed for twenty two; two calf boxes; a cooling room; four bay open hovel; a bull box.

In 1933 the Wingfield family leased the farm to Charles William Rawlins of Cardington [CCE1262/24]. As well as Church Farm the lease included Manor Farm and Grove Farm. The combined rent was £1,298/17/4 per annum. The farm included a house built by Robert Whitworth in Goodiers Close as well as four labourers’ cottages and 301.112 acres of land. The lease was renewed for seven years from 29 September 1948. Directories reveal that Robert Whitworth was still living in Church Farmhouse in 1940, however, Charles Rawlins' great granddaughter Barbara Shirley wrote to Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service in 2013 with the information that her grandfather (Charles Rawlins' son) was living in the farmhouse at the time, (Charles Rawlins himself living at Home Farm, Cardington). On Charles Rawlins' death in the late 1950s this son took over the tenancy of the farm and continued to live at the house until his death in 1968.

Church Farm seen from the churchyard March 2012
Church Farm seen from the churchyard March 2012