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The History of Buckskin Farm 1762 - 1965


By Margaret Clarke and Jane Hussey - 2018




All that is left of Buckskin Farm today is the old farmhouse which is now completely surrounded by a huge housing estate. It is not a listed building and at present is owned by Basingstoke Council and leased to a company called Pink Fudge, who make designer sportswear.


When Cecil Gibbons, the last tenant farmer left Buckskin in 1965, after the farm had been purchased for development, he spoke in a newspaper article about the fact that he had been born in the farmhouse and that his family had farmed there for over 40 years. He said it was a sad day to think that where they had once grown corn, potatoes and rape, many houses were now to be built. He mentioned that a plaque had been found in an old outbuilding, many years ago, dating the farm to 1642.





Our Research so far dates to 1762 when the farm is shown on the Bolton Estate map as Down Farmhouse, barn, stables, yard and garden, commonly called Buckskin Farm. It was situated on the edge of the Down and it would appear that, at that time, Buckskin would most likely have been little more than a house with outbuildings and garden, which then developed into a farm overtime. The map also shows the Basingstoke Race Course with the winning post in a field in front of the farmhouse. The tenant at that time is unknown.

The landowner in 1762 was the 5th Duke of Bolton, Charles Powlett, who was a soldier, nobleman and Whig politician and who had at one time been Groom of the Bedchamber to Frederick, the Prince of Wales. In 1765 he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in his house in Grosvenor Square. No one seems to know why. He was unmarried but had an illegitimate daughter, Jean Mary Brown-Powlett, to whom he left most of his fortune. His younger brother Harry became the 6th Duke of Bolton.


When Harry Powlett died at Hackwood Park in 1794 he did not have any sons to carry on the dukedom, he only had daughters, and his estates passed to his late brother's illegitimate daughter, Jean Brown-Powlett. She was married to Thomas Orde, a politician who, in 1795, obtained a Royal Licence to assume the additional surname of Powlett and in 1797 was created the 1st Baron Bolton.




The general area around Basingstoke at this time was described as deep, strong land with chalk underneath, which produced large crops, for example, wheat, peas and oats. Wages for labourers and carters was £5 p.a, for shepherds it was £10 and for milk boys £2.


A timeline of the tenants of Buckskin Farm is shown in Appendix 1.




The Enclosure Map of 1786 shows that James Gearle was awarded land in the Buckskin area.


James married twice, first to Elizabeth Gate in 1773 and then to Ann Emery in 1798. Buckskin Farm is mentioned in his Will of 1810. The majority of his estate went to his second wife Ann. 

When she died in 1822 she willed the farm to John and William Crockford, who we think were the children of John Crockford Snr., who was mentioned as a late cousin of her husband. Both John and Ann's Wills are quite complex and mention possible relatives of both Ann and also of John's first wife Elizabeth.

In I824 Ann's Will was contested in Court in London and people were asked to come forward if they considered they were entitled to make a claim on the estate. We do not have the exact outcome of this but we do have documentation showing that John Crockford was farming at Buckskin by 1826. We also have a report from the Hampshire Advertiser in 1828 showing the transportation of James Smith for 7 years, after he was found guilty of stealing 8 bushels of barley from John and William Crockford at the farm.





Another robbery took place at Buckskin Farm in April 1832 and this was a very brutal affair. William Crockford lived there with just his carter, John Duckett and a 14 year old farm servant, Joseph Pound. Mr. Crockford was a wealthy man and known to keep large amounts of cash and other valuables at the farmhouse. A gang of four men tricked their way into the farmhouse and viciously attacked John Duckett by hitting him over the head with a crowbar, the marks of this attack still showing two years later. William Crockford was continuously hit about the head and his right hand smashed so badly that he lost one of his fingers. The robbers made off into the night with a substantial amount of cash and other valuable items.


A reward of £50 was offered for the capture of the villains. Shortly after, three men from Cliddesden were charged with the robbery and sent to Winchester gaol to await trial. They were, in fact, completely innocent.


A few weeks later Charles Silver applied for the £50 reward. He made a statement to the effect that he, together with John Young, John Blay and Daniel Higgins had robbed William Crockford. He had worked for Mr. Crockford some years before and knew he kept money etc. at the farm. However he said that it was John Young who had hit Crockford and Duckett across the head with an iron bar.


John Blay was the first to be captured and he was sentenced to transportation for life. At the same court the three innocent men were released from gaol.


