Fielden Farmhouse October 2011
Fielden Farmhouse and Fielden House both lie on flat land south of Wrest Park at the convergence of four ancient parishes: Flitton (which included Silsoe), Lower Gravenhurst, Barton-le-Clay and Higham Gobion. The name Fielden is first encountered about 1500. Before that there was a hamlet called La Felde
Fielden Farmhouse lies just south of the road from the A6 to Lower Gravenhurst and Fielden House lies at the end of a track leading south-east from this road, the boundary between Silsoe and Barton-le-Clay running through the building. Fielden House was erected some time after 1830 on a new site, having previously been closer to the farmhouse.
Fielden Farmhouse was listed by the former Department of Environment in January 1987 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the property to about 1700, with 19th century additions and alterations. It is constructed from colour-washed roughcast, probably over a timber frame at the front and brick elsewhere. It has clay tiled roofs.
The barn complex at Fielden Farm is not listed but is noted by the Historic Environment Record. The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county's historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website
. The entry for the farm buildings at Fielden Farm [HER 15151] notes that they are built on a square plan with a break to the south-west. The barns are brick constructions with ventilation holes and mostly have a corrugated iron roof, but some still retain slates. The north-east range of the barns has a large central carriage entrance that is taller than the rest of the barns, a window is located above the main arch and the building has a tile roof and a weathervane.
Another of the ranges is taller with a tiled roof and below the small windows is a wide corrugated iron roof which acts as a lean-to cover. Some of the barns are open on one elevation in their original form. The barn complex was developed in the early 1990s into the residential houses of Fielden Court.
Fielden Farmhouse, like Fielden House, owes its name to an ancient medieval manor called la Felde (or Feeld, or Feldon).
This manor consisted of a traditional three field system farmed in small strips, between Silsoe, Gravenhurst, Higham Gobion and Barton and was divided by the road that, today, links the A6 to Gravenhurst. A modern driver, heading north from the A6, would drive through the ancient manor of la Felde for about half a mile: the old West Field would be to their left, the South Field to their right, and at the point where they pass Fielden Farmhouse they would be travelling through the middle of the North Field, which ended roughly halfway between the farm house and the turn for Shillington.
By the late seventeenth century, these three fields were largely owned by two families: the Milwards based at Fielden House, and the de Grey family of Wrest Park. Both had been landowners in the area for centuries. In 1712, Henry de Grey, Duke of Kent approached Richard Milward’s daughter and heir Dame Mary Abdy with a proposal to rationalise the two families’ scattered holdings in the old manor. At the time, he was establishing his Great Garden at Wrest Park and erecting buildings like the Pavilion and the Bowling Green House, so securing the farmland directly adjacent to that development would have been desirable. (L24/40,42)
The proposed arrangement was not in fact finalised until 1778, but left a paper trail of maps and documents of the manor and landholdings in it. (L33/286f6; L24/40-63; L33/23) Neither the maps of 1719 nor of 1778 show a building where Fielden Farmhouse now stands. The effect of the arrangement was to create two larger farms within the old three field system: the de Greys at Wrest Park (the Marchioness Grey, grand daughter of the Duke of Kent, and her husband the Earl of Hardwick) owned most of the old North and West fields, adjacent to the Old Park and Great Garden, while the Abdys owned most of the old South Field around Fielden House.
Having consolidated their landholdings in the manor, the de Grey family let 115 acres of what they called “Fielden Grounds” in 1779 to Enoch Hine and John Burley as tenants, along with “a new built farm house, cow house and barn to be erected” in Middle Furlong, North Field, Fielden. (L5/1146) Fielden Farmhouse would therefore seem most likely to date from this year, given its absence from earlier maps, slightly later than the date suggested by the Listing Particulars.
The farmhouse seems to have been built in three stages: the front range is timber and plaster, covered in render; the larger rear range is Georgian brick covered in render to the south, and unrendered Victorian brick to the north. This latter extension most likely dates from the 1860s when the Wrest Park estate was mortgaged to finance agricultural investment. The nearby cottages were build at this time and the barns seem to have been extended.
