C14 or C15 hall house with gabled crosswings. Timber framed and plastered
with red plain tile roof. Two storey wing, remainder one storey and attics.
Wings were originally jettied but are now underbuilt and they are hipped at
rear. Three window range modern casements. Centre rear wing extension. Flat
headed dormer. Service wing at east end has exposed frame internally.
When Home Farm came on the market in 2019 it had been in the ownership and occupation of the same family, The Knight
family, for around 90 years. Before the sale, unoccupied for a few years, with no mod-cons and run-down, the farm,
described as a museum piece, was in need of major restoration.
According to Architectural Historian, Leigh Alston,
It is a rare and historically important example of a complete late-medieval dwelling that has largely escaped the usual over-restoration of the twentieth century. It represents one of the very few intact open-hall houses in this part of Essex
Indeed, it has been little altered since the seventeenth century.
Leigh goes on to say that features of the house, including the large size of the hall, would indicate it to have
belonged to an owner of considerable substance.
The central open hall dates to the mid to late fourteenth century and its rafters and wall timbers remain thickly
encrusted with soot from the open hearth. Other parts of the house including the two cross wings were added through
different periods reflecting changing domestic fashions.
[For more on what the building's architecture reveals about how the early owners of Home Farm lived see Appendix 1 Home Farm: A Medieval Open Hall House]
Also of significance are the Grade II listed sixteenth century 5-bayed threshing barn to the east of the farmhouse, the nineteenth century cart-lodge across the road by the pond and the square cowshed with a hipped roof which may possibly have been built as a stable, also of the nineteenth century.
The sixteenth century 5-bayed threshing barn
In the past, the farm has been known as North House Farm, (1838 tithe awards), and in modern times as both Home Farm
and Knights Farm but earlier names have so far proved elusive. It was first listed in 1965 and is one of the oldest
houses in the village of Peldon; the estate agent's view was
The house is in need of considerable renovation and repair but offers scope for the creation of a historically valuable family residence
Home Farm offers an array of various agricultural buildings including a stunning grade II listed Essex timber-framed barn which is noted as being from around the 15th or 16th century. Having once been a dairy farm, there are various buildings of varying construction including a small dairy parlour as well as a larger cattle shed of telegraph and concrete pole construction measuring approx. 115ft x 70ft. Other buildings include the Cart Shed which lies on the opposite side of the road to the farm.
Due to the listing of the traditional barn, there may be a chance to gain planning permission for change of use.
The land totals approx. 72.23 acres (29.23 hectares) of pasture comprising mainly one block with a small area to the north of Mersea Road. There is also approx. 0.47 acre of pond area. The land is dissected by internal ditches and drains.
Three of the parcels to the west of Home Farm were once in arable rotation and could be converted back if required. The remaining land lies slightly lower than these parcels and part abuts the Ray Channel.
The land is designated by DEFRA as Grade 3 and soils are of the Windsor Association
suggesting tertiary clay soil, ideally suited for the production of winter cereals and grassland.
In the Essex Records Office is a map from 1728 of what is clearly Home Farm encompassing 86 acres, an acreage that
is not that different from that now in 2022. The owner was Mary Thurston [spelt Thurstan on the map] of Little
Wenham Hall in Suffolk. [Essex Records Office: D/DHt P3].
A detail of the 1728 map showing the farmhouse, barn and haystack.
[Essex Record Office: D/DHt P3].
The Thurston family owned Little Wenham Hall from c 1695. Mary was the eldest daughter of Sir Isaac Rebow of Colchester and married Joseph Thurston shortly after 14th May 1698. On that date a document was signed between Joseph Thurston of the one part, Mary and her father Sir Isaac Rebow of the second and John Shaw, (probably Joseph's maternal uncle) of the third.
This document records that in consideration of a marriage shortly to take place between Joseph and Mary, and of a sum of £4,000 to be paid by Mary's father, Sir Isaac Rebow, as her marriage portion, Joseph leased and released to Sir Isaac Rebow and John Shaw the Little Wenham Hall estates to hold in trust for him, his wife-to-be and heirs, it being also intended there should be a further settlement.
A further settlement was made in January 1703/04 between all the same parties, although Joseph and Mary were now married. It was
agreed that a sum of £6,000 that is £2,000 to be added by Joseph Thurston to the marriage portion of £4,000 should
be laid out in purchase of freehold lands within 40 miles of Colchester, to the annual value of £500. Joseph
Thurston leases and releases to Sir Isaac Rebow and John Shaw, on trust (in addition to the Little Wenham Hall
estates), lands in Great Holland, co. Essex... and lands in Great Wenham... The estates purchased by Sir Isaac Rebow
and John Shaw lie in East Doniland, Thorington, Peldon and West Mersea, co. Essex.
Fragmenta Genealogica Volume VIII F.A. Crisp 1889
It is possible that Home Farm was among those estates purchased by Rebow and Shaw but it would seem from a document
at the National Archives that Joseph's father, also Joseph Thurston, had property in Peldon and Fingringhoe in 1671
[National Archives C 5/505/29].
In his will written 17 February 1687/78 he leaves his son, Joseph,
all my copy and freehold Lands lying and being in Peldon and West Mersea... now or late in the occupation of Thomas
* there is a Thomas Coney of Peldon, yeoman, who died in 1704. His will survives but no mention is made of property.
[ERO D/ABW 78/10] ] He was also an Overseer of the Poor from 1701/2 [Peldon Parish Book D/P 287/8/1
Was Home Farm in fact purchased by the Thurstons pre 1671?
Mary's husband, Joseph, died in 1714 and her father, Sir Isaac Rebow, died in 1726.
As we have seen, Mary was to commission a survey of Home Farm within two years of her father's death in 1728.
Mary and Joseph's eldest son (and heir), Joseph, a published poet, whose work was much appreciated by Alexander
Pope, sadly died young (1704 - 1732) He was survived by his mother, two sisters, and a younger brother, Thomas. Mary herself was to die in 1736.
