Farms of Sprowston

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Farms of Sprowston

A number of farms in Sprowston have been known by alternative names and this is reflected below.

Boar Farm

All the early Ordnance Survey Maps show the farm as Boar Farm but the name had been changed to Home Farm by the 1947 OS map. In the early 21st century Blue Boar Lane was rerouted and the remaining farm buildings demolished to make way for housing developments.

Breck Farm

Much of the land associated with Breck Farm had already been allocated for housing prior to the Second World War. The farm buildings however were to be utilised my Nurdin & Peacock as an egg packing station. When this usage ceased the site was purchased and became used as a motor parts and tyre depot. While many of the buildings have been upgraded there are still traces of the original farm buildings still visible at the business now trading as Willco Motor Parts.

Church Farm

The first person found at Church Farm was George Barnes 1792-1868 born in nearby Beeston St Andrew. He was found at the farm in the 1841-1861census years as a farmer of 188 acres. He had married Sarah Olyott 1795-1869 in 1828, she was Sprowston born and they were to remain there for the rest of her and George`s life. George was the first to pass away in 1868 followed by Sarah in 1869.

John Everett 1817-1901 was the next person at Church Farm at sometime around 1869 after the deaths of George and Sarah Barnes. Prior to that John had been a farm bailiff possibly at White House Farm as he was listed as living on Boar Lane alongside workers on the estate. In 1840 in Sprowston he married Hagar Howlett 1832-1905 she was born in Rushall in South Norfolk. They remained at the farm until at least 1891 before moving to South Raynham where they remained for the rest of their lives.

Jacob Henry Dawson 1872-1963 followed the Everett family as the next occupiers of the farm. Jacob was the son of Jonathan Dawson a butcher from Hellesdon. Jacob married Maud Mary Jefferies 1873-1957 in 1897 her father was also a butcher from Hellesdon so it was highly likely they had known each other from childhood. In Kellys trade directory of 1896 there was a listing of Thower and Dawson however by 1904 only the name of Dawson was mentioned. Quite how long Jacob remained farming there is not known for certain but he remained as a resident of Sprowston as both he and his wife Maud were listed as living at Clematis House 293 Wroxham Road at their deaths in 1963 and 1957 respectively. Their probate records state their effects were left to their son William Henry Dawson 1899-1981 listed as being a market gardener.

Church Farm was also the site of the Norfolk Agricultural Station and Experimental Station. This had originally started on a trial site at Jex Farm Little Snoring in 1908 before moving to Sprowston in 1921where it was to remain until 1964 before relocating to Morley near Wymondham. Also on site was a meteorological station quite how long it was in existence is not known but it seems to be in line with the time span of the Agricultural Station.

The farm house itself has been renovated and is now a private dwelling. Other developments on former farm land include Aslake Close which includes a medical centre alongside of Church Green Lodge care home. There is also a housing development leading up to the church named St Margarets Drive.

Denmark Farm

Denmark Farm was situated on Sprowston Road almost opposite to the Prince of Denmark public house. Robert Denmark was a tenant farmer on that part of the Sprowston Estate owned by Sir Lambert Blackwell around 1750. At that time it was known as Magdalen Farm after the nearby Magdalen Chapel which we now know as the Lazar House. Robert Denmark remained farming there for the remainder of his life his son William taking over from him after his death. Following various changes in ownership of the Sprowston Estate over the coming years parts of the land were sold off when Jonathan Davey acquired the estate in 1802. Magdalen Farm was then sold to the previously mentioned tenant William Denmark. Although it may have been known locally as Denmark Farm in the 1841 census it was known as Chapel Farm and later as Magdalen Farm when the new owner a Mary Ann Perowne from Lincolnshire purchased it. Her stay there did not seem to be long lasting as in 1853 the farm was put up for auction.

Mentioned should be made that in April 1854 the Mayor of Norwich received orders from the Home Secretary that all Norwich churchyard burials were to cease from 1 Feb 1855. Land for a new public cemetery was sought and strong contenders were Earlham Road, Denmark Farm and a site off Unthank Road. Had the Denmark Farm site been chosen the area around Gertrude Road and beyond would have been nothing like what we now know it as. The farm by now seems to have become known by all as Denmark Farm. Incidentally in1861 William Denmark the former owner now listed as a retired farmer was found living at the Prince of Denmark public house where Charles Hudson was the landlord. It appears that the land was then to go through further changes in ownership as well as the people found farming there. In 1877 Walter W Butcher was listed as being the occupier this was followed by John Thurtle a market gardener in the census of 1881.His stay was of short duration as in 1883 Joshua Mayor was found to be in residence. By 1891 the occupier had changed once again the new tenant being Theophilus Rump who was a market gardener as well as being a tax collector. Story has it that he was in some kind of dispute with the landlord of the Prince of Denmark public house and was in fear of being shot if he went out at night. He obviously survived as by 1901 he was found living safe and sound in Reedham.

