Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Barnes Farm

The Chelmer, though here it forms part of the Chelmer and Blackwater navigation canal

One of the features of Chelmsford is the River Chelmer, it snakes through the town and it is perhaps one of the reasons for the Springfield cursus and the Roman history of the town. But of course there are other histories buried under the surburban housing you see today and just to explore one facet brings a whole host of fascinating detail to life.

The river winds and curves through an old parish called Springfield, across great water meadows, home at the moment to a group of horses, they must be all mares as six young foals have appeared, fertile May bringing forth new life. Overlooking this pleasant pastoral scene is the pub called the Fox and Raven which is an old building, late 16th century timbered place with a Georgian 18th century stucco front.

18th Century facade of the pub

But this rather charming building was'nt always a pub, in its earlier days it was a farm, Barnes Farm to be precise.
Walking on Sunday we happened to go down a little lane behind the pub, and eventually came to a public footpath that led us directly to the Chelmer - Springfield locks, and even a greater surprise a large weatherboarded mill, now turned to residential use. This mill had a large mill pond in front, and as you walked by the towpath down towards the pub, the leat which must have been created in the medieval period to fill the mill pond was evident.

                                                          Barnes Mill House

Looking up the history of the mill on the web, I learnt that it had at some time, or at least the manor, had belonged to Coggeshall Abbey in the medieval period, some 20 miles away. But that is another facet to be written about later.

Interior shot of old reused timbers in the Fox and Raven

The pub or Barnes Farm overlooking the leat to the mill, and the water meadows.

Barnes Farm hidden behind its Georgian exterior also has a large range of barns to the side, this of course have also been converted, this time into a restaurant, but the thought that two centuries ago this was once a working farmhouse next door to a busy mill is a nostalgic reminder of past history. The Mill at one time came into the possession of the Marriage family, millers from the 17th century, and still a working company, their history online uncovers the history of all the mills in the Chelmsford area, and a small nugget from the Cropping Book about Brick Barns farm gives a sense of the hardwork of a small farm...

Take one field, Redricks, on one farm, Brick Barns. From 1878 to 1891 it was sown with wheat, clover, wheat, barley, mangold, wheat, beans, wheat, mangold, wheat, trifolium, wheat, barley and beans. It needs little imagination to people that field through the seasons and the years; the ploughman and his horses in a cold and foggy dawn, the boys who cleared stones through winter holidays, the men and women with hoes, and bent backs, the hay-makers and the harvesters and the band of gleaners, the farmer and his family working through the year beside them.

Water lily pads

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