It was Joseph's brother Thomas who surrendered the family's property in Peldon in 1748 to the next owners (subsequently selling the Thurston family seat at Little Wenham in 1765).
From a later document we learn that over 55 acres of Home Farm were freehold but smaller parcels of land were copyhold, a kind of leasehold, belonging to Peet Hall Manor and Peldon Rectory Manor. When these manorial lands changed hands the person surrendering the property had to appear before the Manorial Court and then the person being admitted to the property did likewise. Invariably, various manorial 'taxes' accompanied such transactions.
In the Peldon Rectory Manor Court document Essex Record Office D/DHt T203/14] dated 11th July 1748 there is a Surrender of property held by Thomas Thurston Esq. son and heir of Joseph Thurston and an Admission of Mr William Smythies, of Colchester, surgeon, and Elizabeth his wife to two crofts called Carters or Churchcroft and Boleyns, Peldon. We know the Rectory Manor held 7 acres of the estate.
... in the occupation of Richard Harvey lying between the highway leading towards The Strood on the North and the lands called Parletts on the South
We are told in this document that Joseph Thurston, Mary's father-in-law, died in 1691 and had been tenant of the above. Everything points to the property being Home Farm.
This next owner, William Smythies, married his second wife, Elizabeth Blatch some time after 1737, and their son James was born in 1748. James, being left a significant inheritance by his maternal aunt, Sarah Edwards née Blatch, with the condition he change his surname to 'Blatch', became James Blatch in 1772 by deed poll. James and his sister subsequently appear as owners of Home Farm.
Interestingly the Thurston and the Blatch families (both from Colchester) had already been involved in property dealings for in 1715 Mary Thurston assigned a Manor in Great Holland to John Blatch of Colchester.
William Smythies died in 1772 bequeathing to his eldest son Yorick Smythies other property in Peldon namely
Copyhold messuage and Lands with the rights, members and Appurtenances thereunto belonging called or known by the names of Royses and Ryme Acres situate in lying and being in the several parishes of Peldon and West Mersea in the County of Essex held of the manor of Peet Hall and now in the occupation of the widow Tiffin.
In a Sale document advertising an auction in 1776 [ERO SALE/B756] it would seem that Home Farm (Lot 3) was now owned by James Blatch esq and Mr Joseph Doyle, the latter married to James' sister, Charlotte. (James and Charlotte were Yorick Smythies' half-brother and half-sister).
Joseph Doyle, from Stratford by Bow, was a surgeon as was his father-in-law, William Smythies, Doyle had also been executor of William's will. Although the property was not named in the sale particulars, the acreage, and location suggest this was indeed Home Farm
A farm, part Freehold and part Copyhold, consisting of a Dwelling House, Barn, Stables and other Outbuildings, and of 86 acres, 3 roods, 20 perches of Arable Land and Marsh, situate and lying in the several Parishes of West Mersea and Peldon, or one of them, and now let on lease to Mary Tiffin, Widow, for the Term of 21 years from Michaelmas 1768.
This Farm is included, by the last Owner, in the same lease, with another small Farm adjoining and the whole Premises together are let at One reserved Rent of £60 per Annum, the Tenant paying 2 shillings in the Pound towards the Land Tax. The Vendors have since the Death of the Last Owner, about 4 Years, received only 2/3 for their share of the Rent.
The Copyhold part of this Lot (which is Heriotable*) is holden, one parcel thereof, about 7 acres of the Manor of
Peldon Rectory and pays a Quit Rent** of 2 shillings per annum, the Residue is holden of the Manor of Peet Hall, the
Fine certain £2 and pays several Quit-Rents amounting to £1 4 shillings 6 pence per Annum.
There are also two other Annual Quit-Rents payable from this farm one of 7 shillings and 4d to the Manor of Copt Hall in Litle Wigborough and the other of 2d to the Manor of Peldon.
This Farm as well as the last, lies very convenient for Water Carriage, they are situated within 2 miles of each other and both within 8 post miles of the Town of Colchester
* a heriot was a kind of death duty paid to a Lord of the Manor when a tenant died, often consisting of a live animal
** a quit-rent was payable to a Lord of the Manor by a tenant in lieu of other customary manorial services
Essex Record Office has a map dated 1788 of a 'Farm belonging to James Blatch Esq.' [ERO D/DHt P26]
which would imply the farm had not been sold in 1776. Was this map commissioned due to Mary Tiffin's 21 year lease shortly coming to an end?
The 1788 map of Home Farm commissioned by James Blatch [ERO D/DHt P26]
The map reveals the farm had 80 acres in 1788, and, incidentally, that Blatch owned parcels of land and property along the main road between Mersea and Colchester (including the Peldon Rose Inn), right up to and beyond Pete Bridge. These parcels of land also appear in Mary Thurston's map of 1728 as belonging to the farm's estate. Four of the fields are described as marsh threaded by channels from the River Blackwater.
James Blatch died in 1811 and willed that his wife Elizabeth have the family properties until her death.
His widow appeared at the Court meeting for the Rectory Manor on 14th January 1813 to be admitted to the portion of
Home Farm named as Carters otherwise Church Croft and Boleyns, two crofts which Blatch had been tenant of since 1772.
Elizabeth Blatch died in 1815 and the properties were sold as advertised in the Ipswich Journal of 3rd August 1816,
with 27 acres in Peldon called Rose Farm and a further 80 acres in West Mersea and Peldon occupied by Charles
Tiffin [note the name Tiffin is sometimes spelt Tiffen].
