Price’s Farm

A limited amount has been done to research the history of this very attractive but typical Kentish farm house which dates from the 1750-1760 period.

It is not known whether the mid-18th century house was erected on the site of another building. However, it is clear that the land had belonged to the Penshurst Estate for a long time (see Lawrence Biddle,Leigh in Kent 1550-1900). From various sources – including notes on the census return – the size of the farm was around 240-260 acres, certainly in the 19th century and, as with any farms of this era, included a number of brick built single storey outbuildings which still exist.

Maps of the Farm

Early maps of the parish do not mention Price’s Farm by name or even indicate a building. But this is the case for most of the farms. Maps such as Andrew, Drury & Herbert (1769), the semi official 1801 Ordnance Survey map and the 1821 Greenwood map only mark the various hamlets – although with quite a variety to their spelling – Black Heath (rather than Black Hoath), Charcote or Charket, Moreden or Moorden, Camp Hill, Leigh or Lyghe, White Post etc. Even the 1820 papers associated with Sir John Shelley Sidney buying some farms in Leigh does not mention Price’s – as it was called at this time – because the Estate already owned it.

However, the Tythe Map of 1841 (see note 2 below), which covers the whole of the Parish of Leigh, does show and name Price’s Farm together with buildings and stables. The field (427) to the north of the farm is called “Long Plat Field”; to the west (441) there is the “Orchard” – a common appendage to most local farms although in this case, a subheading calls it “pasture”; to the south (442) there is “House Pasture” – probably used for the chickens, and beyond that, leading to the Hall Place wood (443), is “Grannys Meadow”. (See table at end of document for more details of each field)

Immediately to the west of the farm there is another building and yard (marked 426 on the map) which has an adjacent field, “Suckling House field”, although there is no knowledge of what or where Suckling House was. 426 is given as building and yards, and 425 as House and garden;

Joseph Potter and Family (possibly 1800-1869)

Looking at those who have occupied the farm, it seems likely that a Mr Price must have lived in it for part of the late 18th century but this is complete conjecture. The first mention found so far of a farmer there is in the 1841 census (and 1841 Tythe schedule) where Joseph Potter, aged around 75 is shown as the farmer, living with his wife, Elizabeth who is around 70. One suspects that most of the farm work is being done by their son, John, whose age is given as 45. As John was born in Chiddingstone in about 1792 – probably the Causeway or even at Price’s Farm – it seems quite likely that Joseph Potter took over the farm around 1800.

John Potter, the son, is a widower (1851 census states this clearly), but we know this also from the burial index: his wife Elizabeth (nee Rogers) is buried at Leigh, September 1832 aged 41, probably in childbirth, for her daughter Maria is baptized at Leigh on 28 October 1832. However, in the 1841 census John has four of his surviving children living with him, Mary (25), Charlotte (20), Harriett (15) and Maria (9). There is another child, too, Stephen Neal aged 3 also living with them. Further investigations appear to show that he would have been the son of another daughter, Sarah Potter, who had married Henry Neale (pre-1837). By 1861 Henry Neale and Sarah were farming Lucy’s Farm.

Daughter Harriet would later marry another Stephen Neale: in 1851 and 1861 they are still at Price’s Farm: this family is shown as farming Hubbards Farm at Sevenoaks in 1881. (Note 1)

Servants/Farm Help 1841

The amount of manpower to work a 250 acre farm in the middle of the 19th century would have been quite considerable. Some, the family members and long serving workers, would live in the farm; others would have worked full-time at the farm but lived in their own cottages; and a good number would be employed part of the year when they were needed. In this census, there is one F.S – a female servant – who, as is often the case is 15 years old. Then there are five ‘men’ living in and working on the farm whose age range from 20 to 12 years old.

So altogether, there are fourteen people living at the farm in 1841 – which was almost certainly a mixed farm, both at this time and throughout most of the century. Only two fields out of forty five are described in the tithe map as devoted to hops (nos. 419 and 681).