Fielden Farmhouse and farm remained part of the Wrest Park estate from that time until the sale of the estate in the twentieth century. The whole of the old manor was formally enclosed in 1814 in a field structure that remains largely unchanged today. (L33/21(2)) Maps from the early nineteenth century onward record a variation of names for the property: New Field End becomes New Fielding.
In 1919 sale particulars for the farm were drawn up by estate agents Brown and Merry [BML10/64/1]. The particulars refer to the place as Fieldings Farm. The farmhouse was listed as containing a hall, dining room, drawing room, morning room, larder and kitchen on the ground floor with seven bedrooms and a W. C. on the first floor and attics above that. "There is good cellarage and a Dairy". Outside stood brick and slate washhouse, coal barn, nag stable, coachhouse and two earth closets in a range.
The "model homestead" comprised the following brick and slated buildings surrounding four stockyards: four pigsties; a fowl house; a loose box; a six bay hovel; a large barn with a granary and a loft over; two cart horse stables accommodating twelve horses with a chaff house; a six bay hovel; a similar building with a chaff house; a mixing place; a loose box; a cowhouse for ten with water laid on; a gatehouse with a wool room over; a mess house; an oxhouse and a henhouse. Opening onto the rickyard were two wagon sheds each of three bays, an implement shed, a root house and an engine house. The farm itself comprised 291 acres, 14 poles in Silsoe, Gravenhurst and Higham Gobion. The correspondence accompanying the draft particulars indicates that John George Murray, the new owner of the Wrest Park Estate bought the farm.
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 visiting Fielden Farmhouse [DV1/H51/66] found that it was indeed owned, like much of the rest of the parish, by the owner of WrestPark, John George Murray. It was tenanted by Edward Bosworth who paid rent of £300 which had been fixed in 1919. The previous rent, fixed in 1902, had been £230, the farm then having 288 acres. By 1927 the acreage had dropped to 266. The valuer remarked: "Water from spring for House and Buildings, all wants draining, land very wet, too many trees and woods". The land extended over the parish of Gravenhurst as well as Silsoe.
The farmhouse comprised three reception rooms, a kitchen, scullery and dairy as well as a cellar ("full of water"). Six bedrooms lay upstairs, but no bathroom. There were also two attics. Immediately outside lay a three stall nag stable, a coach house and a wood barn.
Farm buildings comprised: a horse box; a two bay hovel; a blacksmith's shop; a cow house for ten beasts ("?not used"), a gateway with a loft over; a loose box; a six bay hovel; a cake house and root house with a loft over; a three bay cart shed; an implement house used as a barn; a corn store with a granary or loft over; a chaff house with a granary or loft over; a six bay hovel; a barn with two open bays behind for corn; a hen house; four piggeries; a loose box; a stable for six horses and a chaff house; a stable for two horses and a six bay implement hovel. All were of brick and slated construction.
In 1934 John George Murray tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the Wrest Park Estate. The sale particulars for Fielden Farm [AD1147/23] are as follows:
The Convenient Dairying Farm
situate at the South end of the Estate and conveniently intersected by the public road connecting the Villages of Silsoe and Gravenhurst, and extending to an Area of about
271 acres, 3 roods, 13 poles
The attractive FARM HOUSE is conveniently placed adjoining the road and contains: Hall, three reception Rooms, Kitchen, Pantry, Dairy, Cellar, Seven Bed Rooms, W. C. and Two Attics. Outoffices and good Garden with Orchard.
The excellent FARM BUILDINGS, planned on similar lines to others on the Estate, include Cow Houses with tyings for about 20 cows, Cooling House, large Barns, Stabling, Loose Boxes, Stockyards with Shedding etc.
In a convenient position are Two good Cottages.
The Arable Land extends to about 147 Acres and the remaining 120 Acres is Pasture.
Directories for Bedfordshire, which were not published annually but every few years, give the names of the farmers at Fielden Farm from 1864 to 1940 and the following names are taken from these directories. The dates are the dates the name first and last appears not the dates of residence:
1894-1898: Leonard Bottoms;
1903-1931: Edward Bosworth;
1936: Anthony Catlin junior;
1940: Anthony and Cuthbert Catlin