In a parcel of documents held at Essex Record Office [D/Del E14] there is a
Description of Estates late belonging to James Blatch Esquire, deceased, ordered by his will to be sold
The estate was divided into 12 lots including properties and land in East Mersea, a property in Suffolk and oyster layings at Little Ditch in Little Wigborough. Lot 8 describes the Rose Inn with three acres and Lot 7 describes Home Farm
Lot 7 Consists of a good Farm House with a Barn, Stables and other suitable and convenient Outhouses part freehold, and part Copyhold containing in the whole 80 a[cres] 1 r[ood] 10 p[erch] situate in Peldon and West Mersea and also in the occupation of Charles Tiffin under lease determinable on two years notice
55a 0r 30p or thereabouts of this lot are freehold
18 a Copyhold of the Manor of peet Hall subject to a fine
certain and a quit rent of £1. 5. 6 and the remaining 7 a
are copyhold of the Manor of peldon Rectory subject to a fine
at the will of the Lord, 1 Heriot and a quit rent of 2d pr Annum
Home Farm's acreage had remained pretty much the same, its area surveyed in 1728 and noted on the map as being 86 acres. In the sale document of 1776 it was advertised as having 86 acres; in 1788, 80 acres; and nearly 300 years later, advertised by estate agents as being just over 73 acres.
By the time of the survey carried out for the Peldon Tithe map of 1838, the landowner was Charles Wilson, with the
farmsteads, Home Farm (named as North House Farm) and Cooke's (Kemps) worked by Charles Tiffin. Wilson owned
approximately 120 acres of which just over 30 acres were marshland, 1½ acres comprised the gardens and yards of the two farmsteads and the rest was arable.
Charles Wilson, in his will of 1837 left his brother, surgeon, Horace Hayman Wilson,
all and every part of my lands and buildings at Peldon [National Archives: PROB 11/20/35]
He also wills that Charles Tiffin be granted a lease of 21 years at £200 a year rent. Charles Wilson died in 1846.
So why was Charles Wilson keen to ensure such a long lease to Charles Tiffin? The story of the
Tiffins is an interesting one and is covered in the Mersea Museum article
Mr Great's House, Kemps Farm, Peldon
In brief, Charles Tiffin, born circa 1797, who was awarded the 21 year lease on Kemps Farm in Charles Wilson's will, had a sister called Hannah, born circa 1813.
Horace Hayman Wilson was Charles Wilson's brother and beneficiary and was an eminent Professor of Sanscrit, He had his son, Frederick, as a young child, sent over from Calcutta on a six month voyage in the care of the ship's Captain, to be educated in England.
Subsequently, presumably as a young man, Frederick was taken by his brother, Thomas Luxmore
Wilson (a solicitor), to Peldon where he owned a farm that he kept for shooting. Here, Frederick met Hannah Tiffin and they were subsequently married in 1839 thus establishing a family link between the Wilsons and the Tiffins.
A member of the Smythies family, William Carleton Smythies, is also listed as owning land tenanted by Charles Tiffin. Presumably some parcels of land had remained in the Smythies family. The land amounted to approximately 25 acres including 13 acres of marsh and a house and garden (unspecified). Was this Rose Farm?
Interestingly, two of Smythies' parcels of land are named Roys Marsh and Roys Field which surely must
be Royses named in the 1772 will of his forebear and maybe became Rose Farm?
Neither the Thurston or Blatch families appear to have ever lived at Home Farm but will have had tenants. Apart from the Tiffin family, the names of those who actually lived there and worked the farm have not so far been found except for Thomas Coney in 1688 (a yeoman, he died in 1704 in Peldon) and Richard Harvey in 1748.
The Essex records Office has a will for Eleanor Harvey of Peldon who died in 1764. The will states she is the widow
and Administratrix of Richard Harvey late of Peldon... Farmer dec[eas]ed who, it is likely is the Richard Harvey who was buried in Peldon Churchyard in 1763
(there is no evidence of his grave there now).
Eleanor requests that her Executor and Executrix take Possession of the Lease of the Farm which I now hold and
Farm ...for the remainder of the term then to come in the said Lease and to apply all the Proffits arising thereby
for and towards the Maintenance Bringing up and Education of my several Children namely Richard Harvey, Mary Harvey,
Eleanor Harvey, Elizabeth Harvey, Susannah Harvey, Ameritta Harvey and Deborah Harvey until they attain their
several ages of twenty one years.. [ERO D/ABW 101/2/23]
The likelihood is that this is referring to Home Farm and, given Mary Tiffin subsequently had the lease from 1768, it seems there were still four years left to run on the lease when Eleanor Harvey died in 1764.
Mary Tiffin, who held the lease of Home Farm for 21 years from 1768, was widowed in 1771. Her husband, William, was a landowner and appears in the Poll Book for 1763 in Abberton which is where he and Mary were married in 1770. Mary had a son, Charles, shortly after the death of her husband.
Mary appears in the Peldon Land Tax Redemption book of 1798 as a tenant of James Blatch.
In 1803 Mary died and was buried in Peldon Churchyard.
Mary Tiffin's gravestone in Peldon Churchyard now lying flat and barely legible
In Memory of Mary Tiffin
who died January 24th 1805 [1803?]
aged 64 years
The Charles Tiffin (the younger) who appears in the 1841 census for Peldon with his wife, 2 daughters and 5 sons was probably Mary's grandson. Mary's son is most likely to be the Charles Tiffin buried in East Mersea's Churchyard who we know to be father of Charles Tiffin (the younger). His gravestone reads
TO THE MEMORY OF CHARLES TIFFIN
LATE OF THIS PARISH
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
FEBRUARY 27TH 1829
leaving 10 Orphan Children
who will long regret the loss
of a kind and affectionate Father
In 1851 Mary's grandson Charles and his wife Mary are farming 358 acres on the Mersea Road.
In 1861, the farm is named as Kemps Farm with Charles and Mary farming an acreage of 264.
By 1871 Charles has died [in 1869] but his widow, Mary, is still farming 270 acres; it is likely this is Kemps Farm.
Charles Tiffin's gravestone in St Mary's Churchyard, Peldon
In 1881 at the age of 76 Mary is farming 114 acres at Pond Farm. Could Pond Farm be Home Farm? It still has a pond over the road by the Cart Shed, largely choked with yellow flag iris and frequented by moorhens.
Living with Mary was her Farm Bailiff, Elijah Woods and his wife.