A portion of the land was sold to the Norwich Electric Tramways Company in 1898 to enable them to build tram sheds at the end of Silver Road for the launch of their service that started in 1900. It was about this time that the estate was sold once more this time to a consortium of business men one of whom was Benjamin Morgan an estate agent and surveyor. The land was then divided into building plots for housing Gertrude Road and along Silver Road were part of this development. With this development and the house belonging to the farm being demolished in 1900 Denmark Farm as such had all but disappeared in the space of a few years.

Dixons Farm

Despite the official name of the farm being Stonehouse Farm, many locals simply referred to it as Dixons Farm as the Dixon family, who were both farmers and dairymen, ran a milk supply business from the premises. Full details of this business appear under a separate heading for Stonehouse Farm.

Grange Farm

As the name would suggest the farm was attached or adjacent to Sprowston Grange on Salhouse Road. It is suggested that much of the site is now John Faircloth car sales. There is no mention of Grange farm until the 1912 Kelly's directory the farmer being listed was George Miller (bailiff to Isaac Cannell). By the 1929 directory the farmer is shown as Charles Kemp, the same name appearing in the 1933 issue.

Greenborough Farm

As early as the ordnance survey map updated in 1905 the farm is shown as a smallpox hospital. Quite how long it remained in this role is debatable, as maps up to the 1950s, still had in brackets (smallpox hospital). However, no local residents can remember it being used for this purpose. It is regrettable that there are no records of it being returned to a farming although locals said it specialised in pea production. All traces of the farm disappeared when the city council acquired the area for what is now the Heartsease Estate. Quite whether a coincidence or not, the area of the farm was left as a car park and has only recently been filled in with housing.

Hall Farm

There is only one mention of this farm in the 1933 Kelly's directory when the farmer was listed as Thomas Walker Dixon.

Home Farm

Home farm was simply a renamed Boar Farm and this entry will provide information.

Lincolns Farm

An older resident’s memory suggests that this farm was in fact Church Farm, although there is no documentary evidence to corroborate this. Published records show no person by the name of Lincoln running the farm, although this cannot be ruled out as it was common to refer to farms by the farmer's name rather than its official title. Should documentary evidence be forthcoming this entry will be updated.

Oak Lodge Farm

Oak Lodge has had a long association with the Cozens-Hardy family and the farm was adjacent to their residence. In 1883 the farmer was quoted as being Theobald Cozens-Hardy and the same details applied in 1896. Not until the Kelly's Directory 1929 is there further mention the farm, recording the farmer as Thomas Morter. From this entry onwards, Oak Lodge Farm was never again mentioned but even as late as the 1970s, farming on the adjacent land was still going on. Many of the farm buildings have survived and are now in use as industrial premises.

Seppings Farm

Older residents suggest that this farm was in fact Wood Farm but there is no evidence to support this. The only clue is a directory entry in 1912 for Henry Seppings whose address was Wroxham Road, so his usage of either Wood Farm or an adjacent plot might have given rise to this impression.

Stonehouse Farm

This definitely came into the category of a farm known by two names, the other being Dixons farm after the family that ran the farm and dairy. A full account of this farm is available by following this link to Stonehouse Farm.

Tills Farm

The farm is first mentioned in the 1908 Kelly's directory with the farmer named as Henry William Bullard (tomato, cucumber, asparagus and mushroom grower). The 1912 entry shows the farm run by Edward Oberlin Adcock, tomato grower. By 1929 it was in the hands of Archibald Adcock and the business had become a limited company E O Adcock Ltd of North Walsham Road. However, no map shows which of several buildings in the area known as the Tills was the farm. No information is available beyond 1933 although a map revised in 1947 shows the Tills area laid out for housing.

White Hall Farm

The renaming from the previous White House Farm seems to have taken place when Cecil G Gowing took over the farm from George David Gowing in the 1920s. When Cecil Gowing retired and the farm was taken over by the McFarlane's, it reverted to its original White House name. For history see White House Farm.

