0044…Wallscourt Farm

owlHISTORY OF STOKE GIFFORD
Edited by Adrian Kerton

 

Wallscourt Farm by Adrian Kerton

Wallscourt Farm was taken over by Hewlett-Packard, an American Computer Company which occupied the site since 1984. It is now under the care of the University of the West of England.  The last person to farm there was Mr. Alastair Campbell Hill These notes are compiled with kind permissions from Hewlett-Packard, Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society, and The Builder Group.

The name Wallscourt may refer to the fact  that the manorial courts were once held on the site. It is possible that Wallscourt Farm existed for many centuries before the first written records were compiled in the 14th century.

Walls Court farm and the Manor of Walls – From notes by Mike Stanbrook.
The third Manor which makes up the parish of Stoke Gifford is Walls, which was held by the Gifford family following the conquest. This area has, up until the 1900s, changed very little, it was an area of woods and isolated farmsteads. (in 1327 John Gifford purchased a certain word it called for le Walls which was worth per annum six and 8p and was held at of the Bishop of Worcester by the service of one rose).

The whole of the parish of Stoke Gifford was owned by His Grace the Duke of Beaufort. Here Thomas Proctor leased 600 acres of land, mostly so poor that nothing would grow on it, thus earning the name of ‘Starve-all Farm’.

Wallscourt Farm was re-designed by George Godwin (1815-88) to be a model farm and was completed in 1855. It was eventually coupled with Stanley Farm, (see bottom of page) the Farmhouse and out-buildings were designed by George Godwin’s son (E W Godwin 1833-66) and completed in 1860. Then these two units formed one farm of about 600 acres.

Walls Court farm and the Manor of Walls – From notes by Mike Stanbrook.
The third Manor which makes up the parish of Stoke Gifford is Walls, which was held by the Gifford family following the conquest. This area has, up until the 1900s, changed very little, it was an area of woods and isolated farmsteads. (in 1327 John Gifford purchased a certain word it called for le Walls which was worth per annum six and 8p and was held at of the Bishop of Worcester by the service of one rose).

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Wallscourt Farm Builder

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From the 1915 sale catalogue

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View of the farm from the North, Winter 1968.

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The farmhouse with a modern extension on the right.

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Walls Court 1903

Walls Court is a superior Farmhouse substantially built of stone the slate roof and containing on the ground floor, entrance hall, dining and drawing rooms, mourning the room, kitchen, Scullery, China pantry, and WC, and on the first floor five bedrooms, WC and two Servants rooms. In the basement is good cellarage.

The farm buildings are arranged around two yards. In yard number 1with a straw house in the center are sheds affording accommodation for 420 on one side and 12 loose horses, barn, boiler house, hay stable for three, same for four, room and trap house. In yard number 1 are 20 partly enclosed cow houses and 20 closed cow houses. Three cottages adjoining the farm and buildings

Stanley House (No. 5 S G parish) is a substantial stone building with slate roof containing two sitting-rooms, kitchen, scullery, three bedrooms and attic. Adjoining is a walled paddock with piggery and in the yard are too low open sheds, hay stabling for three and cart stable for nine.

The two cottages known as Old House (No. 6 S G) are stone and tiled with yard and shed.

The farm and lies of a compact and is a fairly level tract of land within four miles of Bristol, 4 1/2 from Mangotsfield and adjoins Filton station. The tenant complains that a portion of the farm and is wet and cold but I could see no evidence of this. He stated that cattle if deep Pasture and on No. 2 Great Stanley Hill suffer from (quarter evil?).

Valuation £570-17-6. The tenant liable for expenditure for external repairs of buildings £10 per year. Price £560

Reference D2299/500 GRO. Transcribed by Mike Stanbrook

There are five farms which have existed in this manor; Cold Harbour, Barn Wood, Wallscourt, Stanley, all of which may well date from at least the 12th century.

Wallscourt
There are several 14th century references to this farm, which may well have existed for many centuries before these first written references. the name indicates the protective wall of stone or earth or more probably an earth bank to built around a dwelling. Little is recorded of the early history of this farm and its plans, but by 1624 it was a substantial house and farm, described as a “Capital messuage mansion house and farm”.