Only three years after the 1881 census, Elijah, the farm bailiff, reveals that Home Farm was affected by the 1884 earthquake, writing the story of a broken mirror on its back which is now held at Mersea Museum.
This mirror is a part of one that was shaken from a mantleshelf and broken at Home Farm Peldon, Essex at the time of the great earthquake April 22nd 1884 the house being shaken from its foundations, chimneys thrown to the ground and widespread damage took place, this piece of glass was framed as it was broken by the earthquake in remembrance of so great and terrible event. Signed by me Elijah Woods occupant of Home Farm 26/6/84
Mary Tiffin died in the February of that year 1884 and was buried in Peldon Churchyard
bringing to an end the tenancy of Home Farm by the Tiffins of over 100 years.
Mary Tiffin's gravestone in Peldon Churchyard
who died 1st February 1884
aged 79 years
Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
One can only presume Elijah remained in the farmhouse and was resident when the earthquake shook in April. From the brickwork on the farmhouse's chimneys it is clear that it suffered the same fate as most of the buildings in Peldon at the time of the earthquake. Two chimneys show clear signs of being rebuilt and one fireplace still lacks its chimney.
In Kelly's trade directory of 1882, Daniel Cocks is listed as a farmer in Peldon. In the light of the auction advertised in 1896 (see below) presumably he was farming Kemps and Home Farm while farming Brick House Farm, West Mersea where he is listed residing in both the 1881 and 1891 censuses.
Michaelmas Auction by direction of Mr Daniel Reuban Cock who is giving up the occupation of Kemps and Home Farm.
East Anglian Daily Times 5th September 1896
Home Farm is not listed by name in 1901 but I've deduced that Henry William Smith and his wife
Angelina were living there with five of their sons and two daughters. The address is Mersea Road
and Henry is a Horseman on Farm. [See article on
The Smith family of Peldon ]. I believe the family relocated to
Sampsons Farm in 1904, a farm belonging to the Fairheads of Brick House Farm for whom Henry worked for forty years.
Mr & Mrs Henry William Smith of Sampson's Farm, Peldon
From Peldon Neighbourhood News scrapbook Page 24.
Date: 26 October 1935
In 1903 there is a Sale Catalogue for Home and Kemps Farm encompassing 155 acres 1 Rood 9 Poles. It is described as a Desirable Landed Estate with its proximity to water carriage for Produce and Manure to and from London a strong selling point. The early prospect of being connected by rail with the proposed railway running right through it, a passenger station close by and the expectation of having a railway siding at the farm (a branch line that never came to fruition) are added as further bonuses.
The Home Farm Homestead included a plaster and tiled dwelling house containing Keeping Room, Parlour, Kitchen and other Offices, and 7 Bedrooms. Barn, Carthorse Stable, Sheds and Yards, Piggery and Cart Sheds.
Copies of deeds for the sale of Home Farm in 1930 refer back to the sale on 2nd June 1904 to William Golden Fairhead of Brick House Farm.
It is likely the four vendors in 1904, Fanny Paterson Wilson, William Dixon Escott, Thomas Oliver Escott and Harry Frederick Escott were co-owners of the farm through a family gift or bequest.
Fanny Paterson Wilson was an unmarried daughter of Horace Hayman Wilson whom we have already met when he inherited Home Farm from his brother in 1846. When Horace Hayman died in 1860 his will stated
the greater part of my property is already disposed of according to the conditions of certain
So it would appear Home Farm had been in the ownership of the Wilson family from at least 1837 to 1904.
The next owner of Home Farm, William Golden Fairhead (1856 - 1918), had been farming Brick House Farm in Peldon from circa 1878 and it is likely his first tenants of Home Farm were the family of Harry Balls.
In the 1911 census, Harry Thomas Balls, an engine driver, no doubt of farm machinery, his wife,
Alice Maria and their family are occupying Holmes Farm. Interestingly, on the cover page
of their census form the name of the farm is given as 'Kemps' - again indicating that the
two farms were considered as one. Their two youngest children were born in Peldon.
Their son Walter Harry Balls born in 1895 in Great Horkesley was three when he moved with his
parents to Peldon which would favour a date of the family's removal to Peldon being 1898/9. The
parish mag of September 1980, recording his 60th wedding anniversary of his marriage to Mabel,
Walter came to Peldon with his parents from Great Horkesley when he was three years old and has now lived here for almost 82 years.
From an entry in the Chelmsford Chronicle of 11th July 1919, it would appear that Alice ran a beerhouse from Home Farm. There are much earlier newspaper entries for a Balls family running beerhouses, presumably relations?
In the Kelly's trade directory of 1914, Percy Fairhead is listed as the farmer at Home Farm, no
doubt employing Harry Balls. The Fairhead family had been based at Brick House Farm, Peldon, from
about 1878 and Percy's father, William Golden Fairhead, ran an agricultural contracting business with his son, hiring out men and machinery throughout the area going as far as Weeley and Harwich.
William Golden Fairhead died in 1918 and named his children as his trustees, Percy Golden, Rachael and Stanley Fairhead.
In the directory of 1929 Percy Fairhead was running both Home and Kemps Farm as well as Brick House Farm as the executor of his father's will.
Harry and Alice are to be found living at Home Farm in both the 1918 and 1929 electoral rolls
and in 'Homes Farm' in the 1921 census with their sons Ernest and Bertie. All the
men are working for the executors of William Golden Fairhead.
Geoff Wyncoll recalls his parents telling him that Harry Balls was still in Home Farm when they
were building their bungalow to the West of Home Farm (then Goodwyn now Mayford) early in the 1930s.
By the 1939 register, Harry and Alice are living in The Bungalow to the east of Home Farm which I
believe to have been built on Home Farm's land. It was here that Harry doed in 1945; Alice died in 1951.
From Home Farm's deeds it would appear that in 1946 the Knight family bought back the plot where Harry had built The Bungalow
and this remained in the family's possession until circa 2022.
