Meadowcroft Farm, formerly Town Farm, and the original Town Farm now Meadowcroft Cottage.

By Sue Miller

Like most other Orwell farms, Meadowcroft Farm exists in name only in 2012. Its timber barns were converted for residential use in 1990 when its 198 acres were sold and divided between two local farmers. Do not confuse this 'Town Farm' with 'Town Green Farm,' which is behind the village shop on Town Green Road.

Town Farm

Photo:Meadowcroft Farmhouse, Lotfield Street, 1955

Meadowcroft Farmhouse, Lotfield Street, 1955

In 1910 this freehold farm comprised a compact block of approximately 100 acres, stretching from Back Street (Lotfield Street) to Lunway (Malton Road). It was then known as Town Farm and was owned and run from 1910 to 1946 by Mrs Ellen Roads, widow of farmer Harper Roads, with help from two family members, plus eight hired men at threshing time. Government records show that during the Second World War Mrs Roads was making only a modest income, growing mainly wheat and keeping five cattle, five horses, fifty hens, twenty ducks and one pig.
Photo:Meadowcroft Cottage (formerly Town Farm) in the 1920s

Meadowcroft Cottage (formerly Town Farm) in the 1920s

She lived in the yellow brick Victorian farmhouse, while the original 17th century timber framed farm house,  now known as Meadowcroft Cottage, served as a 'tied cottage' to house farm workers.  

 

Photo:The extent of Meadowcroft Farm (coloured mauve) in 1941

The extent of Meadowcroft Farm (coloured mauve) in 1941

Meadowcroft Farm

By 1946 the elderly Mrs Roads had moved away from Orwell and Town Farm, renamed Meadowcroft Farm, was sold to Henry Parcell of the adjacent Duke of Wellington public house who already farmed some of the County Council smallholding land on Barrington Road, and was also a coal merchant.  

Photo:Henry Parcell with his wife Mabel (extreme right) and young David Milller and Doreen Kneller. Can you name the tractor driver and the second lady?

Henry Parcell with his wife Mabel (extreme right) and young David Milller and Doreen Kneller. Can you name the tractor driver and the second lady?

 In the early 1950s the District Council made a compulsory purchase of eight acres of his land for the construction of Meadowcroft Way housing estate.  Henry was known locally as a hard worker and a good farmer, but he retired in 1973 and sold the farm to Douglas Adamson. Mr Adamson, a retired air force officer, farmed Meadowcroft for seventeen years, commuting between Orwell and a larger farm that he owned in the Fens. He grew only barley and wheat at Meadowcroft, employing just one farm worker, and found that farming was very profitable in the 1960s and 70s. However, by 1988 when he was chairman of the Cambridgeshire branch of the NFU the future was beginning to look bleak for farming. "Farming was becoming totally bureaucratically controlled. Europe was over-producing. The British climate often made it impossible for our farmers to produce crops of the quality demanded by the supermarkets that now had control of most of the nation's food. Grain prices were going through the floor, and I was glad to get out of farming." 

Mr Adamson retired in 1990 and the farmhouse, barns and land were sold in four separate lots, 97.11 acres being purchased by the Breed family of Lilac Farm and 43.51 acres by David Pearce of Home Farm, Arrington. The farm barns were converted to residential use (see photos.)

Photo:The barns before conversion to residential

The barns before conversion to residential

Photo:The barn adjoining the road was demolished and rebuilt.

The barn adjoining the road was demolished and rebuilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meadowcroft Cottage.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Meadowcroft Farm, formerly Town Farm, and the original Town Farm now Meadowcroft Cottage.' page

There is some scope for confusion here. The building pictured here was the original Town Farm farmhouse, which possessed the fine barns which stand alongside, but the Farm, together with the name, was moved to the Victorian brick farmhouse described above, and was later re-named Meadowcroft Farm. This property was re-named Meadowcroft Cottage and was used to house the farm workers. The farm barns have now been converted into residences.

Meadowcroft Cottage, from the outside, gives little indication of its age or construction, since all you can see which might date it is a 17th century window high up on the wall.  However, we have been fortunate in that the owners have made available a set of photographs taken when the property was repaired and improved, and some of them appear here. There is a separate page on this website dealing with this property, and showing all the photographs.

Photo:The lightly built small wing with the planking and tin roof removed.

The lightly built small wing with the planking and tin roof removed.

D. & M. Gould

If you look at the photograph of Meadowcroft Cottage in the 1920's above, you will observe a small wing to the main building. Note that the roof line is almost as high as the main roof. This wing was demolished after the photo was taken, and was replaced by a lightly built timber structure with a corrugated iron roof and an outside toilet, as shown in the photos. The original wing would probably have served as a kitchen since the chimney stack onto which it was built (and which serves the main building as well) contains a large fireplace and a bread oven. There might even have been a larger, more substantial wing at an earlier time since the upstairs fireplace would have been something of a luxury item for a mere 'chamber over the kitchen.' Possible foundations were found at the time of the renovations.
Photo:Note the small hearth to serve the upstairs room.

Note the small hearth to serve the upstairs room.

D. & M. Gould.

A new much larger wing has now been built built using modern materials.  The main building, however, survives in its original form, except that a proportion of the original timbers could not be saved, and had to be replaced. It is probably 17th century, but it is a complex building, and is dealt with under a separate heading here.

A small child's shoe was found hidden in the structure. It was common for a shoe, or something similar, to be put into the building at the time of construction in order to ensure good luck, and to keep the witches away.

Photo:A tiny shoe found in the structure.

A tiny shoe found in the structure.

Photo:A tin roof and an outside toilet. This was a vast improvement over an earth closet at the bottom of the garden!

A tin roof and an outside toilet. This was a vast improvement over an earth closet at the bottom of the garden!

This page was added by Sue Miller on 26/12/2012.

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