Englefield History

Chalkpit Farm

 

Chalkpit Farm was one of the two modern farms known to be in existence in 1762. It may have been created around 75-100 years earlier by the enclosure of a second common field in the north of the parish. A set of plans showing the boundaries and dimensions of the fields in the county archives appears to be of about the same date as a plan of the Great Field, Puntfield and Englefield Meadow judged to be from about 1695.

 

Unlike the other farms in the early years which were either owned freehold by the occupants or rented by them, Chalkpit always seems to have been farmed in-hand as the Home Farm and run by a bailiff rather than a tenant. In particular Richard Fellowes Benyon, the owner from 1854, was a keen agricultural innovator and used Chalkpit Farm to test the latest agricultural improvements, though in his self-deprecating style he did not claim any celebrity on that (or any other) account. The Berkshire Chronicle in November 1860 was of the view that Chalkpit Farm was "noticeable as being part of experiment in practical agriculture undertaken by the worthy "squire'', not so much, we presume, in the expectation of profit, as with a view to test any agricultural improvement which may arise, and so to give the tenant farmers of the neighbourhood the opportunity of watching with their own eyes the progress and result of experiments which it would hardly worth their while individually to attempt. There is moreover another advantage which arises to landlords from such undertakings as these. In this way they become practically acquainted with the feelings and condition of their tenants. It is very different matter where a landlord "hears" it a bad season, and where he "knows" the fact from his practical experience. In the latter case he is much more likely to do acts of kind consideration to his tenants, such as that on the part Mr. Benyon himself, which last week had the gratification to mention". This opinion was particularly occasioned by the a report from the previous week that Mr Benyon had postponed the usual Michaelmas rent audit from January until the following April. The harvest season had been very wet and much of the corn was not in a condition fit for sale except at very low prices. The postponement would enable the farmers to take advantage of drying winds in early spring so as to bring the corn to market in much better condition and to fatten stock, in both cases increasing the value.

 

The wagon shown on the right, probably from Chalkpit Farm, is clearly a former horse-drawn one that has been converted to be pulled by a tractor by the replacement of the shafts with a drawbar. The signwriting shows that this picture must have been taken after 1935 and, to judge from the faded letters, some years after.

 

The fields belonging to Chalkpit Farm ran down to the River Pang and the Dairies where there was a mill by 1086 and there still was one there in 1749.

© 2020 Richard J Smith

Englefield History

Englefield History

Englefield History

Englefield History