1851 census and John Potter

By 1851, in the ten years since the previous census, both Joseph and Elizabeth have died – and John Potter is now 59 and the formal tenant farmer. Two of his daughters Mary (37) and Maria (18) are unmarried and presumably do the housework and farmers’ wives jobs in place of their late mother. However, Harriett, now aged 25, is married to Stephen Neal (aged 27). The Stephen Neal who was around 3 in 1841 does not appear as a 13 year old – it seems likely that he has died – but it looks as if he was born to Harriett when she was very young because she is only 25 now (i.e. she would have been perhaps about 14 when he was born if the ages given are accurate). The father was presumably Stephen Neal and they now married with two (new) children, Henry aged 2 and another baby, named Stephen aged 1. There is also a visitor, James Neal (8) who must have been some relative of Stephen.

John has five men living at the farm to help him. His son-in-law, Stephen Neal, is shown as a waggoner and another man David Seale (19) is also a waggoner. As a side line, did John Potter undertake the movement of goods locally? If he did, it was not in a major way because the local trade directories of the time (Kellys, Pigots and the Post Office etc) do not mention it, whilst they do for a couple of other Leigh farmers.

Where born

Looking at all the 19th century census returns for Price’s Farm we can obtain an idea of how much people moved around the country. For example, in 1851, all the twelve people living at the farm, except two, were born in Leigh or Chiddingstone; and Stephen Neal – the elder – was born in Tonbridge. However, one 20 year old farm worker was born in Hartfield, E. Sussex (about 25 miles or a good day’s journey from Leigh). Later in the century, people living at the farm came from further afield – including places as ‘foreign’ as Cambridge and Pimlico.

Death of John Potter and arrival of James Wallis (c. 1869)

From the Leigh Churchyard Index we know John Potter died in 1865 aged 71. He was mentioned in a Kelly’s Directory in 1862. By 1871, his two unmarried daughters, Mary Ann Potter and Maria Potter and Stephen Neal are given as joint farmers at Stock Green. So it is safe to assume that they left Price’s Farm shortly after the death of their father in about 1866/67. It would appear that the Potter family had run Price’s for around seventy years: and continued to be farmers elsewhere.

From the 1871 census we can see that James Wallis Jnr is given as the Price’s Farm tenant. He was 29 so had taken over the farm fairly young. He had been born in Cowden and is married to Elizabeth (27). They have a one year old son, James, who was born in Leigh. James Wallis also came from a farming family: his parents had farmed 260 acres at Cowden (see 1861 census).

With only one child and an active, young wife, James Wallis did not need as many servants. They have an 18 year old maid servant and a 17 year old young man who is given as an indoor general servant.

Even when Samuel Morley bought so much of the Parish of Leigh in 1870, Price’s Farm remained in the Penshurst Estate for the next forty years.

The Arrival of Henry Boarer c. 1878

James Wallis and his family did not stay long at Prices – probably only eight or ten years – because he and his family have moved to Barnetts Farm – again owned by the Penshurst Estate – by around 1880.

In the 1881 census the new tenant at Price’s is shown as Henry S Boarer. (The “S” is for Sawyer). Henry was 31 and also born in Cowden. He had previously farmed with his brother at Wadhurst and married at Malling in 1876; his wife’s name was Fanny Trigg. Following his marriage he probably farmed at Shipbourne, because his 2 year old son, Ernest, had been born there. The census says he employed three men and a boy. However, none of them is a live-in workman. There are only five living in the farm house now (as opposed to 14 fifty years before). Henry, his wife Fanny (who has been born in Cambridge) their two small children and a 15 year old general servant, Esther (born in Matfield).

Field Cottages (later Prices Cottages)

In 1884 the Penshurst Estate decided to build a pair of cottages just to the west of Price’s – Field Cottages. They were probably built on the site of an earlier building which appears on the 1841 Tythe map, as has been mentioned earlier. Presumably they were normally occupied by agricultural labourers or keepers on the Penshurst Estate who would have often worked at Price’s although this has not been pursued. After the Second World War at least one was lived in by a Hall Place keeper, when they had been acquired by Lord Hollanden. The cottages remained two separate dwellings until the early 1970s.

