Well Farm, Little Witley

In 1793 William Wainwright was the tenant at Well Farm. The Wainwrights had already been in the Little Witley for several generations. The first entry in the surviving parish registers, made in 1680, refers to a Wainwright. Francis Wainwright was constantly appearing before the Quarter Sessions court in the 1630s-40s for keeping an improperly licensed alehouse at Hancridge (?Ockeridge) Wood.

William Wainwright was born in 1755. Between 1778 and 1801 he had fourteen children of his own by his wife Sarah. He served as chapel warden during the period 1796 to 1799, and had pew 2 in the church allocated to his family.

Wainwright had 173 acres and a full range of new buildings. Surprisingly, whilst rents for some neighbouring farms had nearly doubled, his rent went up by only 3/- at this time. Wainwright was at Well Farm until 1818 when John Evans took over. Evans held the farm for only six years before Edward Burrow took it on. By 1839 the farm had been reduced to 162 acres. Burrow’s wife, two children and two servants shared the house. Edward’s daughter, Mary Ann, married miller Daniel Wagstaff Goodwin, previously of Holt Mill. He died in 1850, leaving his widow, Sarah, was farming 165 acres with two labourers. The oldest child, Thomas, had left home by then, but had returned and held the farm in his own right by 1854. Three years later William Bolton had taken the farm. He stayed until at least 1866, by which time he had six children baptised in Little Witley church.

William Bolton’s son, William, was farming Bank Farm in the mid-1860s. By 1868 there were no Bolton farmers in Little Witley.

In 1868 Samuel and his wife Julia Jones were farming at Well Farm. The Jones’ did not stay for long for by 1871 William Bishop was employing eight men at the farm. Bishop had moved from Wichenford. He was born in nearby Grimley in about 1837. He married Jane Bullock, daughter of James Bullock later of Wood Farm. By 1871 William and Jane had one daughter, ten years later Jane had produced nine more children, including a set of twins. By that time he farmed 175 acres, apparently without any labourers. In the spring of 1891 two of William’s daughters were staying with their grandfather, James Bullock, at Wood Farm. William farmed at Well Farm up to his death in 1904, when he was 67 years old. Frederick George Bishop then took over and stayed until the sale of 1920 when he was farming 196 acres at Well Farm, plus an additional 62 acres at Wood Farm.

Edward Birchley bought the farm and stayed there until at least the time of the Second World War.

The farm buildings at Well Farm were converted in pleasant residences in the 1980s.

Both the house and the stable are grade II listed buildings. The listing for the house reads ‘Well Farmhouse – GV II Farmhouse. Late C17 – early C18, remodelled C19. Red brick on sandstone plinth,tiled roof, brick stacks. Main north-south range faces east, lower range at rear forming L-plan, now obscured by north projecting dairy wing; large external stack to south gable of main range, entrance in south return beyond stack. 2 storeys, gable lit attic, cellar; raised verges to gables, dentilled eaves cornice, 2 string courses, on first floor raised over lintels. Two C19 3-light casements with cambered lintels to each floor, doorway to cellar at lower right. Interior has plain oak dog-leg staircase.’. The listing for the stable block reads ‘Stable and loft over and south adjoining cart shed approx 15 m north-east of Well Farmhouse – GV II Stable and loft over and cart shed adjoining to south. C18 with C19 refacing to elevation foldyard, mid-C19 cart shed. Timber-framed stable/loft on sand- stone plinth, brick infill and refacing, brick cart shed, tiled roofs. Straight range of 4 framed bays, cart shed adjoins to lower end forming east enclosure of foldyard. Stable/loft: 2 storeys, timber-framed elevation to road with four irregular long braces to posts, elevation to foldyard has brick ground floor with 3 doorways, rounded brick surrounds, weather boarding to first floor and gable ends. Open brick cart shed with 2 elliptical arched entries to each side included for Group Value.’

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