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Stocks Farm, Church Road

Stocks Farm in May 2016

Stocks Farm, Church Road, Hartley, Kent

The present building was built in the late 18th century, but there has been a farm of this name at the junction of Church Road and Manor Lane for at least 500 years.

Stocks Farm was first mentioned in 1451, when a John Cotyer of "le Stokke" was witness to a document. The Cotyers wre prominent Hartley landowners and other members of the family owned Woodins, Mintmakers and Middle Farm.

The next time we hear of it for certain is in 1576 in an inquisition post mortem; these were enquiries made by a jury of local people to find out whether anything was owed to the Crown when a significant landowner died. It found that "Stockhill Farm" with 20 acres of land belonged to Robert Gens of Southfleet, who also counted Middle Farm among his possessions. The tenant then was Henry Ashdown and he enjoyed a net annual income of 30 shillings after he paid the lord of the manor the 8s 4d quit rent.

It is uncertain when Robert acquired Stocks Farm, but he was certainly a land-owner in Hartley in 1545. It looks like he married a Dorothy Swan of Southfleet (d 1575) and her father Thomas gave him land at Hartley and Southfleet as part of a marriage settlement.

Robert left Stocks Farm to his third son Nicholas Gens (b 1564). In 1633 a conveyance of land bordering Stocks Farm named James Gens as the owner. It is uncertain how he was related to Nicholas. Shortly after John Edwards of Ridley (d 1667) became the owner. Certainly by the 1650s John had moved to Hartley. He was already the owner in 1642 when he settled all disputes with Alexander Skeath "from the beginning of the world until the day of the date of the said recited obligations.". The upshot of this was that Mr Skeath would remain as tenant until Michaelmas 1643.

At this time Stocks Farm also probably contained part of the land which later became the Hartley Wood Corner holding. The 1642 agreement mentions two houses. John Edwards split off Hartley Wood Corner in 1658 when he gave it to his eldest son Peter (b Ridley 1636). The exact border between Stocks Farm and Hartley Wood Corner is difficult to establish, it is possible that part of the field called "Four Acres" was part of Hartley Wood Corner, the fact that the quitrent owed to the lord of manor fell from 8s 4d in 1600 to 5s 10d in 1700 suggests a shrinking of the holding. Stocks Farm he left in his will to his younger son John (b Ridley 1642). Stocks Farm was called "Great Stockhill Farm" in the 1660s.

John Edwards died in 1667 and left Stocks Farm to his younger son John Edwards (b 1642). In the next twenty years the farm changed hands a number of times, not all conveyances are known. A few months after John senior's death, John Edwards and his wife Eleanor sold it to John Round of Dartford, but in 1681 it was a John Miller who sold Stocks Farm to George Gifford of Fawkham.

It would remain in the Gifford family for over a hundred years. George quickly conveyed it in 1683 to his son Thomas as part of a marriage settlement. Thomas Gifford died in 1705. He left Stocks Farm to a trustee on behalf of his daughter Margaret Petley and went to elaborate lengths in his will to make sure her husband John Petley wouldn't get his hands on her money. This was necessary in an era where the income of married women's property was the property of her husband while he was living. Thomas got round this by appointing a trustee to be the nominal owner of Stocks Farm, who could then pay Margaret direct. After Margaret, the farm went to her daughter Jane Petley in accordance with her grandfather's will.  In 1751 the Petley estates passed to a cousin of the family, Charles Petley of Chatham and in 1752 he settled Stocks Farm and other land in Kent on his widowed sister in law Jane Petley.  It remained in the family, but I am not sure quite how until its sale in 1798.

One oddity is that the farm does not appear like all the others on the Hartley Manor Roll, which survives from 1780 to 1836. Although freehold each holding had to pay a small annual "quitrent" and pay dues on transfer and inheritance to the lord of the manor. In 1702 the rent collector took George Gifford to court to sue for unpaid quitrents going back nearly 40 years. Although the plaintiff had evidence that John Edwards paid 5s 10d (29p) per annum for Stocks Farm, the fact that Stocks Farm was subsequently omitted from the court roll suggests Mr Gifford must have won.

The farm was up for auction at Dartford in July 1798. The house is said to be "new built", it appears that Stocks Farm was rebuilt about 1797-1798, the farm had its rateable value (that is the rent it would get per year) lifted from £12 to £22 in 1798. The buyer was William Smith who let it out to Joseph Mepham who was already the tenant of the neighbouring Hartley Wood Corner holding.

KENT: To be sold by auction, by Mr Johnson, at the Rose Inn, at Dartford, on Saturday, the 14th of July 1798, at three o'clock -

A valuable and desirable freehold estate called Stock Hill Farm, in the occupation of the proprietor; situate in the parish of Hartley, 5 miles from Dartford and 6 from Gravesend; comprising a new brick-built dwelling house, a large barn, stable, etc, with 19 acres of arable land, in a high state of cultivation, 1 acre of woodland, a garden and orchard well planted with fruit trees, and lying near the house. (Kentish Gazette 6.7.1798)

Map of Stocks Farm in 1844 (shaded pink) superimposed on 1936 OS Map.

