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Manor Farm Wilshamstead

The front of Manor Farmhouse in 1962 [Z53-134-2]
The front of Manor Farmhouse in 1962 [Z53/134/2]

It is confusing that there are two Manor Farms in Wilshamstead, this one, with the farmhouse on Cotton End Road and another, with the farmhouse on Elms Lane. To differentiate this latter farm is often called Wilstead Cotton End Manor Farm – not to be confused with The Manor House or with plain Cotton End Farm which is in Wilshamstead and also along Cotton End Road!

Manor Farmhouse was listed by the former Department of Environment in June 1974 as Grade II, of special interest. It is one of the very oldest properties in the parish, dating from the 16th century, though reworked in the 19th century. It has a timber-framed construction, rebuilt or encased in bricks on the ground floor, and with the whole exterior rendered in pebbledash. The property has a single storey with attics in an H-plan beneath a clay tiled roof, with bands of fish-scale tiles as decoration.

At the same time a granary at the farm was also listed. This dates from the 18th century and, once again, is timber-framed, though with red brick infill. It has a clay tiled roof. It is a small, square building, with the original entrance in the north wall and an additional door later added to the west wall.

As the name suggests, the farm was part of the Manor of Wilshamstead and, as such, came to be owned by the Lords Carteret of Haynes. When the title became extinct the family reverted to its original surname of Thynne and continued to own the estate until it was put up for sale by auction in over two hundred lots in July 1914. In 1830 we know, from the reminiscences of Elizabeth King, that the farm was rented from the estate by William Armstrong.

The sale particulars [Z720/1/16] describe the farm as: “The Very Desirable Farm known as “Manor Farm”, situated on the outskirts of Wilstead village, and intersected by the Luton Road, and extending to about 248 acres of which 164 Acres are Arable and about 80 Acres are Grass”.

“The excellent Farm Residence stands well back from the Luton Road in a delightfully secluded position, with Pretty Garden well stocked with Fruit Trees. It is of attractive elevation in Brick, and Roughcast, with tiled roof and dormer windows; the South front being partially covered with climbing Roses. Four good Bed Rooms, Box Room, Entrance Hall, Dining Room and Drawing Room, fitted cupboards; Kitchen, Back Kitchen with copper; Dairy and Cellar with brick floor. Back Staircase to Loft. Wood and Coal Barn Outside”.

“The Commodious Agricultural Buildings consist of Lean-to Cart-shed, Brick and Tiled Trap House, Nag Stable for two, Cart-horse Stable for nine, Chaff House, Four-bay Cow Hovel, Brick and Tiled Granary, Double Four-bay open Shed, Brick-built and Tiled Cow-house and Calf-pen, Bullock Hovel, Two large Timber and Tiled Barns, Four-bay Cart-shed, Four Brick and Tiled Pigstyes and Yards, Fowl House, and Cow-house for four … Let to Mr. William Matthews, on a Michaelmas tenancy, at an apportioned Rent of £220 per annum”. The particulars were annotated: “£4200 not sold”.

Directories for Bedfordshire were not published every year but every few years from the early to mid 19th century until 1940. They list the farmers at Manor Farm as Thomas Handley in 1920 and George Leonard Handley from 1924 to the last directory for the county, that of 1940. The Handleys also farmed Cotton End Farm further to the east up Cotton End Road. Other sources indicate that George Handley gave up the farm in 1945 [PK2/5/2/23 and PK1/4/164].

As the sale particulars note William Matthews was the tenant in 1914 and he is listed in directories from 1894 until that year. Earlier directories (1864, 1869 and 1877) list the appropriately named John McDonald as the farmer. This was actually two people. John McDonald died in 1866 as valuations for probate purposes was taken in that year [SF74/14-15]. His son John Moore McDonald then became the farm’s tenant until 1882 when he took on Church Farm [BMB4/1/8/30/1-7].

A farm account book belonging to John Moore McDonald has been deposited at Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service by his descendants [Z1398/1]. He married Elizabeth Heading from Old Warden in 1866 but left Bedfordshire for good soon after taking Church Farm, moving to Leicester. The account book contains entries for the purchase and sale of wheat, peas, barley, oats, oilcake, beans, and guano between 1867 and 1875. The regular entries cease in 1875 and are followed by an undated inventory of horse harness and farm equipment, including a turnip cutter, horse harrows and a donkey cart. A couple of pages further on is an ‘acct of things gone to Mr Heading’s’ which lists two cart horses, a dung cart, harness, ropes, plough lines and cart and rick cloths. Underneath there is an account of the sale of clover seed, beans and plantains to his father-in-law.

This out of the way corner of Bedfordshire did not escape national troubles during World War Two. On 16th November 1940 a German high explosive bomb dropped 400 yards south of the farmhouse [WW2/AR/CO/2/2].

By July 1945 Thomas Handley was dead and his executors put the farm up for sale. The particulars [PK2/5/2/23] described: "the brick and tile double gabled farm house" containing an entrance hall and passage to a side door; two large reception rooms with grates; a kitchen with a portable range, hot water cylinder and sink; a back kitchen fitted with a copper for heating water; a dairy and cellar; three principal bedrooms with grates; a child's bedroom; a box room with separate stairs and a bathroom with bath, basin and W. C. "Electric power and light installed. Around the House is a Pleasant walled Garden, Kitchen Garden with Fruit Trees and small Orchard. Adjoining is a Brick, Timber and Tile Range of FUEL BARNS, and two E. C.'s, also a similarly built POULTRY HOUSE".

The adjoining farm buildings comprised:

  • a range of timber and tiled workshop, loose box and poultry house, return range of three brick and tiled piggeries and runs and brick, timber and tile hay and corn barn with lean-to oil store and two loose boxes;
  • a central range of four buildings with a timber and corrugated iron triple width covered stockyard with manger;
  • a range of brick, timber and tile double-mixing and corn barn, adjoining it a cow house for eight, a timber and corrugated iron cow house for eighteen, a loading bay, a cooling house, two loose boxes, a third cow house for eight and a granary with fitted bins, all surrounding three stockyards supplied with water;
  • the house yard was bounded by a brick and tile range containing a four bay open hovel a carthorse stable for eight with a harness room and chaff box, two nag stables and a garage;
  • a range of brick and tiled garage and harness room;
  • at the rear was a brick and tiled cart shed and, in the rickyard, a five double-bay timber and corrugated iron implement shed.

A pair of brick and slate cottages built in 1925 stood in the west corner of the Home Paddock each containing a parlour, kitchen, pantry and three bedrooms and each with a barn and privy outside. The tenants were L. Ashby, who worked on the farm and H. Sawyer whose rent was seven shillings per week.

The land extended to 204.873 acres. Of this 142.873 acres were arable and 58/712 acres pasture. The farm was let to George Leonard Handley for £150 per annum.

The rear of Manor Farmhouse in 1962 [Z53/134/3]
The rear of Manor Farmhouse in 1962 [Z53/134/3]