White House Farm

Over the course of time the farm has been known as both White House Farm and White Hall Farm. Sprowston Hall estate and its lands have been under numerous ownerships over a period of several hundred years and no doubt the land has been used for farming in one way or another throughout those years.

The first White House Farm

So although certainly not the first to farm in the particular area the first records found calling it White Hall Farm was with Robert Atkinson 1805-1882.He had been born in East Ruston, in 1829 he married Mary Felton 1808-1873 at St Mary and Margaret Sprowston, the place of her baptism.For the next few years he farmed at Walcott where the oldest of his children were born. However his son Arthur was born and baptised in Sprowston in 1849 indicating that the family were residing there by that time. Robert appears in the census of 1851as a farmer of 260 acres he also appears in the Electoral Roll as residing at the farm from 1849-1859. His life in farming seems to have been successful as at the age of 56 he had retired being listed as a Gentleman in the 1861 census, residing at 11 Surrey Terrace in Norwich. He passed away in 1882 in Norwich at the age of 76 years.

The Norgate Family

John Henry Norgate 1836-1872 named after his father John Norgate a successful Wine Merchant from Norwich was the next person to be found farming at what was now called White House Farm. At his marriage to Ellen Elizabeth Bullard in 1859 he was listed a farmer residing in Sprowston. This indicating that he acquired the farm at the time of Robert Atkinson`s departure. At the same time his father was now found in 1861 living at Sprowston Hall, at that time the Hall was owned by George Head, the size of the farm had by now had increased to 411 acres. John`s time at the farm was to be short lived however as he was to have an early death at the age of 35 years in 1872. By the time of his death his parents had left Sprowston Hall moving to Hellesdon where his father John died in Dec 1871.

The Gurney Acquisition

John Gurney 1845-1887 was the next owner of Sprowston Hall. He was sold the estate in 1868 by George Head 1795-1876 whom had married John`s aunt Sarah Head nee Gurney 1811-1876 she being the sister of his father John Gurney 1809-1856.This resulted in the beginning of the Gurney family connection with the Hall and more importantly the land that went with it.

The Gowing Period

Next to farm White Hall Farm was George David Gowing 1854-1925. George was born in Hellesdon where his father also named George was a farmer of some 1600 acres. Perhaps his father`s guidance and investment helped him to take over the farm after the death of John Norgate as George would have been just 18 years old at that time. It was now that the farm became known once again as White Hall Farm, again the size of the holding had increased from 411 acres to 630 acres. These details are from the 1881 census where George was listed as being single, aged 26 years employing 15 men and 4 boys. In 1883 he married Ethel Sarah Gambling 1861-1934 in Great Yarmouth. She was born in Buxton her family had moved to Great Yarmouth where her father Horace was a Miller and Farmer, prior to her marriage she was working locally as a Teacher. During their married life George and Ethel had ten children one of which Cecil George Gowing born in 1898 he was to follow his father in running the farm. George David Gowing died on 15 Jan 1925 followed by Ethel Sarah Gowing on 2 July 1935 both were residing at the farm at the time of their respective deaths.

Cecil George Gowing 1898-1973. After attending Bracondale School in Norwich as a boarder it was not long after his education had finished that he joined the Royal Flying Corps. He was to see action in WW1 serving with 98 Sqn. Royal Flying Corps in France in 1917-1918. He was to maintain an interest in flying and was a member of the Norfolk and Norwich Aero Club based at Mousehold Heath. In 1934 he married Pauline Wilson 1912-1995 in Ketton Rutland. They had one daughter Annabelle born in 1936 in Sprowston. Cecil carried on with the running of the farm after his parents time there, at one time there was a dairy situated at the farm with its own dairy herd together with a bottling plant and milk rounds. An opportunity arose in 1950 when the estate of Sir Edward Stracey was disposed of after his death for Cecil to purchase Home Farm Rackheath the land of which adjoined those of White Hall Farm. Cecil gave up the tenancy of White Hall Farm in1964, he and his wife Pauline were then to spend the rest of their days at Home Farm. He passed way in 1973 followed by Pauline in 1995.

