Last Saturday on my village Facebook site, someone posted a photo of a cottage half covered in ivy. It intrigued me. There’s something so unexplainable about abandoned buildings and ruins which intrigues us all that we are drawn to visit them for ourselves. I guess we all want to know the stories behind why these places have been forgotten.
The farm cottage in my photo (below) was once part of a farm that was taken over by the government during the Second World War. I had seen photos of the main farmhouse before, but I hadn’t realised there was another building on the site. The cottage caught my attention and really fascinated me.
On a chilly Monday morning, my friend and I set out for a walk to see if we could photograph the buildings for ourselves. I hoped too that the buildings inspire more settings for my Granny Wenlock’s books. I needed to photograph them straightaway because the site is due to be developed. There’s a waste incinerator and a new main road on the local planning office’s books to be built on the site over the next few years .
Of course, the cottage is too modern to be Granny’s though there has been a building on this site for a long time. In the late 16th century rural England became a scene of changes. A drop in population due to several outbreaks of plague pandemics and civil wars brought a new way of living to many who lived on the land around my village. As life was better for rich and poor an increase in a growing population created a demand in home-grown food, while the people at that time were still importing spices, salt and tropical fruits. 17th century England was also beginning to develop new ways of farming too.
I feel that Granny Wenlock’s home would be more like the picture below. Though more of a single storey building with the same timber frame, plastered walls and a thatched roof. Through my research so far there are several locations where her home could be set. The idea that Granny’s home could have a moat is a delightful one.
Records that I’ve uncovered, via the internet and my husband’s collection of books of the local area, shows that the main farm house dates back to the early 17th century and is moated on three sides. We saw signs of the moat around the back of the cottage and to get to the cottage itself you had to cross a concrete bridge with a broken handrail. The moat itself was overgrown with reeds and shrubs. The main farmhouse originally had handmade red roof tiles which must have looked stunning against the white plaster, but now has a tin roof to try and protect the building from the elements.
During WWII the Woodhouse farmland was reduced from 270 acres to just fifty when an airfield was built to station both American and British forces to help in the fight to free Europe from the Nazis. The last fifty acres around the airfield was farmed by various owners throughout the war, with the help of the women’s land army, and some of the service personnel on their off duty moments.
I’m just very disappointed that I couldn’t find out anything more about the people who lived in both of the houses over the years. I know the farm was once part of a large estate belonging to Felix Hall which isn’t that far from Woodhouse Farm.
Charles Callis, Baron Western 1767-1844 inherited Rivenhall Place, a large estate just outside my village, also owned Felix Hall in 1790 as it was his main place of residence and where he died in 1844. Charles was an avid collector, traveller and antiquarian, but his main interest was in the improvement of farming methods, such as improving the breeds of sheep.
It was a very interesting walk, and to find another stunning location too. Now I really must stop researching and get on with the writing. I’ve uncovered a lot of information around this area, and places to set future tales, but now I must put it all into some order down on paper, and just get on with the writing.
Have a great day and keep safe everyone.