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Manor Farm Studham

Manor Farmhouse November 2009
Manor Farmhouse November 2009

Manor Farm was, in the past, also known as Church Farm and Church End Farm. The farmhouse was listed by the former Department of Environment in October 1978 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the earliest parts of the building to the 17th century, noting later additions and alterations up to and including the 20th century. So, it is hardly surprising, that the T-plan of the building is described as "irregular". The house is built of brick, with some vitrified headers, in two storeys with attics under an old clay tile roof. There is some timber-framing with brick nogging visible in the upper part of the exterior. An upper room contains a 17th century fireplace with four figures over it.

The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire says (1910) of the property: "The house contains a wide staircase, and one of the upper rooms has a carved oak mantelpiece with figures of Time and Death, and is entirely panelled with oak. There is a circular moat nearly surrounding the house, which has been partly filled in on the side towards the farmyard. In an adjoining field are a fine holly hedge and the remains of a large avenue".

The genesis if the name Manor Farm is that the building probably stands on the site of the manor house of Studham Manor. Certainly the Bedfordshire Historic Environment record [HER 3131] notes: "The site of a medieval moated manor, of which part of the moat survives. The interior of the moat is occupied by the 17th century Manor Farmhouse [HER6956]. The moat is recorded in the 13th century, constructed by Walter, Lord of Studham, and seems to have been sub-circular or sub-oval in shape; the surviving part, east of the house, forms an angular crescent shape. A linear pond to the north of the moat, and an irregular pond west of the farmyard, do not appear to have had any connection to the moat".

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a survey of Church End Farm, as it was then called in 1847 [X303/4]. The farm is a compact one, bordered by Church Road, Mason's Plantation, Longspoons Wood and Dunstable Road, comprising 198 acres, 3 roods, 19 poles. The fields were:

  • The farmhouse and homestead comprising 1 acre, 3 roods, 8 poles;
  • Seven unnamed fields of arable comprising 16 acres, 3 roods, 22 poles;
  • Two unnamed woods comprising 2 acres, 16 poles;
  • Three unnamed meadows comprising 5 acres, 4 poles;
  • Bankey Close of 7 acres, 1 rood  15 poles;
  • Ten Acres of 10 acres, 3 roods, 24 poles;
  • Spronge's Wood of 3 acres, 1 rood, 18 poles;
  • Dell Field of 10 acres, 3 roods, 11 poles;
  • Bucks Field of 7 acres, 1 rood, 11 poles;
  • Heathy Close of 6 acres, 1 rood, 2 poles;
  • Twelve Acres of 9 acres, 2 roods, 23 poles;
  • Pond Close of 11 acres, 25 poles;
  • The churchyard
  • New Close of 12 acres, 5 poles;
  • Strannels Wood 10 acres, 3 roods, 4 poles;
  • Stoney Close 9 acres, 3 poles;
  • Home Fields 13 acres, 13 poles;
  • Barley Close of 6 acres, 3 roods, 24 poles;
  • Middle Harcourt Field 8 acres, 25 poles;
  • Great Harcourt Field 9 acres, 1 rood, 39 poles;
  • Little Harcourt 4 acres, 3 roods;
  • Bell Wood 5 acres, 1 rood, 37 poles;
  • Gravels 10 acres, 2 roods, 5 poles;
  • Long Spronges 2 acres, 2 roods, 25 poles;
  • Five Acres 6 acres, 28 poles;
  • Seven Acres 8 acres, 32 poles

The Rating and 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. Studham was assessed at the end of 1926 and the valuer visiting Manor Farm [DV1/H23/42] noted that it was then called Church Farm ("was Manor Farm"). It was owned and occupied by the trustees of the Ashridge Estate. The rent in 1914 had been £202 per annum, going up to £300 during the First World War, then going back to £202.

The farm had comprised 270 acres in 1914 and had lost five since then. The sporting rights were let to a W. F. Tuke. The valuer commented that the farm had: "Been in hand for a year. Bailiff in house. Water from well". Kelly's Directory for 1924 gives the farmer as John Stanbridge Bruce whilst the directory for 1928 gives William Rance as the farmer. Many farmers in Studham went bankrupt in the years immediately prior to the survey and it is possible that Bruce was one of them. The valuer noted that it was the second farm in Studham behind Bury Farm but was "Not a good farm" though there were a "Good House and Homestead and suitable".

The old farmhouse comprised a reception room, kitchen, scullery and dairy downstairs with five bedrooms above and a barn and earth closet outside. The homestead was sizeable and comprised:

  • In the south block: a weather-boarded and tiled barn and a brick and slate three bay open fronted cart shed;
  • In the west block: two brick and slate five bay open fronted shed, a granary and a small calf box;
  • In the north block: a weather-boarded, brick and tiled range comprising a barn, a cow shed for nine beasts, a loose box ("bad"), with a loft over, a stable for two horses with a loft over and two further "bad" loose boxes;
  • In the east block, adjoining the house, a brick and tile stable for six horses, a food store and a lean-to tool shed;
  • In the centre block a weather-boarded and slates range comprising a six bay open fronted shed, a coal shed, a fowl house, a small loose box and a five bay open fronted shed.  

Directories reveal the following people living at the farm (directories were not annual, and so the dates should not be regarded as beginning and end dates):

1876-1890: William Bailey (also at Hill Farm);
1894-1920: George Bailey;
1924: John Stanbridge Bruce;
1928: William Rance;
1931: Thomas Robert Taylor;
1936-1940: Daniel Thexton.