Brightwell Farming History

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The Agricultural Landscape
Indentations in Brightwell’s Eastern boundary suggest that Open-fields were established early, probably before the Norman Conquest.  A ‘middle field’ was mentioned c.1290presumably accompanied by the North & Grove (or South) Fields mentioned in 1421.  Of those, the North field may have been that occasionally called ‘the hide’, suggesting that it began as a discrete Anglo-Saxon Farm worked perhaps by a Free Peasant and his family  In 1423 it contained at least 114a. in 6 Furlongs. Cadwell Field (South-West of Cadwell Farm) was separately mentioned in 1311.  By 1802 the Open-Fields as a whole covered c.1,036 acres, divided amongst Cadwell, Grove, Grove Gravel, Middle, & Ham Fields

Meadows were largely confined to the wetter lands bordering Streams at Cadwell and North of Brightwell Baldwin Village. Those mentioned in 887 & 1086 almost certainly lay in the Parish’s North-east Corner, where Common Meadow in 1802 comprised 40a in 2 adjacent parcels.  In 1623 some or all was Lot Meadow common grazing was available in the Open-fields after Harvest and in a 225a Heath in the South-east, reached by a Driftway from Upperton.  Known by the late 13th century as the Grove, it was used primarily for sheep in the 18th century when Freeholders could cut fern & furze there.

Some Inclosed pasture near the Meadows existed by 1248, when Geoffrey Langley was allowed to construct Fishponds and a Mill at ‘Horscroft‘, and by the late 16th century Pasture Closes near Cadwell Farm totalled 104a, presumably following late Medieval depopulation & Inclosure.  Inclosed Parkland around Brightwell Baldwin Manor House in 1628 included c.45a in Closes called Upper Park, Lower Park, & Ram Acre, some of them possibly of Medieval origin.

The 9th-century Brightwell Estate may have had access to Woods in the Chilterns, and 40a of Wood was recorded in 1086.  Woodland in the Parish itself has never been extensive, however. Ashley’s Wood may be a remnant of the east leah (‘East Wood-pasture’) mentioned in 887, and in the mid 19th century covered 29 acres.  Rumbold’s Copse (4a c.1850) existed by 1797, together with pockets of Woodland in the Manor-House Park, and in 1801 Woods & Plantations covered 69a in all.  The area increased slightly in the 19th century as Coverts were planted for Foxes & Game.

Medieval Tenant & Demesne Farming
In 1086 the 2 Brightwell Estates had identical Agricultural resources, comprising Arable for 6 Plough teams, 6a of Meadow, & 20a of Woodland. Arable clearly predominated, although neither Estate was worked to its full capacity.  Hervey’s Estate (that later known as Parks) had 2 Plough teams in Demesne, and 2 more shared by 5 Villani & 5 Bordars; its annual value had risen to 70s from 50s in 1066Roger’s Estate (known later as Huscarls) had 2 Plough teams and 2 Servi on its Demesne, whilst 8 Villani and 2 Bordars shared a further 3 Ploughs. That estate had doubled in value to 100s a year. The much smaller Cadwell Estate (only 3-Yardlands) was Farmed directly with one Plough team but no Tenants, its annual value rising from 20s to 30s.

By 1279 Villeins on all 3 Manors typically held a Yardland or ½–Yardland for cash Rents & Labour Services, including ploughing, harrowing, sowing, weeding, reaping, haymaking, & carting.  Similar services were owed by Cottars.  The Lords usually provided food & drink during Boon Work, and some Tenants received hay or sheaves. Certain Villeins on Cadwell Manor also had to pull the Lord’s flax, whilst those on Huscarls Manor could pay 2 Quarters of corn to release them from Carriage Service, and one Parks Tenant was obliged to tend the Lord’s garden.  Demesne Farms covered a Ploughland (c.120a) on both Parks & Huscarls Manors, and half as much at Cadwell. Complex Subletting & Leasing of land (sometimes in very small parcels) was common, particularly amongst Brightwell’s Free Tenants.

