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Old Ley Farm - 7 The Rye Eaton Bray

Old Ley Farm in 1915 [Z214/2]
Old Ley Farm in 1915 [Z214/2]

Old Ley Farmhouse looks like quite an old building but it is surprising to discover that it is as old as it is. It was listed by the former Department of Environment in September 1978 as Grade II, of special interest – the core of the building dates from the 17th century though it also has extensive 19th century additions or rebuildings facing the street.

The two storey property is built in brick, some of it of gault clay, some of it brown clay. It has a modern tiled roof but with an old brick chimney stack central to the rear wing. There is a timber framed archway with brick infill at the left-hand side of the housel; the right-hand side elevation has a 19th porch.

The farm was evidently part of the Manor of Eaton Bray. In the late 19th and early 20th century the Lord of the Manor was Arthur Macnamara. On his death the property formed part of Pedley Settled Estates which his executors sold by auction in October 1915, Old Ley Farm was Lot 10. The sale particulars [Z214/2] read as follows:

Of about
139a. 2r. 23p.
Old Ley Farm
With Homestead, situate on the outskirts of Eaton Bray Village at Eaton Green, next the high road to Billington and Leighton Buzzard, including

A Picturesque Residence
Of brick elevation, Two Stories in height, with Latticed Windows, Tiled gabled Roof and Porch Entrance, containing: ON THE UPPER FLOOR – Four Bed Rooms and a Box Room. ON THE GROUND FLOOR – Two Sitting Rooms, Kitchen and Dairy, with Out Offices and Garden, enclosed from the road by a brick wall, and Orchard.

Farm Premises
Adjoining, brick and timber-built, with tiled, thatched and corrugated roofing, of Cow House, Gig House, Meal House, Piggeries, Stable, Barn, Cattle Sheds, Corn Store, Loose Box and Implement Shed; Foldyard, with Gateway Entrance from road, and Rickyard.

The arable land comprised four fields measuring together 71 acres, 3 roods, 23 poles. There were also two meadows totalling 28 acres, 1 rood, 35 poles and five pastures totalling 37 acres 2 roods, 3 poles. There was also an orchard of 3 roods, 19 poles. The tenant was Gaius Batchelar and the total rent £209/10/-. The lot was withdrawn, either because it did not sell or because it was bought by private treaty.

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 and the valuer visiting Old Ley Farm [DV1/H30/24] found that it had been bought by Bedfordshire County Council, and was now occupied by Edwin F. Pratt. Rent was much reduced from 1915 – from 1920 it had been £120 per annum and from 1924 £90/5/- per annum. The reason for this was twofold – a public authority as opposed to a private landlord and the fact that the farm had declined to 35 acres.

The farmhouse still comprised two reception rooms, a kitchen and a dairy downstairs, with four bedrooms above. Water from a well. The homestead comprised: a timber and corrugated iron two bay open-fronted cart shed; two brick and tiled pigsties; a weather-boarded and corrugated iron calf box and store shed and another calf box. Adjoining the house were: a brick and tiled stable for three with a loft over; a brick, weather-boarded and tiled loft over the arch and a weather-boarded and rubberised cone floor granary.

Directories for Bedfordshire were not published every year, but every few years. Kelly's Directory for Bedfordshire of 1890 records Charles Wood as farmer at Old Ley Farm. William Noah was recorded in 1894 and 1898 and Edwin Pratt in 1928, 1931, 1936 and the last Kelly's for the county, that of 1940.