John Pierson takes over (c. 1889)

Again, Henry Boarer did not stay long – probably only three or four years because by 1891 he is a farmer at Erith (his next son Albert being born at Abbey Wood). Also the trade directories and the 1891 census show John Pierson at Price’s Farm with his wife Avis (born Pimlico and two children Alice aged 2 and John 4 months, both born at Leigh. John Pierson is aged 27 and comes from Wadhurst, a fair way from Leigh. So he probably worked the farm for around twenty two years. He is in the 1901 census with his family; and the trade directories’ show him there at least until the sale of the farm to the Hall Place Estate. In 1911 he is living at Tonbridge, with his wife and four of his children, and is given as a retired farmer, living on his own means. One of the Pierson’s (?John) is buried in Leigh churchyard and one of John’s descendants, now married to one of Colin’s daughters, is back at Leigh Park Farm.

Price’s Farm sold to Hall Place Estate, 1911

In 1911 Samuel Hope Morley (later 1st Lord Hollanden) bought two farms from the Penshurst Estate, Price’s Farm (250 acres) and Leigh Park Farm (300 acres). Both farms were immediately adjacent to the Hall Place gardens and woods. Samuel Hope Morley who was hugely enthusiastic about his shooting parties would have welcomed these additional acres, although by this era he was renting large parts of the Penshurst estate for shooting.

The 1911 census, (taken on 2 April 1911) gives the farmer of Price’s Farm as Frank Bourne, aged 49: he is living at Price’s Farm with his sister, Minnie. Both were born in Tenterden. No one else is living at the farmhouse with them. The adjacent Price’s Farm cottages – originally Field Cottages – are occupied by Ira Coomber of Blackham, a farm labourer, and his family all born Chiddingstone or Leigh; the other cottage is occupied by Geoerge Checksfield, born in Wittersham, Kent, again an agricultural labourer and his family.

William Graham (c. late 1920s – c. 1960s)

Kelly’s Directory mentions that William Graham had become the tenant at Price’s Farm in 1930. A 1930 rent roll presented to the Inspector of Taxes gives Mr W M Graham as a tenant farming 212.062 acres, for a rent of £194 p.a. which was paid to the Hall Place Estate. The rent also included the two next door cottages. He is mentioned as the farmer there in 1938 and he continued to work the farm until his death in 1961. One of his farm workers was Bob Coomber who currently lives in Charlotte Cottages.

Bob only worked at Prices for about four years before Mr Graham retired.  (“he was a nice old boy”) and then he worked for the Bastables, based at Leigh Park Farm but working at all the places where the Bastables had land – including Bowens Farm in Poundsbridge, Home Farm, Little Lucy’s.

Harry Hobbs and his descendants have been farming Leigh Park Farm for four generations, since Harry became the tenant in 1919. Barbara Hobbs, Harry’s daughter, married Roy Bastable, who had come out of the army and joined his father-in-law in 1952. Their son, Colin Bastable, and his children currently work the farm and a variety of lands around Leigh and Penshurst. In 1962 Leigh Park Farm, and nearly all Price’s Farm land were amalgamated, still rented from the Hall Place Estate. [The Valuation of Prices Farm, when its equipment and stock were sold by the executors of William Graham to the firm of Hobbs and Bastable on 31 January 1962, is in the LHS Archives. The sale included 89 cattle. The price was £7,500 5s7d]. In the post war years, a fair number of various sized farm buildings – from brick to concrete structures – were erected just to the west of Price’s Farm.

Sometime around the mid 1960s Price’s became a house rather than a farm house and was lived in by Harry Hobbs and his second wife, Hilda (née Francis). Mr Hobbs died in 1966 and Hilda Bastable continued to live at Prices for some years before retiring to the village.

