Farms are a feature of the landscape that arose as part of the enclosure system when the holders of the enclosed land moved out from the villages and built new farmhouses surrounded by their fields. It is estimated that Englefield was already 30% enclosed by the year 1600 and Ballard's survey in 1762 lists a number of farms, some owned by the lord of the manor with a bailiff in charge but some owned by other individuals. Many farms are mentioned in various deeds and indentures but a large number of the early ones were probably no more than smallholdings providing just sufficient for a family to live on. Many are named after people so presumably changed their name every time a new owner or tenant took over. Of the farms detailed by Ballard, only two remain to this day: Chalkpit Farm and Sulhamstead Farm, although the latter became Mareridge Farm then Mayridge Farm (or May Ridge). A third, Wickcroft Farm, came into being almost as soon as the Great Field was enclosed in 1774. The land occupied by the early farms was rarely consolidated in a single block but had many small parcels, both enclosed land and strips in the common fields, scattered over a sometimes wide area as shown in the case of John Horn's farm.
Wimbleton Farm, now simply Wimbleton's, occupied the slopes between the village and the old deer park on the top of the ridge to the north-west. Deeds of 1749 convey the farm to Mrs Sarah Prince and her son-in-law James May and the farm is also mentioned in papers from 1712. In 1762 James May was still in possession, although the farm is then referred to as Park Farm. His son James sold the farm to Richard Benyon in 1819. A plan of the common field, undated but probably from the later 17th century, show that a Mr Wimbleton had holdings and plans from about the same date show the fields of Chalkpit Farm so it is possible that Chalkpit Farm and Wimbleton's Farm were created from the enclosure of a second common field at that time. In the 19th century estate and Ordnance Survey maps the name is given as Wimbledon but in 1913 the Ordnance Survey has Wimbleton.
Cranemoor Farm occupied land between Englefield House and the Great Field and was probably the small estate bought by Lord Norreys and given to his son Edward in 1599. The house was owned by John Powell until his death in 1756, then by his widow and was part of Chantry Farm, the estate of their sons-in-law Richard Carter and William Toovey in 1779. Richard Benyon was probably being a little over-sensitive to ask John Constable to paint over the cows in the foreground of his 1833 picture of Englefield House because it looked as though he lived in a farmyard when seventy years earlier there was indeed a farm there. In 1762 Philip Wyatt was shown as the possessor of Cranmoor Farm as well as Chalkpit Farm. By 1844 this land was part of Chalkpit Farm
Dunce's Farm, also written in some places as Dunts's or Dunt's, was on the road from Englefield to North Street on the site now occupied by number 28, just on the North Street side of the A340 Pangbourne Road and therefore in Tilehurst parish. By the time of the Tilehurst enclosures in 1817 the land was already owned by Richard Benyon, though the farm is still shown in 1822. It was at some stage absorbed by Wickcroft Farm.
Goff's Farm is not recorded as such by Ballard but it is shown on his map, on the Beenham Lane a little west of its junction with Blyth's Hill (now Common Hill). The land belonging to it runs west from the farmhouse to the parish boundary and down to the River Bourne to the north. In 1844 Stephen Hart was the tenant of both Goff's Farm and Mayridge Farm so the two had obviously been amalgamated, as shown by the estate map of that year, though some of the land had by then been put to the woodland it is today. Goff's Farm was pulled down after 1892 when the new houses had been built at Wimbleton's and the occupiers of Goff's Farm moved there.
Parker's Farm is not mentioned by name in any estate survey or census but there is a plan of the lands of Parker's Farm in 1806, showing that most of the land, amounting to some 101 acres altogether, lay outside the parish.
North Street Farm was originally sited near the junction with Piper's Lane where it is still shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1883, surveyed in 1877. The house at the other end of the hamlet that is now known as North Street Farm was then shown as Charity Farm and was owned by the John Kendrick Charity that supported the school of the same name in Reading. There is a collection of buildings shown here on the Tilehurst enclosure map of 1817. The census of 1851 appears to place the farm of this name in the original location next to the Thatcher's Arms (now The Grange) when Francis Chillingworth is the farmer with 200 acres. He sold up in 1859 and the next owner was James Stevens with only 128 acres and Richard Chillingworth (brother to Francis) was then a farmer at a second farm, of 108 acres, elsewhere in North Street. A newspaper notice in 1873 announces that the farm (calling it North Street Farm) is to be sold by the charity and advertises the suitability of the land adjacent to the Englefield Road for housing development. The farm tenants at that time were R Chillingworth and J H Blagrave. However the farm was not sold and it was again advertised in 1877 when the occupier was Thomas Grace. It was still owned by the charity in 1881 when it was again advertised for sale, with a somewhat diminished amount of land, at a price of £2,600. The farm was then bought by Mr Benyon who certainly owned it in 1886.
© 2020 Richard J Smith