The Essex Record Office has building plans dating to 1931 for a bungalow on Mersea Road Peldon and the owner's name is given as H. Balls. [ERO D/RLw Pb1/1925]. The likelihood is that Harry and Alice Balls bought the
plot of land, built the bungalow and moved into it in the early 1930s.
In September 1930, Percy Fairhead stepped down as a trustee of his father's estate and Rachael
and Stanley sold Home Farm to Alice Maud Knight the wife of Herbert Knight of Great Hayes Farm,
Stow St. Mary's,[Stow Maries] Chelmsford on 1st December 1930.
The Knight family,
who were to own Home Farm for the next ninety years, moved into the farmhouse,
probably its first owner/occupiers for centuries. They paid £798.
In the deeds the farm is described as a
Freehold farm with farmhouse lands and buildings thereto belonging known as Home Farm in the
Parish of Peldon ... containing an area of ... Sixty six acres one rood twenty perches or
thereabouts and consisting of the following enclosures containing respectively the following
The deeds also confirm that some of Home Farm's land used to be copyhold of the Rectory Manor of Peldon.
Home Farm by Richard Bawden showing the hipped cow shed and on the left the listed 16th century Barn.
This etching by the artist Richard Bawden is of Home Farm in 1936. Memories from Alan Cudmore who lived in Peldon between 1946 and 1954 tell of the main road going through the farmyard; road and farmyard being barely distinguishable from each other.
Another tale which has never been substantiated is that the author Stella Gibbon based Cold Comfort Farm
(written in 1932) on Home Farm. It is believed that she spent a short time living between the Peldon Rose and The Strood (the causeway that leads to Mersea Island), possibly renting a property. Neither her biography, which simply
mentions occasional, childhood family holidays on the Essex coast, nor the novel, shed any light on this. However, in her novel Nightingale Wood the fictitious village is named as Sible Pelden and it raises a tantalising
possibility that the story is right!
The Knight family, as we have seen, came to Home Farm in 1930.
The head of the family, Herbert Frederick Knight (1890 - 1952), born in Laxfield in Suffolk,
had married Alice Maud Francis (1888 - 1977) in Rochford in 1911.
Interestingly, Herbert's father, a farmer and cattle dealer, changed the family name from 'Cook'
as listed in the 1901 census in Fressingfield, Suffolk, to 'Knight' as listed in the 1911 census
at Canvey Island, Essex. Not only did his father change his surname but his Christian name too from 'Fred Cook' to 'Lewis Knight'. The two censuses bear out that it is the same man, the right age, the same birthplace of Harleston in Norfolk and in 1911 he and Selina are listed as having been married 24 years. Family stories as to the reason for the name change range from him being caught sheep-rustling to becoming a bankrupt!
Herbert and Alice's eldest son was Herbert John Lewis Knight (born 1912), known as Jonny.
Daughter Violet Maud known as 'Womey' (who was born in 1915 with her baptism registered in
Rochford) married William H Hedger, the son of the landlord of The Plough, Peldon. William took
over the running of the Plough after his father's death and ran the pub for 34 years before
retiring in about April 1973.
William and Maud Hedger celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary in 1990 having spent all their married life in the village, having been married on Christmas Day 1940 by the Rev. Wilson at Peldon Church.
Christmas Day Mr William Henry Hedger only son of Mr and Mrs H Hedger of The Plough Inn, Peldon and Miss Violet Maud Knight eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs H Knight of Home Farm Peldon Essex County Standard 4 January 1941
Violet Maud Hedger died in 2002 at the age of 87. In their retirement the couple were living in
the bungalow, Home View, on the Mersea Road, east of Home Farm (is the name of the house a nod to
Violet's family home?). This was another bungalow built on land belonging to Home Farm.
The conveyance of this land, which was gifted to William Henry Hedger and Violet Maud Hedger is
dated 8th May 1959.
William died in 2006 at the age of 91, by then living with his son and daughter in law in Newpots Close. Following his death, Home View was sold and Peldon Kitchens now run their business from the improved and extended bungalow.
Other children included Jessie Kathleen May Knight, born in 1917
and known as 'Shim', Hilda Francis in 1918 known as 'Gertrude', Joseph William 'Joe' in
1922 and Wilfred in 1925 known as 'Fee or Felix' in 1925
and were born on Canvey Island. Wilfred sadly died young at the age of 45 in 1970 and is buried
near his parents in Peldon Churchyard as is his widow Betty May. Another son, Peter Clifford,
'Bonnie' was born in 1929 and Fred,
known as 'Dickie' or 'Richard',
the youngest, was born in Peldon in 1932 and, according to Mersea resident, Ron Green, was a contemporary at Mersea School.
In the 1939 register, Herbert Frederick Knight (the father), is listed as a dairy farmer and all
his boys (except for the youngest, Peter and Fred, who were at school,) were cowmen working on
On 10th November 1947, the deeds for Home Farm reveal that Alice Maud Knight conveyed a plot of land to Donovan and Stella Kathleen Rowley from Colchester.
... field Number 244 on the Ordnance Survey Map together with the pond on the South West side thereof
Donovan Rowley was an artist and he and his wife, Stella, lived on the barge VICTA near Shell
Bungalow and presumably the purchase of this land from the Knights gives us a date as to when
they took up residence there.
The Rowleys on the VICTA with a cottage on the Mersea Road, Peldon in the background
After the deaths of Harry and Alice Balls, their home, The Bungalow, seems to have become the
home of the Knight's eldest son, Jonny, and his wife, Violet Alice, right until her death at 102
in 2021. June Martin remembers before then they lived in a 'gipsy caravan' near Home Farm and
indeed in the entry for the baptism of their daughter, Jane Maud Knight, in 1951 their address is
given as The Caravan, Mersea Road. June also remembers most of the Knight 'boys' living in the
large farmhouse with wives and girlfriends.