Wallscourt has been spelled a number of different ways through the centuries: Walforlong, 1394 Walsshwaws mede, Wallyskourte 1398, Wallesputte 1468, Walsh Court 1485-1500

Mike Stanbrook has recorded the sale of Wallscourt Farm in 1624

By the 18th century they were to farms line close together, Wallscourt and hither Wallscourt. Each was an held by separate tenants until 1788 won the tender Wallscourt took over the tenancy of Hither Wallscourt. The total acreage of these to farms amounted to 330 acres (130 and 200 acres).

The buildings of this period would be built from local limestone with either thatched or stone tiled roofs. The farm outbuildings would almost certainly be thatched. The old farm house and outbuildings were cleared in 1853 to make way for the new Model Farm. In 1854, as part of the rebuilding of the parish, the new model farm was constructed and the land was consolidated into one holding of 600 acres by adding the land of Stanley farm. Stanley farm ceased to be a separate farm, the present Farmhouse being built as the bailiff’s house for the Walls Court Estate, however Stanley became a separate farm once again in 1860 when the farmyard and buildings were added. (see extract from the Builder magazine of 1854). The completion of the rebuilt farm was marked by a visit from the Lord Mayor and twenty Freemasons who inspected the buildings and then dined in the farmhouse.

The Builder Magazine of 21st July 1855 carried an article about Wallscourt Farm which based much of it’s content on the article that appeared in The Bristol Times of a week earlier. This article carries a plan of the farm showing the various functions of each part.

By spending thousands of pounds on draining the land and manuring it with his ‘composts’ Thomas Proctor transformed Wallscourt Farm into a model estate “with rich herbage, dotted with cattle such as Sidney Cooper would delight to paint”, as a reporter noted in ‘The Builder’ in July 1855. He was impressed not only with the excellence of the pasturage, the sleekness of the cattle, the magnificent ‘E’ shaped farm buildings, and the comfortable cottages for the workmen, but with two much more surprising features, a railway and a school. “The railway carried fodder to the cattle. The reporter waxed lyrical”. At morning and evening you may hear and see train waggons thundering along through these handsome sheds.

We are fortunate that Mr. Raymond Holland, a local historian, wrote some articles about Wallscourt Farm which were published in Fertilisers, Farming and Philanthropy – The Proctor Story CHEMISTRY & INDUSTRY, 3 July 1989 (Illustrated talk to SCI Bristol Section 23 March 1989) and in Fertilisers, Farming and Philanthropy – The Proctor Story BIAS JOURNAL, 22-1990 (Illustrated talk to BIAS members 21 September 1989). He also took some photographs of the railway lines and other farm equipment, before the buildings were demolished and he has made available his photographs of Wallscourt farm.

The schoolroom was an airy building fitted up with desks and forms, a clock, maps and pictures on the wall, and an ‘intelligent mistress’ who gave lessons to 16 younger children in the mornings and to ten of the boys working on the farm, who came voluntarily in the evenings. From the 1861 census, the ‘intelligent’ schoolmistress’s name was Louise Bromley, aged 43.
From the Builder Magazine Vol. 21: Stoke Gifford. A national school building has been opened at Stoke Gifford by the Duchess of Beaufort. The edifice has been between one and two years in course of erection, and it was constructed from the plans of Mr. Tate, of Badminton, at a cost of between 700L. and 800L. There are two rooms in the school-house, one of which will be used for the general purposes of instruction, and the other as a class-room.

Thomas Proctor left Wallscourt in 1861. Farming ended in autumn 1984 when Hewlett Packard Ltd started building on the site. They were faced with a dilemma; should they restore the farmhouse and buildings to their original glory, or should they knock down the already dilapidated and crumbling structures? As Americans they appreciated the historic significance of the site and so chose a classic compromise. They completely refurbished the farmhouse, putting in a damp course, and rewiring the electrics. There was only one small change to the inside of the building and that was to replace the rectangular arch in the farmhouse with a rounded archway. The farmhouse is now used as a staff training centre. They cleaned and restored the stonework making the building fit for another hundred years. Recently extra training rooms and facilities have been added in a building style emulating the original.

From the Builder Magazine.

ACTING on the suggestion of others, we have engraved a view and plan of farm buildings, in the parish of Stoke Gifford, near Bristol, on the estate of his Grace the Duke of Beaufort, and occupied by Mr. Alderman Proctor, which have been recently completed under the direction of Mr. Godwin, the conductor of this journal. To make the matter complete, we shall in an ensuing number venture to give a view and plan of the residence, and of the house for the bailiff.

