08 Oct A History Of A Dream Farmhouse
Brinsford The Name
Brinsford is an ancient estate 4 miles north of Wolverhampton.
Old maps show a ford of a brook located here. The brook is part of the tributary system for the River Penk, feeding into to it via Watershead Brook, flowing northward. With land changes associated with the local communication links the ford it no longer exists, but the brook still does.
In 1902 in a scholarly book called Notes on Stafford Mr Duigoft of Walsall gave the following variations of the name Brinsford with the year of the document he found
994 Brenesford, Brunsford;
1300 B runesford’,
Thus demonstrating to his satisfaction that the name Brinsford is derived from the name Brown and hence Brown’s ford – or to paraphrase Brinsford was named after a ford owned by a man called Brown.
By the 10th century England was divided into shires and each shire was then divided into hundreds and each hundred into parishes within which were manors
So Brinsford Farm was in Staffordshire on the border of the Seisdon and Cuttlestone hundreds. It lay within the Bushbury parish of Wolverhampton in the Seisdon Hundred until transferred in 1934 to the more logical Brewood by the Staffordshire Review Order.
There was a further subdivision between villages and hamlets. Villages had a church in use since the reformation and hamlets did not. So Brinsford was a hamlet.
Ownership -The Families
Brinsford Farm was a part of the manor of Somerford. It was held as part of the Church lands of the Bishop of Coventry until granted to Richard de Someford by Robert Peche, the then Bishop of Coventry, presumably as commanded by the King Henry 1 sometime around 1124
The family of Somerford continued till 1704, when Sir Walter Wrottesley, purchased the Manor from the Mortgagees of John Somerford.
Staffordshire became divided amongst large estates whose family names carry on down the ages. The most famous locally were the Moncktons, Litteltons and the Giffards, as on the attached
Sir Walter Wrottesley died in 1712, and was buried at Brewood, as was also his widow, Dame Anne, who was his second wife. She died in 1732 and left the Manor of Somerford to her daughter Ann, in trust for sale, and it was sold in 1734 for £5,400 to Robert Barbor, Esq., of the Inner Temple.
The estate was purchased in 1779 by Hon Edward Monckton, a younger son of Viscount Galway and half brother of General Robert Monckton. Edward Monckton was a self made grandee who had made his fortune in India. He was a fascinating character who amongst other things became the MP for Stafford simply by paying the most bribes. You can read a full account of his life here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Monckton
The Moncktons And The Giffards
The Moncktons were a Protestant family who were frequently in conflict with the Giffards (pronounced Jiffard) . The Giffards are an ancient family who were famously Catholic. For example they helped Charles the 2nd when he was fleeing from the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Their religious beliefs severely hampered their commercial abilities and allowed the Moncktons to advance more than they would otherwise have done.
The Giffards home was, and still is, at Chillington Hall in Brewood which is still available to visit on selected days. The home is most notable for its massive ornamental lake which runs to over 60 acres. Both families, however, saw themselves as gentry obliged to help the local people and improve the area and local agriculture.
The churches in Coven were a Monckton affair being founded in 1839 by Edward Monckton with a small chapel. On December 24th 1855 Mr. George Monckton went one better and signed a document formally giving a piece of land about two acres in extent, part of a seven acre field known as “Upper Cow Pasture”, for the building of a church and a parsonage, and the provision of glebe land for the use of the Minister. The building of the church had already begun. Mr. G. Monckton gave £1000 towards the cost, and Mr. Thomas Giffard, who was Lord of the Manor of Brewood, gave the stones from which the church is built. This became the church of St Peter which stands to this day.
Francis Monckton was born in 1844 and became known as the squire. He and his family lived at Stretton Hall and indeed the family still live there. He was well connected and very progressive in his attitude to agriculture. He chaired many committees and associations. He farmed through his tenant farmers. From the first, Brinsford farm was a mixed farm, moving with the times. The mix of crops and livestock would be determined by the market conditions.