Under the Beresford’s Brightwell Baldwin Manor emerged as an Independent Economic Unit, and by 1326 Sir William Bereford held (amongst other assets) 2 Dovecots worth 6s 8d a year, 75a. of Arable worth 25s, 16 a. of mowing Meadows worth 13s 4d & £3 Rents from Free Tenants.  Parks Manor in 1365 included 200a of Arable, 4a of Meadow, 20 a. of Pasture, and £2 16s rents.  Little evidence survives for the crops grown, although the 14th-century field names ‘Ruylond‘ & ‘Ruycroft‘ imply that they included rye.

After the Black Death some inhabitants took on vacant Tenements not only in Brightwell but in Cuxham & Chalgrove, and intercommoning with Cuxham may have taken place in the 14th & 15th centuries.  Several Brightwell people were fined for allowing sheep, horses, & cows to trample crops there, and the Cuxham Bailiff’s Account for 1358–9 lists payments to Mowers in Brightwell Meadow  Sheep Husbandry may have grown in importance in the later Middle Ages, perhaps partly in new Inclosures at Cadwell.  The surname Shepherd appears in the Parish at this time, and a Brightwell man kept at least 40 sheep in 1355.  An Upperton resident was acquitted for theft of a sheep in 1398.

Farms & Farming 1500-1800
Mixed Farming continued in the early modern period, with cereals (principally wheat, barley, oats, & rye) featuring prominently in Parishioners’ Wills & Inventories alongside legumes such as peas, beans, & vetches.  A Husbandman in 1557 left a Plough to his son, and 4d to every Brightwell man without one.  References to the ‘wheat field‘ and ‘barley field‘ suggest a 3-course rotation, and by 1647 (and probably long before) the Open-fields were managed by a homage which met each February, inspecting the Boundary Marks of every Furlong & Acre.  Some grain was evidently used for Brewing, with several inhabitants owning Malt Mills, and at least one maintaining a hop garden.

Several Farmers kept flocks and some employed shepherds.  Sheep (stinted at 50 per Yardland) were traditionally folded in the Open-fields after harvest, and also in the Grove, which by the 18th century contained 6 Allotments or ‘Slays’ each held by a principal Tenant for his own flock.  One tenant in 1731 had pasture for 125 sheep.  Cattle were also prominent, and several farms possessed dairies & cheese presses:  John Pamplin (d.1669) of Cadwell left 200 cheeses worth £2 2s 6d and in 1733 the Rectory House had a Cheese Loft, Cheese Room, & Dairy with 9 Cheese Vats.  Prayers for the health of cows & horned cattle were said in Church in the 1740s.  Cattle, pigs, & horses were allowed into the Common Meadow after mowing, policed by 2 Wardens or ‘Drivers’ appointed in the Manor Court.  Pigs were banned from all commons between Michaelmas & All Hallows, however, thus protecting autumn herbage, while beasts of burden were excluded until 11th September.  In 1744 the Parish Constables paid a man for irrigating the Common Meadow and catching Moles there.

Four Orchards mentioned in 1554 suggest small-scale fruit-growing, and a Great Orchard’ lay close to Brightwell Baldwin Manor House in 1651William Spyer, a Yeoman, had Orchard Fruit worth 16s 8d in 1660, and like several other Farmers kept Bees.  Woodland Management is poorly documented, though in the 17th century the Squire John Stone enlarged Ashley’s Wood with land Inclosed from an Open-field in Britwell Salome, and in 1776 2 people were prosecuted for illicit felling in Woods belonging to William Lowndes Stone.  Furze & fern were traditionally cut in the Grove, where some Freehold Tenants claimed Furze Allotments known as ‘Platts‘: in 1756 the Platts were managed by 3 Officers appointed in the Manor Court, and they were reorganised in 1789 when a new 15a Platt was created for the Poor.  Only one man per family was allowed to cut fern, and then only after the Feast of St Matthew (21st September) each autumn.