This is a slightly modified version of the plan of Wallscourt Farm form the builder magazine of July 1855.  Reproduced by kind permission of the Builder Group Ltd.

Note: To get larger images, right click on images to copy them, save them and then open in a picture editor.

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REFERENCES.

1. Cake and corn-store. – Corn-loft above the door being over X, and trap over A.
2. Barn-entrance -Corn-loft above the door being over X, and trap over A.
3. Barn -Corn-loft above the door being over X, and trap over A.
4. Engine-house.
5. Steaming-room for chaff – Chaff-cutting rooms above.
6. Steaming-room for chaff – Chaff-cutting rooms above.
7. Communication between barn and root-store- Chaff-cutting rooms above.
8. Food-store.
9, 9, 9, Open Cattle-shed for forty-six dairy cows , tied up (two in each compartment) : in each stall the drain falls from the centre both ways, and there is a grating under every division of stalls: the drain-pipes are dotted on plan Q: each stall is paved, and contains two feeding-troughs and one tank for water.
10, 10, 10. Enclosed feeding-shed for cattle-forty-six loose boxes: the feeding-troughs can be raised as pits fill with manure. The short dotted lines at the sides of the feeding boxes show that the rails are open to allow passage of beast.
11, 11, 11. For breeding animals- twenty-three loose boxes: the feeding-troughs can be raised as pits fill with manure.
12,12, 12. Open sheds for sixteen tied up (two in each); the drains, paving, troughs, &c. the same as 9, 9, 9.
13. Dairy, with cheese-room above.
14. Dairy-maid’s cottage, with two rooms over.
15. Cowman’s cottage-two rooms over.
16 Scullery for dairy purposes.
17. Dairy-yard.
18. Coal-store under railway entrance at these points.
19. Stable-yard.
20. Stables for three horses, and one loose box.
21. Ditto ditto
22. Tool-house.
23. Cart-shed.
24. 24. Water-closets.
25. Closet attached to school-room.
26. School-room.
27. Bailiff’s office.
28. Men’s room.
29. Weighing-room.
30. Weighing-machine.
31. Barn yard.
32. Hay, corn, and harness.
33. Ditto, ditto.
34. Portable railway for removing dung from cattle
35. Portable railway for removing dung from cattle
36. Tank
37. Yard for storing turnips and roots. The rick yard is on another part of the land.
38. Yard.
39. Yard.
B. Hot-water apparatus for cheese-room.
C. Boiler.
D. Ditto.
E. Cast-iron cistern, 3 feet 6 inches by 1 foot 6 inches and 1 foot 6 inches deep, with ball. tap, &c.
F. Cast-iron cistern, 2 feet by 1 foot and 1 foot 3 inches deep, with ball tap &c.
G. Ditto, ditto, ditto
H. One-inch pipe, with tap to supply stable yard.
J, J, J Three-inch cast-iron pipes, from the top of which there is an inch wrought-iron pipe to bottom of each water-tank in the stalls, as dotted on plan.
K, K. Tanks for water: see 10 and 11: one tank for two stalls, size, 2 feet by 1 foot and 1 foot deep.
L, L, L, At these points the water can be let off from all pipes and tanks into waste drain P, whenever it is thought desirable to change it.
M. Water supply from large pond 150 yards off.
N. Open gates
O. Front entrance
The rain-water from roofs is caught for use of stable-yard, W.C.s and for household purposes.
The doors to stables and enclosed cattle-sheds all hang from above and slide.
The stall passages have a railway with turn-tables, L, at the junctions, for easily conveying food to the animals.
The drains to sheds, 9 and 12, are dotted (see Q Q,) on plan; the drains of W.C.s, and stables are dotted at R R. The whole empty into tank S.

The farm is situated principally on the lias formation, and was, until the last three or four years, of a wet, barren soil. Draining has greatly increased its capabilities, and improved tillage has produced considerable alteration in its appearance. The drains were put in at distances, varying from 30 to 60 feet, at a depth of 4 feet: 1-1/2 inch pipes were used with collars, 2-inch pipes without collars. For the main drains, 3-inch pipes were used. The result has been very satisfactory.*

Mr. Proctor cultivates about 520 acres of grass land, and 125 acres of arable. On the arm there are other buildings for bulls and calves, and near the arable land stables, pigsties, and implement- sheds. The buildings now shown are conveniently placed for the grass land.