British agriculture went through a serious downturn from the 1870’s onward but by the end of the 19th century it was recovering. So it was that Francis decided to implement his progressive ideas by building a model farm at Brinsford.
The Census of 1891 shows a William Vaughn aged 48, his wife, Ellen aged 47 and three daughters Ellen, Alice and Fanny all living at Brinsford Farm in the small cottage farmhouse, which was where the barns are now.
Francis Monckton replaced the existing small cottage house with a group of barns and an impressive farmhouse. They were of the latest design and emphasised his belief in progressive farming. The new farmhouse was occupied by the Vaughns and the old cottage demolished.
The new barns enabled the milk production to be streamlined – the railway station in nearby Coven allowed easy access to the industrial markets of Birmingham and the surroundings.
The 1901 census now shows William Vaughn and his wife occupying the farm with only one daughter, Annie and their granddaughter Ellen Elsie. By the 1911 census Annie had left home and the family consisted of the husband, wife and granddaughter.
Some time between 1911 and 1919 William Vaughn retired moving into Perseverance Cottage on Shaw Hall Lane in Coven, just around the corner from the farm and the farmhouse was occupied by the Moreton family, headed by Alfred Moreton. The Moretons were a long established local farming family who continued to farm elsewhere.
The Vaughns and Moretons must have remained in contact because a record from 1913 shows them organising an auction of fruit trees.
Alfred Moreton died in 1919 at the age of 35. The death duties on his £4,235 estate would have been hard to bear and the farm was offered for auction. The sale was never properly concluded and three years later, in 1922, Mr Monckton was forced to offer the farm for sale again. This time a Mr Joshua Price bought the farm.
The Price family were, and still are, a major family of farmers based in the area. Mr Joshua Price, born in 1884 would then have been called a Yeoman farmer since he owned his farm. He and wife Emily, brought up a family of two, Frank Price, born in June 1923 and Joan K Price born in December 1926. Joshua Price died in 1971 and Frank inherited. Frank lived all his life at this one address.
In the 1960’s Frank had the 3 large concrete barns built as part of the barns complex to further improve the productivity of the farm.
In 2002, Frank accepted an offer from Bryant homes to purchase the farm, except for the farm house, barns and a paddock. Bryant Homes through a series of takeovers became Taylor Wimpey who still own the bulk of what was Brinsford farm today. They farm it through their agents, Savills who in turn contract to tenant farmers. They have been trying to get planning permission for many years to develop the area, which seems very unlikely.
In 2017 Frank died and left all his money to charity. The farmhouse and barns were put up separately for auction in September 2018.
The farmhouse and barns were bought by a local business man, David Hill, through his company called Warm Beautiful Homes. He has restored the house in sympathetic continuity with the farming traditions of the area, whilst upgrading the facilities to meet the needs of the modern family.
The Coming of the Model Farmstead
In the 18th and 19th century British agriculture led the world. It was a product of the capitalist landlord tenant system. The landlord provided the buildings and land the tenant did the work.Model farmsteads were designed by the landlord to realise the ideals of beauty, utility and of course profit.
There was no agricultural revolution from the seventeen forties to about 1870. Rising rents stimulated a drive for improvement with evangelist authors fuelling the landlords desire for improvement. Agriculture and it’s improvement was a patriotic pursuit suited to a gentleman.
The Development of the Model Farmstead
All farmsteads provide shelter for the animals and produce, allow the processing of the crops that is threshing and animal feed preparation, and produce manure to enrich the fields.
Originally the farmhouses were placed close to the farmyard but as time progressed the farm house moved away from the buildings as the gentlemanly status of the farmer rose.
After the 1870s when the price of grain dropped dramatically due to massive American imports the farmyard was increasingly about food preparation and the keeping of livestock.
Construction of the Model Farmstead
The origins of the model farmstead go back to the 1740 ‘s when the first canal building frenzy was underway.
