Back to basics - Bere Farm
It takes a confident client to take on the challenges of restoring a Grade II listed farmhouse, returning the interior to within some semblance of its historic past. We are delighted to have been engaged to help restore one of Hampshire’s oldest farmhouses.
Bere Farmhouse is an ancient house dating back to 1528. It is unusual as it is a very early floored-hall building - i.e. the hall was never two storeys and timber chimney stacks carried smoke from the hall. Sixteenth century services quarters were replaced in the early seventeenth century. A catslide roof was added to the rear in the 18th century and at the same time the whole house refaced in brick to follow architectural fashion. A Victorian range was added to the east at the end of the 19th century replacing an earlier parlour. The house was sold on the open market in 1978 and since then a number of damaging changes have adversely affected the character of the farmhouse.
Our clients plans include restoring the character of the interior whilst unpicking crude and damaging late 20th century alterations. Plans include, restoring the linear arrangement of the principal rooms served by the 18th century corridor to the north of the house. As a consequence, a new kitchen is required to the west of the house - the only location for a new kitchen with views out onto the garden. At first floor the 19th century extension is the best location for the master bedroom with uninterrupted views out along the lane.
Research by local historian, Stan Waight, concludes that the Bere Estate was an enclosure for domestic animals, deriving directly out of woodland during the Saxon period. Bere was either adapted, or purpose built as a deer park before new or enlarged parks began to require permission in the systematic record of park making of the 13th century.
Throughout the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries stock farming was the primary occupation. The Langdon Map of 1615 shows parts as a small wooded area and some areas under grass. By 1785 fields were being assessed by the seed measure and by 1839 was Bere Farm was devoted to arable farming.
By the 20th century, early field enclosures have been gradually removed to reveal larger areas of fields easier to manage with modern farming methods, and resulting in greater open aspect and open views out onto the countryside beyond. By 1969 an aerial photograph confirms a significant change in the setting from the 1909 farm setting. Many of the barns had been taken down and the south laid to lawn – a domestic setting with a turning circle the north of the house. The current house follows the contemporary domestic norm with a garden to the rear, and formal front garden with open aspect.
The Granary and Well House
The only agricultural barn surviving is the granary - intended for the storage of grain which had been threshed but not milled. It was believed that movement of air below the floor would help to keep the grain sweet and being elevated would reduce the likelihood of the grain being spoilt by rats. The walls and floors were sometimes plastered, the floor carefully boarded. Until the 20th century, horses, cows and ox would have been required to plough the field and accommodation required to keep them - sadly none of these buildings now survive. Storage of carts and farm machinery, would have been easily accessible, so perhaps have now been replaced by the modern 20th barns to the east.
Of significant interest, the 18th Century Well House with Donkey Wheel is in two sections north and south with a further 19th century extension to the south. The Well House is one of the deepest in the country. Historic England list only 48 Well Houses in the country and the reason for its separate designation. According to research carried out at Saddlescombe Farm, West Sussex: “Donkeys could be trained to walk one way for 12 minutes, step off the wheel, turn around, step back on again, and start walking in the opposite direction. This ‘automated’ approach meant that the donkeys could raise and lower a large bucket into the well, fill it with water, and pull it to the surface all without human intervention”. The Well House has seen a number of alterations including infilling of the timber frame with brickwork at high level - possibly for structural restraint. The timber frame to the east has been cut to provide access into a 19th century laundry with two coppers and a chimney in the west elevation. The brickwork on the east elevation appears coeval. The south section of the Well House was extended in the 19th century and is used as a store.
The Hen House
An interesting feature to the south is the Hen House. The building is first shown on the first edition of the OS dated 1884. Until the 20th century, poultry ran freely during the day, picking up scraps from the farmyard. It was in the interests of the farmer’s wife that laying hens were encouraged to lay in special boxes safe from predators, rather than in cosy spots or hedgerows. All hens were shut in at night secure against foxes or other animal or human dangers. Other birds generally had no special provision – Turkeys are delicate and easily frightened so were usually given the run of the loose box. Ducks had the pond. Geese are too fearsome to require care or extra protection but a little hutch was sometimes provided at the foot of the steps leading to the granary so that geese could give warning.
james mackintosh architects limited
First Floor, 21 The High Street,
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
01608 692 310 / 07880 727 150