The stock usually consists of about 200 head of the short horn or Durham breed, viz. from forty to fifty dairy cows, twenty to thirty rearing calves, and the remainder young and feeding stock. There is also a breeding flock of about 230 South Down ewes and their produce, making a total of from 600 to 700 sheep, and ten farm-horses.

Mr. Proctor has not occupied. the farm sufficiently long to completely systematise his proceedings, but at present he endeavours to have half the arable land in wheat, and the remaining half Swedes and mangel wurzel, beans, clover, and vetches.

A few days ago the Mayor of Bristol and twenty of the fraternity of Freemasons dined at Walls’ Court, for the purpose of inspecting the homestead. Some account of the farm, by an able pen, appeared, in consequence, in the last number of the Bristol Times, a part of which we thankfully adopt, for obvious reasons, in preference to making any observations ourselves.

;Walls’ Court,; says Mr. Leech, ;is in the rear of Stoke Gifford, and is, with the surrounding estates, the property of his Grace the Duke of Beaufort.

Mr. Proctor’s farm comprises six hundred acres, of which, about four hundred are under grass; and so poor had for many years been the reputation of the land, that by all previous tenants it was known by the hungry but expressive name of ;Starve-all-Farm. Nothing deterred by this title, Mr. Proctor took it as a sort of recreation from the severer duties of a large manufacturing business, or, we should rather say, manufacturing businesses, as he has houses for bone and other artificial manures, not only in Bristol but in Birmingham, London and, we believe, in Leicestershire, so that our agricultural friends may form some idea of the amount of leisure such a man has to bestow on experimental farming. But system is everything; and as they say Cockney shopkeepers, when emigrating, make the most successful agriculturists in Australia, so the method of the counting-house, applied by a man of business to predial matters, tenders the management of even six hundred acres a thing of easy routine.

Another potent element of trade was, it is true, also applied to Walls’ Court Farm, by our friend, the Alderman. He took the holding, we believe, under an equitable term, that was to give him a fair return for his capital, and through the magic operation of the latter, the once ill-omened Starve-all-Farm gradually became a model one -by the effective draining and manuring, the hungry land took heart, and gave forth rich herbage, dotted with cattle, such as Sidney Cooper would delight to paint. £5,000. or £6,000 not only made the wilderness bloom and blossom like the rose, but a picturesque residence and the most complete set of farm offices, now render Walls’ Court Farm the interesting object of the neighbourhood. All this has taken place in a marvellously short time. About four years ago, the Aldermanic tenant resided in a handsome villa in Cotham Park, when the thought of rural felicity and dairy farming first struck him.;

The common bullock-sheds were, in themselves, patterns of convenience and order. The largest is about 220 feet long, and is almost an ecclesiastical-looking structure, being lit at the end by a three-light Gothic window. It accommodates fifty cattle, holding altogether, with the two lesser sheds on either side, about one hundred. But the singular feature of this bucolic building has still to be noticed. Down the centre of it (hear it, all ye lag-behind sons of the soil in Somersetshire and Gloucestershire, and, like our worthy alderman, go a head if you can), runs a well-constructed railway, for the conveyance of fodder to the stalled beasts on either side -no mere patched-up tramway, but a substantial permanent way, a line made with out an Act of Parliament, working without a solicitor, and managed without directors. Certainly, at morning and evening you may hear and see the train of waggons thundering along through these handsome sheds, while its share of green fodder is punctually delivered at every shed or station throughout the entire distance. Special trains also, we believe occasionally travel at other hours of the day.

Next came the incident in the Alderman’s Agricultural Department, which as before stated, most struck us. After passing the comfortable and picturesque cottages which be had erected for his farm labourers, our attention was attracted by an exclamation from one of the visitors, and following him into a building, we were pleased and surprised to find ourselves in a neatly fitted-up schoolroom airy, arranged with desks, forms, clock, &c., and the walls ornamented with maps, and those illustrations of natural history which the Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge have published and rendered popular. This was in fact a school, established and supported by the tenant Alderman himself, for the children of his farm labourers, there being nothing of the kind within practicable distance of Walls’ Court. The children and intelligent mistress rose as we entered, and we learned that sixteen scholars attended during the day, and ten in the evening – the latter being employed at other times on the land, and spontaneously devoting a portion of their afternoons to the opportunities of improvement thus afforded them. Hear ye this, ye great farmers of Wiltshire, with your two or three thousand acres; how many of you recognise your responsibilities to the children of your workmen in this manner?