Gurney’s as owners and farmers

Under Samuel Edmund Gurney 1912-1990 the farm reverted back to being known as White House Farm, Samuel became head of the business to be followed by his son Richard E.T.Gurney born in 1943. In 1964 Geoffrey Buckingham was employed by Samuel Gurney and under his management the farm was to be transformed. Over 70 acres of fruit trees were planted as well as a selection of soft fruits. The rest of the acreage was used for arable farming such as wheat and sugar beet. Once established a thriving PYO business was started Geoffrey`s wife Wendy worked for many years at the farm shop. Norfolk Fruit Growers had a contract for much of the produce and at the peak of the season would take away lorry loads at a time. After Geoff`s retirement in 2001 Robin Baines was to carry on as farm manager.

Sprowston Garden Centre was created in 1974 on the opposite side of Blue Boar Lane. This was another venture connected with the Gurney family, the original proprietor was Simon Macfarlane, he had married Samuel Gurney`s daughter Jane in 1970.Wendy Buckingham wife of Geoffrey worked at the garden centre for 17 years before retiring. It still remains as a garden centre although now under different ownership. It was sold in 1990 to Notcutt Ltd later to be Wyevale Garden Centre as it known as at the present time. Although the business was sold the freehold of the land still remains with the Gurney family. Simon Macfarlane and his wife Jane are also the current occupiers of the actual farm house of White House Farm.

A change to housing and retail

With the current need for additional housing most of the land that was farmed previously has now been turned over to housing development. During 2016 clearing the area for this was well under way and the development is already now in 2017 beginning to take shape. In 2012 Richard Gurney`s son Oliver and his wife Charlotte came into the business with new ideas for its future, as for what remains of the farm there is still fruit growing on a reduced scale on site as well as purpose built retail outlets.

Wilks Farm

Wilks Farm was situated on Church Lane on the opposite side of the road leading to St Mary and Margaret church this would now be found in the area just before the Cozens Hardy Road turn off. Wilks Farm Drive is a modern development on Barkers Lane at its junction with North Walsham Road This can lead to some confusion as it is at some distance from where the farm was actually situated. How the farm was to be named is almost certainly down to a previous owner the Rev. Mark Wilks 1748-1819. In his day he was a well known dissident minister involved with the St Clements Baptist Church in Norwich. Having moved from Costessey he purchased a farm in Sprowston in 1802 where he remained until 1809 before moving into the city of Norwich. After this event there is no trace of a Wilks Farm being mentioned as such until 1891 when William Fox a gamekeeper for Theobald Cozens Hardy of Oak Lodge North Walsham Road was listed as being the resident.

Joseph Ellis Dixon 1835-1913 and his family were to be found at the farm in 1900, prior to this they had been residing at Stonehouse Farm details of which can be found on this site under the title of Stonehouse / Dixons Farm.

By the census of 1911 Joseph had retired and his son Charles Walter Dixon 1880-1966 had taken over the tenancy of the farm. Charles was married in 1907 to Hannah Caroline Harrowven 1881-1943. They had three children during their time at the farm the oldest being Winifred Hannah Caroline Dixon 1912-1988 she was to be of great help to Charles in his later years. Charles continued with the farm and if viewed on a map his fields merged with the land of his brother Joseph at Stonehouse Farm this resulted in quite a large acreage between them. However with the coming of housing development in the 1930`s Charles was to lose much of the land as his brother Joseph did at Stonehouse Farm. This was probably the reason that he made a move to Salhouse and where he found other available land. Charles was to live at East View this house is at the junction of Lower and Upper Street in Salhouse. The land he farmed was off Lower Street where he was known mainly for keeping pigs. In his later years Charles was to go blind, his daughter Winifred always known as Winnie Dixon even after her marriage carried on with the running of the farm. She was married in 1957 to Charles Frederick Pratt 1909-1982 he was always known as Fred.

After Charles departure from Wilks Farm the house was divided in two dwellings which remained as such until the house and probably the last wattle and daub dwelling were demolished and site cleared for housing in the 1960`s. There is an article by Alan Notley recalling his childhood days living in one of the dwellings during the 1930`s that can be found elsewhere on this site.

Wood Farm

The only mention of this farm in a directory is the 1933 Kelly's stating the farmer was Thomas Burrows. Early maps show it had been in existence from at least the 1850s. The farmhouse and one or two outbuildings are the only buildings still extant. The farmhouse being a residence and preschool nursery and a low range of buildings converted into residential and business usage. The land which had originally comprised the farm is covered almost entirely by housing except for a green area that was previously the pond.