Across the road from Beacon Ridge on a piece of flat land was the site of Beech House Farm. The farm was mainly demolished in the 1960s by Mr and Mrs Fawdon, for the building of a bungalow, although Beech House itself may have been demolished in the 18th Century. In the 19th and early 20th centuries this large farm belonged to the Woodyeares of Crookhill Hall.
In April 1811 Fountaine John Elwin, who acquired the name Woodyeare in 1812, bought a significant property described as ‘dwelling houses, croft, orchard, hereditaments and premises’ for £250 from William Bower. The sale included ‘all and singular pews in the parish church of Conisbrough’*
The only farm fitting this description was Beech House Farm (numbers 49 on the 1838/40 Tithe Map). Beech House (next to 48), which had formed the north side of a square of farm buildings and overlooked the stunning view across the Don Valley, was demolished in the 18th century. The buildings forming the rest of the square were part of a working farm until the 1960s, while the ‘tenement’ of 1/2 cottages (next to 50) probably housed a farm manager or farm labourers. The three-way drive now leads to The Beeches (the extended bungalow) and the remaining 18th century barn, Well View House and Hall Farm. Well View House was built in the 1980s by Derek and Jean Sturgess, after the demolition of the farm labourers’ cottages.
While the farm belonged to the Crookhill Estate from 1811, from 1829 it was tenanted, along with a number of fields, by Catherine Gill. She married Charles Macqueen Mottram, who was an Anglican clergyman and it seems that the property was farmed by the estate and sometimes under-tenants until it was officially handed back by the Mottrams in 1869. How and why this arrangement came about is a puzzle. (See ‘Catherine Gill and Charles Macqueen Mottram’ in PEOPLE).
Extract from Tithe Map
Doncaster Archive possesses an interesting Account Book for Beech House Farm covering 1825 to 1834. In it Fountaine John Woodyeare records the finances for ‘my farm at Clifton’. He seems to be taking a personal interest in the farm, but the notes are brief and sketchy. He appointed a Mr Hartley, perhaps as a manager, in 1832 and seemed to regret it: ‘1832 Hartley entered to my Clifton Farm’ and ‘Hartley left this day 1st March 1834’!
At that point the farm (104 acres) seems to have been managed for Catherine Gill, but she is not mentioned in the accounts. There are many villagers mentioned who were paid for labour and for providing manure, seed, etc. The 1838/40 Tithe Map Index shows that several worked for the large farms and were also tenants of small crofts and cottages in the village.The following names were associated with Beech House Farm 1825-1834: Crabtree, Giles, Dyson, Shaw, Nettleship, Sharpe, Wilson, Hague, Peas/ce.
By 1840 the Woodyeares had let the Crookhill Hall Estate to John Walker, who brought in a relative, Frederick Walker, aged 23, to aid him in managing his expanded farming interests. John Walker was a trustee in J F Woodyeare’s will. Frederick called himself ‘farmer’ and probably lived at Beech House Farm with the 3 male and 3 female farm labourers listed in the 1841. One of these was Fanny Woodyer, aged 50!
The 1851 Census seems to indicate that the farm was now being managed by Darker Parker aged 21, who called himself ‘a farmer’s son managing a farm’ of 190 acres with 6 labourers. The cottages were then one house (next to 50) in which Darker lived with 4 sisters from 23 years to 7 years, a house servant and two labourers. The 1861 census saw Darker living back on the family farm in East Retford, Nottinghamshire with his parents, Edward and Elizabeth, and 4 sisters. His father farmed 404 acres and employed 8 labourers and 6 boys. Rev John Fountaine Woodyeare had twice allowed Beech House Farm to be used as a training property for young farmers, whose relatives were within his social circle.
In the 1861 census Thomas Graves (49 years) is a likely candidate for the tenancy of Beech House Farm. Born in Hemingby, Lincs., he was farming 90 acres at Minting, Lincs in 1851. In Clifton he was farming 180 acres with 2 labourers and 4 boys. He probably lived with his wife and 3 children in the 19th century house before it was converted into cottages. The young farm labourers and boys would be accommodated in the barns, but fed by the farmer’s wife, perhaps with help of girls from the village. The men were Charles Broomhead (1 yrs, Ploughman), Charles Smith (25yrs, shepherd) and the boys included Charles Stacey (19yrs), William Stock (18yrs), George Sykes (16yrs) and John Purton (14yrs). It seems that none of these young people had come from the village.