The 'gipsy caravan' interested me having started research into a travelling family based in Tollesbury, the Wombwells. Over 125 years, members of the family toured a travelling menagerie and they built numerous showmen's wagons. Having learned from Jonny's nephew that this caravan had been bought from someone in Tollesbury I would like to think this caravan had been one of the Bostock and Wombwell wagons. Sadly the body of the caravan didn't survive but a Mersea Island engineer, Duncan Pittock, did inspect the caravan before its destruction and felt sure it was a showman's caravan because it came from Tollesbury, was 'posh' and the woodwork was mahogany.
Duncan Pittock understands that the caravan was sited on a plot between the house 'Plovers' on Mersea Road, Peldon, and 'The Bungalow'. Home Farm's deeds reveal a sale to Jonny by his mother of a plot of land which could well have been where he placed the caravan.
The Conveyance was dated 17th September 1952 and the piece of land was described as
having a frontage to the road leading from Peldon to Mersea of 100 feet thereabouts a depth of
200 feet or thereabouts and a width at the rear of 100 feet or thereabouts being part of the Enclosure Number 243 on the Ordnance Survey Map 1923 edition
Jonny Knight was known as a 'knacker man' and seems to have begun business at Home Farm,
his nephew Derek remembers there still being meat hooks screwed into the ceiling of a
On his Jonny's daughter's baptism registration in 1951 he is listed as a 'horse slaughterer'.
Jill Hill from Mersea, whose mother was brought up at nearby Kemps Farm, recalled that she couldn't get her horse to go past Home Farm because it was used as an abattoir.
Later, Jonny was to have premises at the Hythe for his 'knackers yard' and we have a Colchester Recalled
Interview from someone who worked for him in the 1950s. [See Appendix 2] Jonny would also attend the local farms to remove larger dead animals and had a contract with Colchester Zoo to remove their dead animals, both an elephant and a giraffe causing logistical problems while the transporting of the latter attracted the attention of the local police!
According to Penny Burr née Pullen, whose father ran The Peldon Rose, Jonny, who was a regular drinker at their pub, would occasionally call in with a couple of ponies that were destined for the knacker's yard and offer them to Penny and her sister to break in and sell on.
June Martin, who lived in the council houses further along the Mersea Road, remembers with
amusement that Jonny, although a knacker man, used to have a tame sheep as a pet called 'Woolly'
which used to follow the family everywhere like a dog, on occasion even accompanying Jonny to the Peldon Rose!
Alan Cudmore remembers his grandmother (living on Lower Road, Peldon) getting her milk from the Knight family in the 1940s. Ron Green remembers Alf Pavey, one of Mersea's dairymen, collecting milk from the Knights for his milk round on the island, also in the 1940s.
Ruby Theobald recalled that Home Farm had cattle and sold milk. She also remembered the water coming up to the farmhouse in the 1953 floods.
June Martin remembers looking out of her mother's bedroom window towards Mersea (from the council houses on Mersea Road, Peldon) and seeing the fields looking white in the sunlight as they were covered in water in the 1953 floods.
Anne Lee née Wooldridge, living in her family home at Kemps Farm recalls I remember the floods in 1953. I woke
up in the morning and looked out of the window. At first I thought it had been snowing, as everything looked white. In fact it was the water which came right up to the road. Whether it actually covered the road or not, I can't remember, but yes, Knight's Farm [Home Farm] was flooded.
Colin and Eric Coan, Peldon farmers born and bred in the village, remember Home Farm barn being flooded. They tell me the Knights' cows were up to their udders in water, while chickens were swept along by the water.
There was surprisingly little information about the Knight family seeing they lived here so long
but that has been remedied by the next generation, cousins, getting in touch with me.
[See Appendix 3]
The men clearly
liked their beer frequenting the local hostelries and the overall impression is that they were a law unto
themselves! When I heard a tale of them using an acrow prop through the kitchen table to support a beam in the kitchen I thought it was most unlikely until I saw an internal picture of the kitchen in the estate agent's particulars!
David Nicholls remembers the Knight 'boys' used to drink in The Peldon Rose until banned and Jo Knight would tell of running into Colchester, taking on all-comers in boxing matches for money and then running back at the end of the night.
John Hawes remembers that Jonny had his own seat in The Rose and woe betide anyone who sat in it!
Archie Smith wrote a memoir dating to when he was a boy between 11 and 14, Archie Smith - a boyhood in Mersea. In around 1931 he mentioned a girl he rather liked
I know most of the Peldon girls, the one I like best is not quite as old as me, she lives on a farm with a pond opposite, on the road to Mersea, she has brothers and sisters, some of the names I know Jesse, Woombie, John, Jo, Mowe
Was the girl Hilda, just a year younger than Archie?
Fred Knight was yet to be born at the time of Archie's memoir but he gets a mention in a later article in the Essex County Standard.
Leaving 'The Rose' I journeyed to the home of Mr Golden Simpson. On my way I came to Home Farm, where I stopped to
watch three year old Fred Knight feeding two lambs from a bottle. What a pity there was no photographer with me;
he would have secured a delightful picture.
[ Your Essex No 30 At Peldon by Cyril R Jeffries 1935/36 ]
Fred and his wife, Dorothy, stayed at Home Farm with their son Stephen until Fred died in 2012 and Dorothy two years later. Stephen continued living at Home Farm working at Abberton Car Sales garage at the Langenhoe crossroads until his death in 2019.
Home Farm is about to enter a new phase of its history with a planning application in the offing and a barn
conversion planned for its Grade II listed barn. Its owners have been traced for the last 350 years, whether we can
get back even further to its beginnings 650 years ago remains to be seen... to know who it was built for would be amazing!
Peldon History Project
Discovering Timber-Framed Buildings by Richard Harris
English Farmhouses by R.J. Brown
Home Farm, Peldon: Heritage Asset Assessment Leigh Alston
Estate Agents: Brooks Leney
and all the locals quoted here.
Essex Records Office for the use of the maps.