Little is known about the Size & Tenancy of Farms in the period 1500–1800.  A few leases include one for a Cottage and 23a in the Open-fields, granted for 21 years in 1635 with a Covenant to provide one able man for the Lord’s wheat or barley harvest, or 2 days’ Labour in the year.  Cadwell (which lay outside the Brightwell Estate until 1627) is marginally better documented: in 1609 the Site of the Manor was let for £2 11s annual Rent and its other lands (130a) for £4 3s 4d,  and for much of the late 17th and early 18th centuries Cadwell Farm was leased to the Pamplin Family.  John Pamplin (d.1669) left goods worth £152, including £57 in crops (wheat, barley, peas, & maslin), and £33 in livestock (cattle, horses, sheep, & pigs).  Comparable Farmers included Robert Smith (d.1631), with crops worth £100, and Edmund Lane (d.1683), with harvested crops worth £107 and wheat in the fields worth another £100.  By the 18th century, the principal holdings on the Brightwell Estate were Uppertown, Cadwell, & Brightwell Farms, for which Richard Spyer, Mary Bye & Henry Saunders respectively paid Land Tax of c.£16, £9, & £7 10s in 1785.  Between 1700 & 1800 all 3 Farms acquired new or remodelled Farmhouses, Barns, and other Outbuildings.

Farms & Farming Since 1800
The Inclosure of Brightwell’s Common Land (c.1,300a of Open-fields, Meadows, & Heath) was carried out in 1802, under a Private Act promoted by the Squire William Lowndes Stone. Stone received all the new Inclosures, save for 46a of Glebe and 1½a awarded to 2 Freeholders for lost Furze-cutting Rights.  Some of the Inclosed Land was thrown into the new Whitehouse & Grove Farms, the former created around a 20a Property on the Ewelme Boundary purchased in 1803 and the latter established in 1805 when Stone Leased 277a of Arable & Heath in the South of the Parish to his cousin William Lowndes, who built a Grand Farmhouse there (Brightwell Grove) and resided as Gentleman Farmer.  Lowndes made numerous improvements, grubbing up, burning, & ploughing c.100a of furze during his 1st winter on the Farm, and converting the rest of the Heath to tillage by the 3rd year. He also invested in a Threshing Machine and established a 4-course rotation of turnips, oats or barley, clover & vetches, & wheat, ploughing with oxen rather than horses.  Soil fertility was maintained by a flock of 360 Southdown sheep.

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Glebe Farm

By the mid 19th century Grove Farm (428a) had a new Tenant and had absorbed additional Lands including a former Smallholding at Upperton.  Whitehouse Farm had been enlarged to 173a, of which all but 35a lay in Brightwell.  Other Estate farms were Brightwell (254 a.), Uppertown (232a), and Cadwell (164a), while Glebe Farm (32a) was worked with Grove FarmWilliam Francis Lowndes Stone retained 282a in hand, and on his death in 1858 had £659-worth of Farming and outdoor effects including livestock, his Trustees subsequently selling 267 timber trees (140 elm, 79 oak, 32 beech, & 16 ash).  The number and size of Farms changed little during the later 19th century, but the turnover of Tenants was high, with few staying longer than a decade or 2.  Lengthier Tenancies included those of William Bulford of Grove Farm & Thomas Saunders of Brightwell Farm, who were the principal Agricultural Employers in 1851 & 1871: Bulford’s workforce rose from 24 to 32, with Saunders’ falling very slightly from 17 to 16. Cadwell Farm, rented by a Chalgrove Farmer in the 1850s, was temporarily downgraded to Labourers’ Accommodation, although in 1871 it and Uppertown Farms employed 10 and 11 workers respectively.
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Left of the Fireplace is the Fired Copper for Boiling Whites

Glebe Farmhouse
Farmhouse. Mid/late 17thC. Square timber framing with herringbone brick & brick infill; Gabled Thatch Roof; brick Ridge Stack with oversailing courses. 3-unit plan. 2-Storeys; 2-window Range of scattered fenestration. 20thC door with Porch; old plank: door to right. 20thC windows. Early/mid 18thC brick Outshut to left with round Arch over 20thC door.  Laundry (Inset).
Interior not inspected but likely to be of interest.