 

(Further information about Price’s Farm and its tenancy post 1961 come from Alfred Houghton’s (Hall Place Estate Manager) notes: by the autumn of 1961, Mr Graham, the tenant of Price’s Farm was in poor health and asked to give up his tenancy.  This fitted in with the Estate’s aim to run all the farms in a more collective way.  The rental for Price’s Farm’s 200 acres had been £262 p.a. and it was proposed to increase this to £624 p.a.  Roy Bastable agreed to manage Price’s Farm as well as Leigh Park Farm – where the rent was increased from £275 p.a. to £633 p.a. – both working for the Company set up by the Estate.  At the same time the Estate hoped to rent out Price’s Farmhouse “to a commuter”.  William Graham died on 10 December 1961 and the Estate agreed to rent the Farmhouse to Mr Hobbs/Mr Bastable and Mr and Mrs Hobbs moved in.  After Mr Hobbs death, Mrs Hobbs stayed on until 17 March 1975 and the house together with 5 acres was sold to Michael Robinson and his family on 26 July 1976 see below).

The Conversion of Price’s Cottages

In 1976 Hall Place Estate sold the 1884 double cottages, originally Field Cottages or Old Cottages but which had become known as Price’s Cottages. (At this time the Estate was finding that, with low rents for run down cottages which were always needing repairs, it was financially beneficial to sell their properties to outside people – often commuters).  The two cottages were bought by Mike Baker, the timpanist for the London Symphony Orchestra and his new wife, Janet Maggs from a long established Leigh family.  The first was sold on 18 April 1977 and the second on 6 November 1978.   The Bakers started converting them into a single house but in October 1980 they sold the cottage to Basil and Margo Hone who finished the conversion and decided to rename the house Field Cottage – not knowing that this had been the original name.  In 2008, Margo, by then a widow, moved to an easier-to-run house, the new owners being Simon and Wendy Madgwick.  The Madgwicks now have the documents, which the Bakers were given by the Estate in 1976, called ‘The Epitome of Title’.

 

Sale of Price’s Farm to the Robinsons 1976

In 1976 Michael Robinson and his wife, Elizabeth, bought Price’s Farm with six acres which included the fields and the immediate outbuildings to the south and east from the Hall Place Estate. It had been empty for at least six months and need a large amount done internally. Nor did it have a garden. Almost unbelievably, in their 1960s enthusiasm to “List” all the old houses in the neighbourhood, the Sevenoaks Rural District Council did not classify Price’s Farmhouse a “listed building”. The Robinsons were, therefore, fairly free to adapt the building – employing Neil McFadyen as the architect. Externally, they changed little apart from raising the roof slightly to allow for a new main staircase and in due course adding a conservatory. The changes internally were, however, quite substantial, including make a new main entrance at the western end of the house instead of the original one in the centre of the southern face of the building.

There was a substantial cellar but often it seemed to be flooded with up to three foot of water. So Michael had a pump installed. Relatively soon afterwards, the farmer from Leigh Park Farm, Colin Bastable, who by this time was working nearly all the original Price’s Farm land, suggested that he would like to prospect for water. His growing herd of dairy cattle could do with a cheap supply. A water diviner arrived and suggested a bore hole of 200-250 feet within twenty yards of Price’s main door (but on Colin’s land). The bore hole was dug and water was duly found. Since then it has been pumped up via a small brick shed at the N.W. corner of the farm yard down the hill to Leigh Park Farm. However, as at 2013, water still comes into the cellar and has to be pumped out.

The Robinsons also created a large garden, digging some ponds to the south out of the solid clay (“They never needed to be lined” said Michael). Michael and Elizabeth planted around six hundred broad-leaf trees to the west and south of the house – with the help of a tree planting grant. Additionally, around 2000, they converted the single storey cowsheds and outbuildings.

For thirty five years Michael and Elizabeth brought up their children in the house and the family became very much an integral part of the village.

Sale in 2012

In 2012 Michael and Elizabeth sold Price’s Farm House to Mike and Sue Edwards and their four children and moved to a village near Petersfield to be nearer their family.

Chris Rowley, April 2013

Note 1: More information on the NEALE and POTTERs is in our ARCHIVES: but it is not relevant as far as the history of Price’s Farm is concerned.

Note 2:  The Tithe Map is available to view on this website, but you can also view the Tithe Map Schedule for 1841, which lists owners/occupiers and land on the Kent Archaeology.org.uk website.  Go into this link which will bring you to the home page: go into ‘Researching the History and Archaeology of Kent: then click on Kent Maps, Tithe Awards and Schedules on-line: search on ‘L’ – Leigh: then search Prices Farm.

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