[ ERO are the source of these maps but do not own the copyright. We have not been able to establish the copyright owner. ]
Appendix 1 Home Farm: A Medieval Open Hall House
Thanks are due to Architectural Historian, Leigh Alston, whose expertise has revealed the history of Home Farm's architecture. Any mistakes are my own!
In his report to inform and accompany the planning application for Home Farm, Leigh Alston gives us an insight into how the original owners might have lived and the changes that were brought about to the building as fashions and ways of living changed. He points out that Home Farm is an unusually well-preserved medieval open hall house having escaped the normal restorations of the twentieth century although noting that replacement PVC windows were fitted over twenty years ago!
It was the fashion in the 20th century to strip off plaster to reveal the timber frame of old houses. In the case of Home Farm early plaster and whitewash has survived which may well conceal evidence of wall paintings and other early forms of decoration.
The farmhouse was first listed Grade II in 1965 and updated in 1982 when internal inspections were not encouraged, limiting the scope of those reports.
Likely to have been built between 1350 and 1400, the central 'open hall' part of the house would have been the only heated space in the farmhouse, the largest room and a communal space. It was open to the roof and heated by a fire burning on a hearth in the middle of the space. With no chimneys, the smoke would have percolated round the building and escaped where it could. The rafters and wall timbers are still thickly encrusted with soot from the open hearth. Tall unglazed windows would have provided some light and ventilation. There would have been minimal, if any, fixed furniture. All the floors would have been beaten earth which would have been frequently renewed.
At different times of the day, the hall would have had different functions being used as a workspace, a dining room and, at night, as a dormitory for the servants, while one of the wings would have been the private living and sleeping space for the family.
This picture shows the western Upper End of the Open Hall where the earliest owner, his family and guests would dine looking down the hall. The window (added much later) on the right, looks out on the front garden and road while the front door started out at the other end of the hall.
The central open truss of the hall's roof divided the space into two, marking the social division between the owner and his family and their servants and employees. In Home Farm, the West End (to the right as you view the farmhouse from the road) was the Upper End and was where the owners dined, seated on a bench at the High Table (very similar in idea to an Oxbridge College's High Table) which was sometimes raised on a dais. Often superior architectural details and decoration would have been incorporated in the Upper End, visible to the owner, his family and guests. These finer details of architecture were designed to show off the wealth of the owner.
The family of Sir George Luttrell dining at the High Table from the 14th century Luttrell Psalter,
possibly contemporary with the building of Home Farm in Peldon.
The Lower End was where the servants and employees dined, arranged in order of precedence at other tables along the side walls.
The front door was on the other side of the hall to where it is now, with a cross passage linking it to the back
door immediately opposite, and both doors would have often been left open for ventilation. Entering through the front door there was a screen or partition to your right, extending from the front of the building to the back, very much like a modern hallway, and partway along on the right there was an entrance through the partition into the hall. In the hall, it is in the angle between the cross passage and the front wall that, later, the first chimney was to be built in the sixteenth century - now no longer there. Leigh Alston comments that this evidence of the early chimney is an unusual survivor.
The proportions of the hall are large by the standards of the time so the owner for whom it was built would have been someone of considerable substance. Having two cross wings also puts Home Farm further up the social scale.
We have no evidence of Home Farm being a manor; documentary evidence survives of just three Manors in Peldon, Pete Hall, Peldon Hall and the Rectory Manor. If it was a manor, it would have been in the open hall that the manorial courts would have been held, dealing with transfers of property.
The west wing, accessed from the Upper End of the hall is a two-storey jettied cross wing built about 100 years
after the hall (1450 - 1500) and probably was a rebuild of an earlier wing. This housed the upstairs parlour which, early on, provided sleeping accommodation for the family and would house little more than straw mattresses. The room below would have been of less status.
Jetties were another architectural symbol of wealth and status. A jetty consists of an upstairs wall projecting or jutting beyond the wall of the lower storey. This could range from a few inches to 2 foot. In the case of a two-foot projection this could increase the upstairs floor space by between 10 and 20%. Both wings have had their jetties underbuilt at some time in their history.
The jettied east wing is also a rebuild of an earlier cross wing, the rebuild probably dating to the late 1500s. This would have originally been a 'Service' bay comprising a buttery and a pantry but was rebuilt to make a new parlour (more private space for the family) and a small pantry, later enlarged to make a bake house and, in the 20th century, serving as a kitchen.
The medieval 'buttery' was usually where the beer or ale was stored. All classes commonly drank ale or beer so it was a staple of medieval life. The pantry was where bread was kept. Again, this was consumed daily by everyone in the household in medieval times. The pantry might also serve as a storage and food preparation area associated with bread-making.
The adjacent 5 bay threshing barn was possibly built around the same time as the east wing in the late 1500s.
Most threshing barns had a central threshing floor of earth or stone, lying between large entrances on either side. One doorway was usually larger than the other to allow heavily-laden harvest wagons to enter the barn. The bays either side were used for storage of straw and sheaves. The crops of wheat, barley, oats or rye were threshed with flails on the threshing floor during the winter months while the two doorways provided a through draught for winnowing (blowing air through the grain to remove the chaff).
Appendix 2: Colchester Recalled has an interview with Alan Thurlow, a butcher, who was born in 1938. In the mid 1950s he started to work for Jonny Knight.
Having started in his father's butcher's shop (which was also where the family lived) at the bottom of North Hill, Colchester, Alan was to spend his life as a butcher, eventually becoming manager of the Crouch Street butcher's Frank Wright and Son. As an eighteen year old learning his trade, his time at Jonny Knight's knacker's yard was clearly useful experience.
I decided I would like to move on so my father got me a job at John Knight's yard down at the Hythe. This was a knacker's yard and this is where I learned how to do slaughtering. We used to slaughter horses and cattle - some were brought in alive and others which had died would be collected from the farms. We used to have to skin them and the carcasses were then turned into dog's meat. Everything was done by hand.