The 1871 census records that Thomas was still head of the family living at Beacon House Farm (now 200 acres) with his wife, Sarah (59 yrs), 2 adult daughters and his son, Thomas (20yrs). A young domestic servant was living in, but the farm labourers had been reduced to 3 young boys, probably because young Thomas was now fully involved in the work and day labourers were hired from the village.The 3 boys had not come from the village.
Thomas Graves senior died in 1878 and his son was allowed to take over the tenancy. Young Thomas Francis had 240 acres and was employing 3men and 4 boys by 1881. His mother and siblings were no longer living in Clifton, but Thomas had married and had a son, Francis (3yrs) and a daughter, Gertrude (1yr). His mother-in-law, Mary Harrison, had moved in with them. They also had a 20 year old domestic servant living in and 4 male and 1 female farm workers of 20 years and younger.
The arrangement must have suited the Woodyeares’ Trustees after Rev John Fountaine’s death in 1880 as the Graves were still at Beacon House Farm in 1891. That year, however, they vacated Beech House Farm and moved to Torworth, East Retford, Notts.
William Appleyard took over the lease of Beech House Farm in 1892 aged 24 after spending 13 years at Conisbrough Lodge Farm where his father, Francis, had settled the family in 1879. He had 4 brothers and 3 sisters, most of whom were born on the outskirts of Leeds. This seems to have been another example of the Crookhill Estate being willing to put the Farm in the hands of young men of little experience.
By 1911 the family consisted of William (44 yrs), Lydia Jane, his wife (35 yrs), and sons, Sydney (15 yrs), Douglas (14 yrs) and Francis (12 yrs). They had a female domestic servant living in and a waggoner living on the farm. This family was far more socially integrated with the village and employed local labour.
During the 1914-18 War William was a lieutenant in the Worsbrough Company of the Doncaster Voluntary Battalion of the Yorkshire Light Infantry, and among the young men who were trained in this battalion so that 'when they became of age they might immediately join the Forces', was his eldest son, Sydney Appleyard, who joined the army before he was 18, in January 1914. Sydney was close friends with Harry Sargan from the next door Hall Farm and it was recorded with pride by the Mexborough and Swinton Times that the two young men had been accepted as troopers in the Household Cavalry. Sydney served until the Armistice. Sydney Appleyard 1914
By 1924 William Appleyard was well known in the area and was farming 208 acres, 2 roods and 17 perches in Clifton. He rode in steeplechases and was often an official at local agricultural shows where he won awards for riding and for the horses he bred. As well as farming, he was a successful stockbroker. He was involved in local politics, sitting on Doncaster Rural Council for 21 years and serving as Chairman for 2 terms. He sat on various committees, including the Board of Guardians and School boards and was Chairman of the Highways Committee.
The Mexborough and Swinton Times in January 1926 recorded that William Appleyard of Clifton would be leaving the district to take on a farm at Thorpe Underwood, Great Ouseborne, North Yorkshire. Perhaps he had decided to buy a property, perhaps his tenancy had come to an end, or perhaps he was not happy with the way that the Woodyeare heir, Lawrence Woodyeare Blomefield was managing the Crookhill Estate. Blomefield in fact wanted to realise his inheritance in cash and in 1925 he sold Beech House Farm to Arthur Joseph Downing of Spout Farm, Wath-on-Dearne for £3,630. For the first time since 1811 the farm was sold away from the Crookhill Estate.
Arthur Downing came from an extended farming family with farms in Fishlake as well as Wath-on-Dearne. He continued to live at Spout Farm and probably leased the farm to Mr F Durdy after the Second World War. During the war the farmhouse was unoccupied. Frederick George Durdy of Tickhill, who was active on the Executive Committee of Doncaster N.F.U. may have been the tenant, but it seems he continued to live at Stancil Farm and divided the Beech House Farmhouse into 2 cottages. These were let to farm workers. Little maintenance was done on the original farm buildings.