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Whitehouse Farm

A balance of Arable, Meadow, & Pasture was maintained, although from 1866 to 1896 the area under cereals (wheat, barley, oats, & rye) increased from 455a to 548 acres.  Head of cattle rose from 107 (none in milk) to 215 (including 63 milch cows), and numbers of pigs from 26 to 165, while conversely, sheep numbers fell from 1,501 to 471, suggesting that the tradition of folding them on the Arable was dying out.  Watercress was grown commercially from c.1860, at 1st by the Honey Family, and later also by the Smiths: in 1910 the Beds in Brightwell Baldwin Village & Cadwell covered 1½a, and by the 1920s the Farmer at Cadwell was also a producer.  During the following decade, his successor delivered Cress to Watlington Station for onward Transport to London, but the Trade declined after WW2.

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Cadwell Farmhouse. Early/mid 18thC. Coursed Limestone rubble, Ashlar quoins and brick Dressings; gabled old Tile Roof; brick end Stacks. 3-unit plan. 2-storeys; 3-window Range. Segmental Arch over 20thC door flanked by 1-light openings: 20thC Timber -Porch. Similar Arches over 20thC casements. 3 late 19thC Roof Dormers.
Interior: chamfered & stopped Beams. Roof not inspected.
1-Storey-&-Attic 2-window Range to right of Limestone rubble with brick Quoins & Dressings and mid 19thC brick Bay to right.

In 1910 the Brightwell Estates Tenant Farms were Grove (335a), Brightwell (321a), Uppertown (285a), Whitehouse (202a), and Cadwell (156a), while the Rector Hilgrove Coxe farmed the 44a Glebe Farm directly  From the 1920s it was let as a Smallholding.  In 1924 the Tenant of Whitehouse Farm dealt in corn & manure, and in 1926 a 3rd of Agricultural Land (538a) was under cereals (wheat, barley, & oats), with a half (783a) under Grass.  Of that, 506a was for grazing and 277a for mowing.  Cattle, sheep, & pig numbers were substantially unaltered from 1896, and poultry numbered 1,179.  Little had changed by 1941 when 7 Farms employed 26 workers between them. All the farms remained mixed and each had a cattle herd, although sheep were present only on Brightwell & Cadwell Farms.  Pigs were most numerous on Grove Farm (with 58), and there were additionally 2 small Poultry Concerns.  Mushrooms were grown commercially on Brightwell Farm in 1942.

Upperton Farmhouse – Shown on OS Map as Uppertown Farm.
Farmhouse. 17thC, refaced mid-18thC, extended mid-19thC. Originally timber-framed.  Front of coursed chalk rubble with brick quoins & dressings; gabled late 19/20thC Tile roof; brick end stacks include right external stack. 2-Unit Plan. 2-Storeys; 2-window Range. Segmental brick Arches over 3 & 4-light casements: on 1st-Floor blocked window and 3-light casement. Raised brick Storey band.  Early-18thC 2-panelled door to rear, with late=19thC Porch, adjoins mid-19thC rear right Wing.
Interior: chamfered and stopped beam to left; central timber-framed partitions and framed rear wall with Jowled Post. 17thC Winder stairs to the Attic, which has 2-Bay Queen-Post Roof.

The 1940s-50s saw a change in Ownership of every Farm in the Parish, as the Brightwell Estate fragmented and the bulk of the Glebe was Sold. Most Farms were purchased by Tenants, although the bulk of Uppertown Farm (c.280a) became attached to a large Farming Business run from Britwell Prior.  A mixed Farm at Brightwell Park was run by R N Richmond-Watson, who kept a herd of Pedigree cattle and worked c.140a in and around the Parkland.  Whilst the acreage under cereal crops in 1956 remained broadly the same as in 1926, cattle numbers rose to 311 as dairying & stock-herding became more important.  At least 2 Farmers in the 1950s also grew sugar beet, transported from Watlington Station.

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Increasingly Brightwell’s Farmland was worked from Farms outside its Boundaries, so that whereas in 1956 8-Holdings in the Parish worked nearly 1,200a between them, employing 9 people full-time & one part-time, by 1988 only 314a was worked from Brightwell’s 5 remaining Farms, employing 5 part-time workers.  Brightwell Farm was worked by a resident Farmer who in the mid-1980s kept 40–50 beef cattle but had recently ceased dairy production.  Beef cattle were also reared on Brightwell Park Farm from the mid-20th and into the early 21st century, while Cadwell Farm became the centre of a large-scale Arable Farm covering 1,200 ha (2,965 a.) in various Parishes.