You would skin the animals on the ground and then raise them up and dress them on a hoist. The skins would be taken off in one piece and then be sent off to the hide merchants. The carcasses that were left were then cut up for the dogs. People who used to keep greyhounds and that sort of thing used to come and collect the meat - it was all sold directly from the premises. The animals were shot with a captive bolt pistol, but before I was allowed to use one I had to take a test and get a licence to allow me to slaughter animals. All animals had to be taken to a designated slaughterhouse before you were allowed to shoot them.
Appendix 3: The Knight Family
Following the first publication of this article on Home Farm I was contacted by a family member
who kindly loaned me copies of Home Farm's deeds from 1930, family photos of his Dad and the
following letter which I have illustrated.
I am Derek Knight, son of the late Wilfred Knight, I have enclosed a copy of when Alice Maud Knight, my grandmother, purchased Home Farm in 1930.
The deeds say that Alice and Herbert Knight came from Stow Maries, she told me that there were three farms for sale by the same owners in Peldon and my grandfather walked to Peldon on several occasions to pick which farm to purchase; he chose Home Farm.
I think like the rest of the family they were a bit 'colourful'. I was told that grandad had gone bankrupt in the twenties so they changed their name to Knight from Cook (her maiden name). I believe grandma came from Canvey Island and her parents were Dutch, this may have been why my father and uncle went everywhere on bikes, only John learned to drive.
Although they had lost their previous farm, I think grandma did make a success of Home Farm as they were farmers. I think they moved in with seven children and Fred was born at Home Farm.
There was a shed at the entrance of the farm which was Alice's shop, as the lorries got bigger the shop was made smaller on several occasions. The remainder of the shop was still there when the farm was sold.
They were a mixed farm and all the chickens and animals were kept free-range. The brothers kept their chickens on different parts of the farm so they were less likely to mix but there used to be chickens running about all over the farm. They kept several pigs, these were mainly fed on swill which came from local schools and the cows were partly fed on brewers' grains a by-product of beer-making when the brothers used to hand-milk approximately 14 cows each twice a day.
Wilfred on Home Farm
Alice (Nanna) told me she made bread in the bread oven most days to sell in her shop, she also made butter in the butter churn, the churn was still in the pantry when I was last at the farm.
In the pantry there were lots of meat hooks on the ceiling so I think that is where John learnt his butchery trade.
I think Nanna had a good farm shop and she was able to purchase and use different by-products - the chickens would feed on the chaff. They purchased straw from the farm opposite [Kemps Farm], this farm was owned by Mr. Rodway, later owned by the Coans.
Joseph used the tractor to make the hay. I believe Jo was the only one that drove the tractor and when they got the hay and straw in, that was when we helped our Dads stack it all in the barns.
Nanna also told me that when they first moved into the farm, the children would run from one staircase to the other, there is a hatch and they would slide down the pole which was in the kitchen. I do not know what the hatch or pole was used for but it is still there so she had the hatch screwed down and had a wall built on the landing to separate the stairs. The older children would sleep one end of the farm and the younger ones the other end.
In the 2nd World War my father Wilfred and Joseph joined the Home Guard, they are named in a
photo in the Peldon Rose public house with the rest of the Home Guard but unfortunately they are
not in the photo and Wilfred joined the army, this is on the Roll of Honour on the wall at Peldon Church.
Wilfred Knight's certificate for being in the Home Guard in WW2
Peldon's WW2 Roll of Honour with Wilfred Knight's name listed
Wilfred in solder's uniform;
In 1946 Alice Knight purchased a cottage and land adjoining Home Farm, this is why it went from 66 acres when she purchased Home Farm and went back to 73 acres.
The extra field is where John had his caravan and then built his bungalow and his sister Maud Hedger built a bungalow on the extra field.
In 1956 Wilfred Knight purchased Thistledown, next door to Mayford, which also adjoined Home Farm where I lived.
In 1956 Nanna made her sons partners under the name A M Knight and Sons.
In 1960 Alice and her sons purchased Langenhoe Marshes in Peldon, of which I purchased 90% in 2016.
In the late sixties they had a milking parlour built which meant a lot less work for the brothers - they milked approximately 70 cows daily. They also rented Mr. Davidson's marshes which adjoined the farmland, they went about 3 miles long towards Salcott. When A M Knight gave them up after Wilfred died, Mr. Davidson had them levelled, turning the marsh land to agricultural land.
Wilfred died in 1970.
I moved into John's caravan and went for meals at the farm where Nanna cooked on a coal-fired Aga. They had electric put on for the milking parlour and it was then that they had electric added to the farmhouse but Nanna continued to use the Aga and she would use an oil lamp for light and listen to battery operated radio. I'm not sure if she ever used any electric in the house but it would have been a lot better for the rest of the family that lived at the farm.
Nanna died in 1977.
Joe's wife, Gwen, continued to sell the eggs and vegetables that Joe had grown and she continued to keep chickens. Gwen was very knowledgeable about chickens and she was a very good friend to Nanna and Frederick's wife, Dorothy, who was also a good friend to Nanna. When Nan died this left Joe and Gwen and Fred and Dorothy, with their two children, Stephen and Lucy, living at the farm.
Nanna had run the farm with the help of her daughter, Maud Hedger, but after Nanna died the farm became more neglected over the years and Langenhoe Hall marsh in Peldon also became more neglected so when I took over the marsh was covered in brambles etc. They had put the marshes on the market in 2010 but there were a lot of disputes between the family. As the marshes were left untouched (and there aren't many marshes left like them), they are now classed as SSI land which cannot be levelled but as they are now cleared you can see the Roman salt circles.
I think, Alice Knight, considering all the hard work she put into the farm and everything she achieved, never wanted any mod cons; most of her family continued to work and some to live on the farm all their lives. Those that left never stopped visiting the farm. I think all her children were very happy people although there was a lot of banter and rivalry between the siblings and at weekends all us grandchildren would be taken to the Peldon Rose for a bottle of coke and a bag of crisps, this happened on a regular basis. We would help out around the farm with our Dads. I do not think anyone could have created a better environment than Nanna had.
Article updated 24 October 2023