Two years passed before John Young was finally captured in May 1834 after he had viciously attacked and killed another man, this time in Epsom. A few days later Daniel Higgins was also arrested and they both came before the Hampshire Assizes on 14th July 1834. Bob Clarke's detailed account of the trial, including evidence from William Crockford and Charles Silver, is available to read.




John Young was executed on 2ndAugust, 1834 and Daniel Higgins was transported for life. 'We don't know whether Charles Silver ever received his £50 reward for turning King's evidence.


In November 1834 an indenture for Buckskin Farm was drawn up between William Crockford and James Portsmouth. The landowner is the 2nd Baron Bolton, William Orde-Powlett. By the 1841 census James Portsmouth is shown as the farmer at Buckskin, together with his family, five agricultural labourers and one house servant. William Crockford, now in his late seventies, is living in Worting Road.


In August 1845 a valuation of the farm was carried out, showing James Portsmouth still in occupation and Baron Bolton the landowner. We have a good description of the farm and a complete list of repairs that needed to be carried out. The farmhouse needed repairs to the roof, new ceilings in 3 bedrooms, new floors and plastering in the pantry. Outside, barns, stables and other buildings all needed repairs, together with 2 new field gates. The estimated total cost for the work was £60.


From this account we know that the farm had several stables, a cart shed and a barn each for the storage of wheat and barley. The acreage is shown as 147 and the valuer considered a fair annual rent for the farm would be £166.


James Portsmouth appeared to be one of the best Masters in the parish and was more considerate to the poor labourers. He was paying 12s - l4s a week, where others were only paying 8s - 9s according to a newspaper report in the Hampshire Advertiser dated 9.5.1846. He did however suffer an assault in February 1849 when returning from market one evening. This was carried out by George Roberts, a labourer from Overton, who was convicted of gross assault. There is a report of this in the Reading Mercury.


By the 1851 census James Portsmouth has gone from the farm and John Ayliffe, an agricultural labourer is shown as head of the family. John had been at Buckskin for sometime as he was shown there on the 1841 census at the age of 15.


By 1852 Joseph Clark is the farmer at Buckskin and members of the Clark family continued to farm there until about 1895. Joseph originally came from Odcombe, Somerset although he had been farming at Wootton St. Lawrence up until the year before he came to Buckskin.


By the 1861 census Joseph is now 57 and his nephew John Clark from Cliddesden is also living at the farm, the size of which is given as 160 acres. AIso employed there is a house servant, a carter, a stable boy and a 13 year old shepherd.


Joseph Clark died on 10th May 1863 at Buckskin and his nephew John Clark continued on the farm. By 1871 there were two other households shown separately. These were George Wills and John Oliver, both agricultural labourers and their families. They may have been living in 2 cottages which appear on later censuses and which we think were situated on the opposite side of Buckskin Lane. The acreage of the farm is shown as 156.


By 1875 Thomas Clark is now farming at Buckskin. He is the brother of John who has moved on to farm in Upton Lovell, Wilts.


By 1881 Thomas is employing three men and two boys on the farm and there is mention of Buckskin Cottages where William Bailey and Charles May are shown living with their families.


Several wet seasons had hit farmers badly, particularly in 1852, 1860 and 1878. By 1885 some farmers were having to sell their livestock and machinery in order to survive. This would be done at the annual sheep fair in Basingstoke, where lambs were being sold at £2 or £3 each and ewes at £3 or £4.


The 1891 census shows Thomas Clark, now aged 50, still farming at Buckskin and the two cottages are shown separately as Cottage No 1, the home of Thomas Knight, a carter and family and Cottage No 2 is occupied by George Wheeler, farm oddman and family.




Thomas Hibberd of the White House, Winchester Road, supplied traction to the farm in 1894 - a bill for the haulage of 254 sacks of oats still survives.




It would appear that Thomas Clark left Buckskin around 1895 and in fact he died in September 1899 in Wimbledon. His son Tom does not appear to have taken on the farm as his occupation was given as a Railway Clerk based at Wimbledon.


By the time we come to 1901 Frederick Cordery from Chiswick is shown as Head of the family. Frederick's occupation is given as a cashier, not a farmer and how long he remained at the farm is uncertain. Occupants of the cottages were William Rummey, a carter from Oakley and Frederick Brown, a binder and thatcher from Alton.


Details of the occupants of the farm for the following few years from about 1903 to the early 1920s have been confusing to research. Albert Hobbs is mentioned on a number of occasions in connection with both Buckskin Farm and Crossways Farm. Sometimes he appears to be living at Buckskin other times at Crossways. He is definitely at Buckskin in 1910 when his name appears on an Inland Revenue Valuation book describing the farm as 149 acres, with a gross rateable value of £43.15.