The farmhouse that was divided can be seen sideways on to Hall Farm's stable. The remains of the thick limestone wall of the cottages' toilet and coal shed are attached to the back of the stable, indicating that Hall Farm and Beech House farm were once one property. Across the farm track can be seen the building that originally gave access to the central yard through an archway.
Picture taken in 1950s. Families occupying the Beech House cottages up to the later 1960s included Brennans; Stannards; Mr J Brammer with his daughter, Dorothy, and her husband, Bernard Weyman; Brooksbangs (?); Pierces; Palmers; Barlows; Couches and Dowmans. This list illustrates the rapid movement of agricultural workers in and out of the village and from property to property. They did not necessarily work for Beech House Farm. Mr Stannard had worked for Harrisons at Conisbrough Parks Farm and walked across the fields to Clifton to work at another of the Harrison’s farms, now South Farm. In 1950 He moved his family to one of the Beech House cottages to make life easier, but his wife died there and the family was split up after about 6 years.
After the death of Arthur Downing in April 1950, Beech House farm was sold to William Alton Foers of the Heights, Upper Whiston, Rotherham for £8,000. He also purchased a large farm in Edlington. The Foers family were modern in their outlook and anxious to embrace post-war change, including support from the Ministry of Agriculture. On 4th September 1954 The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury reported on a visit by the Ministry and the Country Landowners Association to three farms, including Beech House, to look into their new grain drying and storage equipment. Mr Foers had invested £4,450 on an electric drying system including ‘10 galvanised sectional bins to hold 280 tons of barley’, a means of switching from one grain to another and an electric heater, fan and motor to do the work. The writer seemed impressed by the Foers’s enterprise, noting that their Clifton and Edlington farms extended to 510 acres including 85acres of wheat, 110 of barley, 13 of oats and 15 of mixed corn. His son was managing the Whiston farm of 360 acres including 76 acres of wheat, 40 of barley, 10 of oats and 20 of mixed corn for animal feed.
Villagers in Clifton were impressed by the development of the Stack yard on BackLane, but the old farm buildings in front were used for calves and pigs.
During this time, Mr Foers had been building up his base, the Edlington Farm, and developing the most efficient methods of farming his land in Clifton. He probably had little use for the old buildings and in the 1960s he sold the old farmyard and the site of Beech House and gardens to Mr and Mrs Frank Fawdon of Conisbrough. They demolished the old barns, except for one standing between their new bungalow and the working stackyard at the back. Apparently, they regretted the demolition, but people wanted a new start in the 1960s and they became great supporters of the village community.
The picture below is taken from a faded arial picture of the village of Clifton in the 1960s.and shows the original size of Beech House Farm and its shrinkage in the time of W.A.Foers. The grassed area to the left was the site of the original stackyard and the remaining barn stands between the Fawdon's bungalow and the new stackyard. Two more new bungalows can be seen at the back of Fawdon's, all three having views northwards across the Don Valley.
Mr Foers kept the cottages and an access from Common Lane to the back stackyard until 1968 when he sold them to Harold Haigh, Mrs Fawdon’s brother, who demolished the cottages and started to build a house for himself. .
Mr Haig was unable to complete his plans and in 1987 the plot was bought by Wilsic Construction (Doncaster) Ltd on behalf of Derek and Jean Sturgess, and Phil Green and Trudy Pankhurst Green, the owners of Hall Farm. The land was split and Derek and Jean built the house now known as Well View. Their building firm, Wilsic Construction, named after their previous home at Wilsic Hall, also built a back drive for Hall Farm that passed over the site of the old cottages.
Building Well View.
(Showing the Beeches,the end of the remaining barn and the stackyard still in use).
Well View (showing site of Beech House Farm, the remaining barn and the new drive to Hall Farm).
William Alton Foers died in 1989 aged 86 yrs. His family firm, W E Foers and Son, continued to farm the land belonging to Beech House Farm. Around 2000 the Stackyard was sold to a developer and a cluster of 6 ‘executive’ stone houses, called Beech house Croft, were built with access from Back Lane. These houses have a view across the valley to Conisbrough. Number 1’s garden (below) covers part of the stackyard and is bounded to the north west by the one remaining barn of the original farm and to the west by Well View.
|The barn waiting to be rescued