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Church Farm Colmworth

Church Farm in 1960 [Z53/32/1]
Church Farm in 1960 [Z53/32/1]

Church Farmhouse was listed by English Heritage in August 1983 as Grade II, of special interest. The building dates from the 17th century. It is constructed of colourwashed roughcast over a timber frame with an old tile roof. The house is built in an L-shape with additional wings to the north and projecting from the south of the east elevation. The main house is of two storeys with a single storey wing with attics to the north.

By at least the end of the 18th century the farm formed part of the Manor of Colmworth. In 1770 the Colmworth estate was mortgaged by Richard Ray to John Ives of Norfolk for £10,000 [MH17]. At that date Church Farm, then called New or Church End Farm was included undr the same description as Lordship, of Manor Farm. It was in the occupation of Edward Brown.

In 1795 the Colmworth Estate, comprising the Manor, Manor Farm, Church Farm, Channels End Farm and Netherstead Farm was sold at auction [MH30-31] by Lord of the Manor Richard Ray and was bought by Lincolnshire parson Leonard Towne.

Church Farm was leased to Edward Brown on a yearly lease at £130 per annum. The farm comprised 322 acres, 11 poles and included a mixture of inclosed and common field land as follows:

  • The farmhouse and homestead - 3 acres, 33 poles;
  • A cottage, late Fisher's, with yards and close - pasture comprising 27 acres;
  • Hodgeskin's Close - pasture of 9 acres, 36 poles;
  • A pightle by Grove Pightle - pasture of 2 roods, 3 poles;
  • Grove Pightle - pasture of 2 acres, 2 roods, 20 poles;
  • Closes (late Fensham's) - pasture of 10 acres;
  • Topham Closes - pasture of 19 acres, 3 roods, 30 poles;
  • Long Meadow - pasture of 8 acres, 3 roods, 22 poles;
  • Little Colley Meadow - pasture of 1 are, 2 roods, 8 poles;
  • A pightle by Threescore Acres - pasture of 3 roods, 3 poles;
  • Lay Field - arable of 36 acres, 1 rood, 13 poles;
  • Round Close - arable of 3 acres, 2 roods, 9 poles;
  • Long Close - arable of 5 acres, 2 roods, 30 poles.

The common field land comprised the following:

  • Hither Side of Great Field - 20 acres;
  • Jews Field - 16 acres, 2 roods, 21 poles;
  • In Backside Field - 6 acres, 3 roods, 7 poles;
  • "Half the piece in Farther Whitebrook, being the hither side thereof" - 14 acres, 1 rood, 15 poles;
  • In Hither Whitebrook - 16 acres, 24 poles;
  • In Threescore-Acre Field, two pieces - 61 acres, 1 rood, 5 poles;
  • The Slab (late Fensham's) "by Threescore Acres" - 2 acres;
  • "Half the Great Piece in Shelfield Lays, being the father side thereof" - 10 acres, 1 rood, 39 poles;
  • Another piece in Shelfield Lays - 17 acres, 23 poles;
  • Little Field adjoining Lay Field - 1 acre, 2 roods;
  • In Lemon's Bridge Field, three pieces totalling 6 acres;
  • Church Field - 20 acres, 1 rood, 30 poles.

The German U-Boats nearly brought Britain to its knees during the Second World War. It is little known that something similar happened in the First World War. By 1917 the situation was so bad that the part of the reason for the British offensive termed Third Battle of Ypres, but commonly known as the Battle of Passchendaele, was the objective of advancing up the Belgian coast and capturing ports used by U-Boats. The War Agricultural Executive Committees of county councils were instructed to find ancient pasture to plough up to plant crops to prevent the country starving. This inevitably meant land which was marginal for arable farming and the farmers involved usually protested. One such was Nathaniel King of Church Farm [WW1/AC/OP1/2]. Fortunately, the introduction of the convoy system brought losses back to sustainable levels.

Church Farm comprising yellow coloured land marked Lot 9 in this sale particular plan of 1918 [MH60]
Church Farm comprising yellow coloured land marked Lot 9 in this sale particular plan of 1918 [MH60]

The Colmworth Estate was sold by auction in 1918 [MH60] at which point Church Farm comprised 56½ acres of "excellent grass" and 54 acres of "deep staple arable". The farm-house, described as an "old-fashioned, hipped-roofed, residence dating from about the 16th Century" had a sitting room, living room, kitchen, larder, dairy, cellar, washhouse and six bedrooms. The particulars noted: "In the occupation of Mr. Nathaniel King whose family have held it for many years".

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every piece of land and building in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Colmworth, like most of Bedfordshire, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting Church Farm [DV1/H22/52] noted that it was owned by W. L. Peck (who had, presumably, bought it in 1918) and leased by E. M. Peck at £100 per annum, a price fixed in 1918. The farm comprised 130 acres.

The farmhouse, brick built with a tiled roof and partly covered in roughcast rendering, comprised two reception rooms, a kitchen, larder, dairy, wood and coal barns downstairs with six bedrooms above. A privy stood outside. Water came from a pump.

The homestead comprised - in order from the front gates: a corn and chaff barn; a covered yard with calf enclosures; a three bay open hovel; stabling for six horses; a chaff house; a granary; two loose boxes; stabling for two nags; a calf box; a fowl house; a four bay cart hovel and a lean-to implement shelter. Buildings were constructed in a mixture of styles: brick and corrugated iron on brick foundations; wood and tile and wood and corrugated iron. A pond stood nearby.