By the 1911 census Thomas Morgan is shown as a Dairy Manager at Buckskin. He was previously a Land Steward at Northington Down Farm, Alresford. Thomas had two sons living with him at the farm but both were working in engineering not on the farm. Buckskin was shown to have nine rooms but only one cottage appeared. This was called Sunnyside and was occupied by Frederick Brown and his family. We have assumed that the other cottage was most probably empty at that time.


At the outbreak of WW1 in 1914, the Electoral Register shows Albert Hobbs living at Buckskin but also working at Crossways Farm. Benjamin Oates is also shown at Buckskin. By 1923 Henry Gibbons is shown as the farmer.


A valuation of the farm was carried out in September 1927 . The landowner is the 5th Baron Bolton, William George Algar Orde-Powlett, a politician and the occupier is Henry Gibbons. It is quite a detailed document mentioning the rise in the rent from £110, before the war, a rise to £175 in 1919 and then a futher rise to £200 in 1923. There was no running water or town supply to the farm, water was from a pump. The buildings were generally poor and dilapidated and the acreage remained the same at 149. The state of the land was described as poor in some areas but very good in others. It mentioned that the occupier had lost money on the farm and would go unless the rent was reduced.




A further survey of the farm was carried out n 1941, during WW2, which showed that the 5th Baron Bolton was still the owner and Henry Gibbons the farmer. It appears that Henry and his wife were no longer living in the farmhouse but had moved to Somerlea, 23 Kempshott Lane. 'Water was now supplied by pipe to the farmhouse but not to the farm buildings. There was still no electricity. The general condition of the farm and buildings was described as fair. The labour on the farm was given as being one son and a Fordson tractor for fieldwork. The annual rent had been reduced to £158.15s.



We are unsure of the exact date when Lord Camrose, Sir William Berry, became the landowner. He was the Chairman and Editor of the Daily Telegraph and he later became Viscount Camrose. On his death in 1954 he was succeeded by his son John Seymour Berry.


It would appear that Henry Gibbons retired in about 1946 and his son Cecil continued on the farm, together with his wife. Cecil's brother Michael went on to run Down Grange Farm and there was a long standing track way that ran between the two farms - where Dellwood path in Stratton Park is now, leading from Pack Lane.




In September 1965 Cecil Gibbons moved from the farmhouse where he had been born to start farming again in Berkshire. The fields at Buckskin Farm lay fallow for at least a year before building started. The farmhouse stood derelict for sometime but as the only surviving building was then integrated into the new development and later became the housing estate rent office.


The land was now owned by the 2nd Viscount Camrose, John Seymour Berry, a politician and newspaper proprietor and we have a Land Tribunal document showing the District Valuer's computation for compensation of £260,000 for Buckskin Farm.


As previously mentioned, the old farmhouse is at present being leased by the Company Pink Fudge. They kindly invited us to take a look around the house while it was recently being refurbished. We were able to go right up into the attic, via an unusual staircase, where it was possible to see the very old beams. We were also shown the trap-door down into the cellar but decided it was not wise to go down. Pink Fudge are now occupying both floors of the house but previously the lower floor had been leased by a dentist.











Sources

Ancestry.co.uk - Census records 1841 - 1911 

Electoral Rolls 1897 - 1964 

Hampshire Advertiser - "Wages in Hants 1846" 

Hampshire County Library 

Wikipedia - Dukes of Bolton and Viscount Camrose 

Bob Clarke - "The Buckskin Farm Burglary and the Epsom Murder" 

Hampshire Record Office - Maps and Documents


Appendix I


Tenant Timeline as known

1786 - 1810 James Gearle

1810 Anne Gearle (widow of James)

1826 John Crockford (tenant in common with his brother)

1829 William Crockford (tenant and brother of John)

1834 James Portsmouth (moved to a larger farm at Kingsclere)

1851 (No tenant farmer listed on census)

1852 - 1863 Joseph Clark

1867 Clarissa Clark (widow of Joseph)

1871 John Clark (nephew) - ( then moved to Upton Lovell, Wilts.)

1875 approx. - 1895 Thomas Clark (brother of John)

1901 Frederick Cordery

1903 - 1923 Albert Hobbs (Thomas Morgan, Dairy Manager, 1911)

1923 - 1948 Henry Gibbons

1948 - 1965 Cecil Henry Gibbons



 







 

 

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