Prior to this period farmsteads needed to be constructed with local timber and if bricks were to be used they were made of clay dug up and fired locally.
With the canals timber could come from abroad and at Brinsford the barns incorporate timber from a major sailing ship. Bricks could be brought in effectively so at Brinsford the bricks or probably come from within the Black Country.
Construction of The Farmhouse
The design of the farmhouse was the final flowering of the model farm concept. The house was light, modern, geometric and functional. It was designed for the upcoming yeoman farmer who now had a life beyond working the farm. The farmer could look forward to enjoying formal reception rooms and large bedrooms with high ceilings.
The brickwork was elegant with feature rows, the chimneys elegant and there was even a bay window. The fascias were elegantly decorated with painted carved wood features. The porch had feature gable decorations.
The front of the house was largely for show whilst the kitchen at the rear was the room where domestic and business life was played out. The gardens were laid out for pleasure and enjoyment, shielded from the road by a massive brick built wall. This was a farmhouse that was about the farmers increasing status in the world.
The exterior of the property was built using solid wall construction using some 15,000 red stock bricks laid in a one sand and one lime mortar mix . This is compared to an average detached house today of about 8,000 bricks. At Brinsford a variant of Flemish bond called Sussex bond is used. It has one header (sometimes called a queen) to three stretchers in each course. The header is centred over the stretcher in the middle of a group of three in the course below. It is designed to be visually attractive
Flemish bond is a strong bond but the typical mortar mix used is a fairly weak mix with a high permeability to moisture absorption. There is a benefit in using a fairly weak mix with lime in the mix as this allows the structure to withstand a fair amount of structural movement which is why movement joints aren’t found amongst period properties
Internally the house had solid brickwork for load bearing and partition walls. Ceilings were high and found with intricate internal plasterwork, decorative mouldings and joinery. Walls were plastered with lime based plasters which allow the building to breathe and do not crack easily.
The house benefitted from large timber sash windows which weren’t load bearing. There are decorative brick built vertical lintels. The use of sash windows allowed far larger openings than would have been possible using casement windows.
The house was heated using multiple fire places, one for each room. The fireplaces were prefabricated and the 9 chimneys connected to them. The chimneys themselves are key design features of the building, adding an impressive height.
The roof was constructed with massive timbers overlaid with welsh slate that by the latter half of the 20th century were replaced by clay tiles.
The farmhouse unusually has deep foundations rather than the more usual Victorian shallow depth foundations. They extend downwards .to over 2 metres in places.
When built the farmhouse would have no plumbing installed. All water was carried by hand to where it was needed, having been raised at the local well. There was no lighting build in either light would come from oil based lights and candles.
The toilet was external to the property in the privy, a few steps away from the back door. This was an external brick built, slate tiled building divided into 2 sections. In the first was the toilet which would have consisted of a wooden plank to sit on with a hole and a waste pit beneath which could be emptied from the field behind the building. The privy was well ventilated to keep smells at bay. The second section was used to store garden tools such as spades, forks and a lawn mower.
In line with the privy towards the road was a coal bunker which was a brick lined pit some 4 feet deep surmounted by a barrel shaped brick roof. The coal would have been emptied from sacks delivered on a wagon by coal men into the bunker from the field and collected from inside the garden by the wife or maid one bucket load at a time for use on the cooking range.
I have compiled this history using multiple sources with the best intent. However, if there are any inaccuracies I would be grateful to the reader if they could point them out and I will correct them.
The Development of Farm Buildings in Western Lowland Staffordshire Up to 1880By J. E. C. Peters which is here https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_A8NAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA1&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=2#v=onepage&q&f=false
Notes on Stafford Mr Duigoft of Walsall Oxford University Press 1902 which is here https://archive.org/stream/notesonstaffords00duiguoft/notesonstaffords00duiguoft_djvu.txt
Census data is taken from https://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/