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Polehanger Farm Meppershall

A barn at Polehanger Farm 1980 [Z50/79/11]
A barn at Polehanger Farm 1980 [Z50/79/11]

A number of barns located at Polehanger Farm which form three sides of a yard located to the east of the farmhouse were listed by English Heritage as Grade II: 'of special interest' in 1985. The listing describes the first barn which forms the southern half of the east side yard as early to mid-16th century and the second barn which forms the northern half of the east side of the yard as early 18th century. The south side of the yard is formed of a range of early to mid-18th, a 'long, low range of agricultural buildings, including cartsheds and shelter sheds'. All of the buildings are timber framed with weatherboarding to the exterior, on red brick plinths with clay tile roofs. The listing notes that this collection of agricultural buildings was listed 'as a good example of its type and for group value'.

In order to trace the history of these out-buildings, it is necessary to investigate the farm itself. This is first mentioned in the archives in a marriage settlement of 1605 between John Stringer of Pullhanger [alias Polehanger] and his son Richard, and George Leventhorpe of Meppershall and his daughter Anne [O/71]. Here, £20 annuity issuing from 'the Manor' and 'farm called Pullhanger, alias Polehanger' was to be transferred from John to George. In 1684, Polehanger was one of two farms in Meppershall transferred from the Crompton family to the Wittewronge's as part of the marriage settlement for Lovett Crompton of the Inner Temple Esquire to Anne Wittewronge [O/87]. The farm was at this time in the occupation of John Blane, and had been purchased by Robert Lovett and Robert Crompton (Lovett Crompton's father) from Anne Parcell, widow and Robert Goodhall Esquire and his wife Hanna, Sarah and Rebecca Parcell and William and Thomas Barber. In 1771, the farm again changed hands as part of a marriage settlement [O/45]. On the marriage of Sir George Osborn of Chicksands to Elizabeth Banister, Sir George granted a number of properties, including Polehanger Farm, to trustees, as security for the £10,000 marriage settlement paid by Elizabeth's father John Banister. However, nine years later in 1780 George Osborn leased Polehanger Farm, with appurtenances and lands of 322 acres, to his son John Osborn Esquire of [O/111]. We know from a later quitclaim that Elizabeth died leaving George and their only son John [BS10], but it is likely that she died before the property was conveyed to John, within nine years of their marriage. Polehanger farm then appears in an 1835 mortgage by John Osborn and George Robert Osborn, his eldest son, to John Gillyat Booth of Crouch End Middlesex and John Thomas Barber Beaumont of Regent Street, Piccadilly. The farm is described as 'lying in several fields and parishes of Polehanger, Mopsall alias Meppershall and Campton, with appurtenances and land 323 acres and 29 perches' [O/47].

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. The valuer who visited Polehanger found the 298 acre farm and two cottages owned and occupied by the Gudgin brothers, who had purchased it in around 1919. The land was described as a 'Good farm, some useful grass… Rather far from road, handy to Shefford. Part liable to floods, buildings old and mostly take lot of upkeep. Useful farm, well looked after, Road through middle'. A house and homestead are listed and described, and the barns too are described in plots, very similar to their descriptions as listed buildings. The north block contains 'cowsheds (10) used for pigs, large farm and mangle house'. The east block was 'used for properties and corn place, 8 bay open shed and pigsties, stabling for 6'. There was also a 'Rick yard, 5 bay cart hovel, mining place and stabling, continuance of open sheds', which are likely to be those described as the south side of the yard in the listing [DV1/H39/6].

Polehanger Farm was bought by Michael Foster from the Gudgin brothers in 1942. In the 1970s, it was planned to use part of the farm for a recreation ground. The Meppershall Parish Council records contain an epitome of title gathering together copies of conveyances and other documents relating to the ownership of Polehanger Farm between 1948 and 1974. By this time Polehanger Farms had become a limited company.

In March 2009, Chris Foster of Polehanger Farm (the son of Michael Foster) began writing a monthly 'Farming Diary' which was published in the local parish magazine, the Meppershall Messenger until the end of 2013 [these are available at Bedfordshire Archives under the reference PCMeppershall37/24-29]. In 2019 occasional articles were still being written by Chris and his son, Andrew Foster.