If even, one felt their duty and fulfilled it at their own cost as Alderman Proctor does, the ignorance of the rural classes of England would not be so crying as it is. It was by the merest accident this circumstance, and the worthy Alderman appeared to think as little of the merit of the act as he is ignorant of us noticing it. However, we cannot abstain, even at the risk of appearing to invade privacy, from chronicling the fact for the sake of example. People talk a great deal now about the right man in the right place; and we think it may well be said Mr. Proctor, whether in town or country, is never the wrong one. Nor can his business in Bristol, Birmingham, and elsewhere, superadded to the charge of his bullocks and milch cows at Walls’ Court Farm engross his energies -for the stranger or citizen who passes Redcliff Church, and sees the North Porch growing from year to year in newness and beauty through the liberality of an anonymous hand, which from time to time furnishes the funds, will not perhaps be so astonished to learn that the same Alderman Proctor, manufacturer, grazier, and restorer, is, at least, the sole depository of the secret of NIL DESPERANDUM.

So much for the local historian. With regard to the use of pits for cattle, to which, in theory, there would seem to be some objection,- Mr. Proctor states that his present experience is decidedly in their favour for rearing and feeding stock, but for milch cows he prefers the stalls, on account of keeping them clean. The manure from the pits is found of excellent quality, and is allowed to remain in the pits until carted to the land.

The drainage from the stalls runs into the tank, and there is a supply of water at a level sufficiently high to allow of its running near the tank and mixing with its contents, and then irrigating some meadows below the buildings, which plan Mr. Proctor contemplates adopting.

We were somewhat surprised to find that Mr. Proctor has been disappointed in the result of his experiments with liquid manure: he informs us that for two years he has carted the liquid manure on grass and arable land, but the result has not been satisfactory. It would be interesting to know whether other farmers who have gone to the expense of tanks and liquid manure carts, and applied the manure on heavy lands, have been similarly disappointed, as these are expensive items in what are called agricultural improvements.

The steaming chambers are large, convenient, and inexpensive, and in seasons when hay is badly made appear to answer well. Mr. Proctor seems to consider that they are principally useful for steaming inferior hay, or hay and straw mixed, as the cattle are thereby induced to eat what they would otherwise reject and waste,- but his experience induces him to think cattle will do equally well on good hay without steaming as when it is steamed.

He has found from 4 lbs. to 6 Ibs. of linseed cake, and from 4 Ibs. to 6 Ibs. of bean meal, with vetches or clover in spring, and hay and swedes in winter, the best food for fattening cattle; regularity and speed in feeding, and subsequent undisturbed repose, are essential.

The references which follow show the appropriation of the various parts of the building, the railway, the drains, and the water supply.

The buildings are constructed of stone, dug on the estate, with Bath stone dressings, and have slated roofs.

In the centre of the main yards, 38 and 39, straw-sheds of appropriate character will hereafter be erected. The stable-yard, 19, dairy, and barn, are on a much lower level than the cattle-sheds: the ground, before the buildings were commenced, having a steep incline. Inclined planes lead from the sheds into the stable-yard. We may add that the duke’s agent, Mr. Thompson, of Badminton, has cordially co-operated with Mr. Proctor, and has taken a warm interest in the result.

The whole of the parish of Stoke Gifford belongs to his Grace the Duke of Beaufort, and we understand he has lately erected a new farmhouse on the other side of the estate, and has shown a laudable interest in the improvement of the parish, by giving premiums to the cottagers for the cleanest dwellings and best cultivated gardens. We shall be glad to see farm labourers so raised in the scale of intelligence as not to need, or be willing to receive, rewards for simply acting, like sensible beings ; but so long as these are found useful means, we should be thankful to those who judiciously employ them.

The rain-water from roofs is caught for use of stable-yard, W.C.s and for household purposes.

The doors to stables and enclosed cattle-sheds all hang from above and slide.

The stall passages have a railway with turn-tables, L, at the junctions, for easily conveying food to the animals.

© The Builder 21st July 1855/The Builder Group Ltd.

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