A History of STOKE GIFFORD & Nearby Parishes
Edited by Adrian Kerton
Building Name: WEBBS FARM, Grade: UID II, NGR 35051 ST6276981214 GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Sharon Ubank, in her Stokes Standard writes:
About 200 yards north-west of Baileys Court Inn, there recently stood some ruined farm buildings. Known as Webbs Farm. part of it was once considered one of the oldest houses in Gloucestershire and became a listed building. Now, new houses have taken its place.
I recently spoke to the last people who lived there. John and Elizabeth Hooper now dwelling in Patchway but in 1952, they moved into the cottage as newly weds. Of course it, was then surrounded by fields. Electricity had only recently been installed and water carried from a tap in an outhouse. There was a chemical toilet that had to be emptied each week.
“Our rent was £1 a week” said John. Included in the price was as much milk as we wanted straight from the churn. I remember being scolded by the cowman once for accidentally taking all the cream.” “The milk was lovely” recalled Elizabeth. “The doorstep stuff tasted like ditchwater after that.” The milk came from neighbouring Pursey’s Farm which later became Bailey’s Court Farm. The Pursey family owned Webbs Farm although both had once been separate.
Webbs Farm still had its own milk herd and the cowman live next door to the Hoopers in a century old Cottage. The drive that led to Pursey’s Farm from Winterbourne Road was flanked by a fine avenue of Elms which eventually succumbed to Dutch elm disease. The trees were popular with woodpeckers.
An archivist to visited the cottage and reckoned the earlier section could have been 1000 years old. That part was probably built very quickly explained John. To gain ownership of land in those times a person often had to build his house on the plot within one day. This early section housed the 16 foot by 16 foot kitchen at the northern end of the building. The old range was still there in the Hoopers day and many a tin bath was taken in front of it.
The cottages were built in several stages mostly during the 15th century. The sitting room had deep window seats and an Elizabethan inglenook fireplace. There were only two rooms downstairs originally, but at sometime beams we use to make a hallway from part of the sitting room.
It was a low gabled house. The ceilings were also very low and Elizabeth could easily touch them with her feet still on the ground. The front door was only 5 foot 6 inches high and frequent headaches soon taught them to duck automatically whenever they entered. When they moved house they still found themselves bobbing their heads.
Outside was a flagstone courtyard that was overgrown with trees. A solid Elizabethan porch hung over the original entrance. A spiral staircase led to the bedroom so the Hopper’s bed had to enter the Cottage via the bedroom window. Once there the dip in the floor made it necessary for John to put down blocks so they could sleep horizontally. John and Elizabeth loved the Summers in the Cottage. “We surrounded by acres and acres of countryside.” They moved out in 1955 and the cottage was then used to house live livestock.
John visited it 30 years later. It was an eerie experience he recounted. Memories flooded back and it seemed a much smaller than I remembered. Six months later it had deteriorated rapidly and all that remain of the reputed oldest house in Gloucestershire was a crumbling ruin.
“Were the field full of wildflowers” I asked. “Oh yes” sighed Elizabeth, “cowslips primroses everything. I was born in Stoke Gifford and I remember orchids growing in a field by Rock Lane”. “We didn’t regard them as special said John. You see they’d always been there and we thought they would always be. How could we know that everything was going to change?” As I left I wondered whether future children would ask me if I’d ever seen a daisy lawn.
Photos by Mike Stanbrook