Map of Stocks Farm in 1844 (shaded pink) superimposed on 1936 OS Map

William in turn sold it to William Bensted of Hartley Court in 1807. A century later Smallowners Limited became the new owners.

Over the years Stocks farm has seen many tenants: Edward Kidder (1744-1751), Thomas Fielder (1751-1762), James Meddams (1762-1772), John Johnson (1772-1797), Joseph Mepham (1799-1807). For many years in the middle of the last century David and Sarah Wellard lived here. In 1925 Rev Bancks received a letter from Edward Wellard, the youngest of their 15 children. He said that his farther had been a farm labourer to Mr Bensted, and that the family had moved away from Hartley in 1861. The next tenants were the septuagenerian John and Ann Ware. Ann was a well known figure at Church, for she wore a striking long scarlet cloak in winter, which came out the day the schoolchildren switched to their winter red cloaks. She like many others wore pattens (overshoes) which were left in the porch during the service. In 1892 Henry Outred lived here, he was by trade a carrier - the earliest known example of public transport at Hartley.

In this century William Lockwood (1867-1942) and his wife Ellen owned Stocks Farm from 1912 to 1942, a fact recorded on their grave in Fawkham Churchyard. He was an architect, while his wife was a poultry keeper. The land belonging to the house was by now just 2 acres. The remainder of the farm was bought in 1927 by a Mr R Hales of Parsonage Cottage, Church Road, for a building speculation (according to the Ministry of Agriculture) but continued to run it as a fruit and poultry farm. When Mr Lockwood died in 1942, he left most of his £2,500 estate to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the war effort.

The articles below by Tom and Winifred Iddison excellently describes the history of Stocks Farm from the late 1930s. The house sold for £38,000 in 1978 and was last sold in 2013 for £715,000.

History of Stocks Farm after 1938 by Tom and Winifred Iddison

A copy of an article in preparation by my husband Tom, shortly before his death (and presumably unfinished), giving his memoirs of Stocks Farm from the time in 1938 when we moved opposite and lived there for 42 years.

I have enjoyed reading the articles by Peter Mayer, acquainting us with the results of his time consuming research into the histories of some of the older residential properties in the village. We are much indebted to him. So far none has interested me more than that in the October issue relating to Stocks Farm.

Our first home (Bedale) after our marriage in 1938 was on land immediately adjacent to the land owned by Mr Lockwood opposite his home at Stocks Farm House. At that time the land was scrub orchard, and on summer evenings he would cross the road to release his little terrier for its nightly exercise.

Some of the farm buildings were used for domestic use, for keeping a few chickens. Commercial egg production had ceased. Mrs Lockwood was bedridden and after her death in 1942 the house with its gardens, a barn on the west side of Church Road, together with a large barn, stockyard, farm buildings and orchard on the east side were sold in 1943 to Mr Hubert Gladdish, who lived there with his wife, son, and daughter.

After a short period the farm buildings were extended and brought into use for commercial fruit bottling, initially of home grown rhubarb. Later of fruit from very large cans. Each morning the bus from Gravesend and Longfield, destination Hartley Church, would disgorge half a dozen or so chattering ladies at the Stocks Hill bus stop, and collect them again about 5.30pm. The business lasted until canned fruit came back into the shops, some years after the war ended.

Our house was one of a pair built in 1937/8 by William Sale on part of a plot of land acquired from Small Owners by Mr Pentland of Barncroft, who was still living there. Mr Bradford was living in a similar property at Nairobi at the Manor Lane - Church Road junction, north of Stocks Farm land; and south of Stocks Farm house was yet a third Small Owners property owned by Mr Owen Barfield, and let to Mr Goodwin and family. He operated as a smallholding. When Mr Bradford died, Nairobi was acquired by Mr Freeguard.

Mr and Mrs Gladdish went to Ash to become licensees of The Swan, and Stocks Farm split up with the house and land west of Church Road going to Mr and Mrs Neary; and the farm buildings to the east to Mr Freeguard, who went into egg production in quite a big way. For a time he kept pigs, and also had a joint operation with a market gardener, growing chrysanthemums. A final venture was to let the farm buildings for lorry repair and storage. This ceased as the result of action by the planning authority.

In May 1968, following the widening of Church Road, the farm buildings on the east side were demolished and burned. The barn on the west side adjoining the roadside pond had already been demolished and burned in association with the road widening.

In early Spring 1969, a bungalow was being erected on the site of the east side barns, and a few months later Mr Freeguard vacated and sold Nairobi, and together with his housekeeper Miss Williams, took up residence in the new bungalow "The Garth". At some time in the late 1950s Mr Freeguard sold part of his Stocks Farm land, which had been given planning permission for Mr Gladdish's son as an agricultural worker, to Mr Stubbs, a Dartford plumber, who built a detached dwelling by direct labour - "Cranbrook".

In mid 1944 when the V2 flying bombs were frequent, barrage balloons were sited south and east of London to intercept them. I remember two sites in Hartley, one adjoining the footpath that crossed Rectory Meadow at the bottom of Hoselands Hill, and the other behind Stocks Farm house, approached from the landway between the farmhouse and Westfield.