Securing our history for the future

Church Farm, Church Road

04.06.1568 Manor Court Roll Manor Court of Thomas Wroughton.  “John Stallynch farmer of the parsonage there and his suytes for that they made default of their suyte at this daye.  Fined 6d”

churchfarm.jpgThe Manor Court Rolls dated 1590 during the reign of Elizabeth I state that “The wall of the church farm and the churchyarde is in ruins and is to be repaired”.  This is a clear indication that the farm was once a Glebe farmhouse, belonging to the Church and why is was called Church Farm.  It’s early history has therefore not been traced as there were no copyhold tenants, therefore, very little mention of it in the Court Rolls. 

At one time it was a Cider House.

1841 John Brice [1] is listed as the lessee, John Fry [2] the owner.  John Fry also owned the now extinct farm buildings behind the farmhouse which may indicate that they also belonged to Church Farm.  There is no mention of any occupant.

1851 census shows John Fry, who had been at Court Farm previously, now a widower aged 63, with his daughters Mary aged 27, Maria 20 and son John 17.

1861 census unlisted, but locals say that it was a cider house in the 1860s.

1871 known as Fry’s Farm.  Occupants Willy Gully, aged 47, carpenter.  Wife Caroline 45, children all born at Bawdrip; Burcombe 16, Albert John 10, Mary 7 and C……(illegible) 3.

1881 census William Way [3] aged 35 dairyman, wife Mary 40, children Mary Jane 9, Elizabeth Sarah 7, Sarah Ann 3, Ellen May 1

1891 census William Way 45 dairyman, born in Sutton Mallet.  Wife May 52, born in Bawdrip.  Children Elizabeth 17, Sarah Ann 13, Ella 11 all born in Bawdrip.

1897 The owner of the farm is shown as Whitehead.

1901 census William Way, aged 55 and his wife Ellen May, aged 62 and daughter Ella aged 21.

1902 Kellys Directory Walter Crane and May (nee Way) were the occupiers and started farming in the 1920s.  From then on, along with Jack, their son, they built up the farm.  An extract from the Bridgwater District War Agricultural Committee was reported in the Bridgwater Mercury dated 28.06.1916 “Mr Walter Crane, aged 37, of Bawdrip, a farmer, applied for exemption.  He had no-one working in the business but himself and he was of the opinion it would mean considerable hardship if he had to close his business.  He had 19½ acres of pasture land, 5 acres of which were his own.  He kept his father-in-law and mother-in-law and contributed towards the support of his mother.  He was managing 8 milking cows and 3 young be asts and he supplied the village of Bawdrip with milk daily.  Three months exemption granted.”

1934 alterations were carried out to the east end of the building which had previously been the dairy.

1936 Walter Crane purchased the farm. (pictured below with his wife Ellen)

The farm remained in the Crane family until the last inhabitant Jack Crane, died in November 1998.  Jack was the son of Walter Crane.  Sadly, the farmhouse was illegally demolished by his two sons Edwin and Dennis Crane to make way for development of the site.  A preliminary archaeological evaluation was made of the site prior to the bulldozers moving in and medieval pottery sherds were uncovered, indicating that medieval buildings must have been situated fairly nearby, if not on the actual site.  A broken prehistoric flint tool and Romano British pottery were also found during the dig indicating settlement in the village during that period.  Perhaps the most exciting evidence found at the north-eastern end of the site was a series of timber beam slots, indicating possible construction of a Saxon wooden building.  Late Saxon pottery sherds were also uncovered.  Saxon finds are uncommon and the full archeological dig that had to be undertaken before full development could take place would hopefully reveal more fascinating glimpses into the origins of this site which stands in the core of the village.  The Holinrakes say in their archeolgical evaluation report that “pottery that can unhesitatingly be dated to the 10th or early 11th century is rare in Somerset and structural features of that period are even less well known, emphasising the importance of this site.”  What is undeniable is that this must always have been an important site, being adjacent to our 12th century Church and standing on slightly higher ground that the surrounding village which could point to its importance during the Roman and West Saxon periods.

The area in which the farmhouse was situated was known as Bawdrip Green, as evidenced by old leases of neighbouring properties.  Church Road would not have existed.  The only tracks coming into the village during the 1500s were the West Lane and the East Lane, so you can see how this area became to be known as Bawdrip Green.

[1] John Brice was leasing a great deal of property within the Manor and was actually living at Knowle Manor.

[2] John Fry was living at Court Farm

[3] William Way was previously a cheesemaker at Brice’s Farm for Emmanuel Brake

The History Articles reproduced are owned and were researched and produced by Suzie Lewis and her father (now deceased), John Jenkins.