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Herne Poplar Farm Toddington

There have been numerous farms in Toddington called Herne Farm or some variation thereon, such as Herne Grange Farm, Herne Manor Farm, Herne Willow Farm, Herne Dairy Farm or Herne Poplar Farm. There have even been several farms simply known as Herne Farm at the same time!  Herne Poplar Farmhouse was listed in by the former Department of Environment in September 1980 as Grade II, of special interest. The building dates from the 17th century and comprises two storeys beneath an old clay tiled roof. It is covered in roughcast, presumably over a timber frame.

In 1919 Herne Poplar Farm was for sale. The particulars [Z989/1] described the farm as containing 240 acres divided into 20 fields and the farmhouse as having four bedrooms "recently modernised". The sale must have fallen through as it was again offered for sale in 1911 [Z233/14/9].

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 Herne Poplar Farm [DV1/H4/32] found it owned by the executors of Mrs Williams and tenanted by J Evans, whose rent was 32s 6d per acre over 242 acres. The valuer remarked: "House let to Sharp, G W who is foreman, rent is in wages. Cesspool drainage, electric light, own plant. Water from pump. Buildings very badly built". A colleague wrote: "Know it. Took it for Evans on lease. Rent too high, much".

The farmhouse comprised a hall, two reception rooms, a kitchen, a dairy and pantry with three bedrooms, a bathroom and WC. A brick and slate washhouse stood outside with a brick and slate WC ("no flush"!). The farm buildings were in seven groups:

  • a brick and tiled store room, accumulator room, tool room, engine room with six horsepower engine and shafting, a dynamo and switchboard, a pump for the well and a power-driven bean mill;
  • a brick and slate messing house, eight cow pens with a feeding passage and water to each pen, an entrance gate and a cooling house;
  • a brick and tiled office over an archway and three cow feeding pens as above, with a brick and tiled stable for seven and a harness room;
  • a timber and tiled eleven-bay cart hovel and a five-bay open hovel with no roof;
  • a timber and thatched five-bay hovel with a manger, a cow house for seven and a cow house for four;
  • timber and tiled central covered feeding passages
  • a three-bay Dutch barn

"Note half buildings are fitted with electric light, overhead feeding railway, water to all yards and cow pens".

In 1977 Herne Poplar Farm was put up for sale by Toddington Manor Research Farms Limited [X994/14]. The original farmhouse was described as "very attractive but in need of renovation". It comprised, on the ground floor: a central hall off a traditional yard; a dining room (13 feet 6 inches by 14 feet) with open fireplace; a sitting room (16 feet 3 inches by 16 feet, excluding a south facing bay); a kitchen; a larder and an entrance hall to garden. The first floor contained a double bedroom over the entrance hall and stairs, two double bedrooms and one single bedroom off secondary stairs and a bathroom.

A new four bedroomed farmhouse had been built in 1958 for the Farm's Director. This was included in the sale together with numbers 1 to 5 Poplar Cottages. These had been built in 1953 and consisted of two pairs of semi-detached three bedroomed cottages and a modern three bedroomed bungalow.

The farm buildings at this time consisted of: a prefabricated timber and asbestos range of four offices; a general office, a store place, ladies and gents WCs; a former hatchery now used as brooder accommodation for 5,700 birds per batch; two boiler rooms; a brick, concrete and asbestos mill / mix house (75 feet by 30 feet); a steel and concrete asbestos drier shed (75 feet by 25 feet); a brick, steel and asbestos building covering ten steel bins in two banks with a central conveyor and a three bay steel and corrugated iron Dutch barn (45 feet by 20 feet). There was a courtyard of traditional buildings (mainly individual boxes) approached via an archway which provided shelter for a concrete and asbestos cattle yard (135 feet by 80 feet) with a central silage area accommodating 140 beasts and 350 tons of silage. At the south end of this range were a nine-bay open fronted machinery store, a tractor shed and a combine harvester shed. To the east of this main range were: two brick and asbestos rearing houses for a total of 5,500 chicks each with two feed hoppers; four "Neata" laying houses (each 90 feet by 40 feet) of timber with aluminium roofs, each for 5,500 laying birds in "Thornbers" steel cages, three with feed hoppers, the fourth shed was an experimental house using bagged feed; three "Harlow" deep pit insulated timber and asbestos laying houses (each 90 feet by 40 feet), each to house 5,500 laying birds and with an adjacent feed hopper. The total poultry accommodation was: junior rearing unit for 5,700 per batch; rearing houses for 11,000 chicks to point of lay and laying houses to accommodate 38,500 birds.

In 1995 the farmhouse was again on the market. This time the particulars [Z449/1/12] noted: "This interesting and historic farmhouse dates in the main from the 17th century although its origins may be earlier. Well restored by the present owners since 1985, the house incorporates a brick built wing dating from the turn of this century which originally housed the bulls. The house has spacious and flexible accommodation arranged on two floors. Part of the accommodation could quite easily be converted to a self-contained annexe or office space if required, subject to planning permission. There are fine views from many of the rooms over rolling countryside to the west. The house has a pleasant landscaped garden with a pond at its extremity as well as a paddock. To the east of the house lie the farm buildings of Herne Poplar Farm which are in separate ownership and used in the main for winter housing of rare breeds of cattle and sheep". The ground floor comprised: a reception hall (24 feet by 14 feet); a cloakroom; a study (13 feet by 12 feet); a drawing room (16 feet 3 inches by 16 feet); a dining room (14 feet 3 inches by 13 feet 6 inches); a kitchen (13 feet square); a breakfast room (16 feet by 13 feet 9 inches); a boot room (13 feet 3 inches by 9 feet 3 inches) and a games room (20 feet by 13 feet 6 inches). On the first floor were four bedrooms, two bathrooms, small study landing (14 feet by 7 feet 3 inches), a shower room, a bedroom or office (19 feet 3 inches by 13 feet 3 inches) and a bedroom or dressing room (16 feet by 8 feet 9 inches). Outside was a garage along with flower beds, lawns, ponds, a barbecue and a greenhouse.