Preservation and Restoration
Abandoned, derelict and forlorn, its bastion of ancient elms withered and dying, its hedgerows rooted out, South Farm stood at the mercy of the wind, on the point of collapse, when we found it in 1974. Thirty-five years on the transformation is nearly complete. The ancient buildings have been given another lease of life. Mature trees and hedges encircle the house, the old stack yard and barnyard. Within this natural shelter belt livestock, allotment, gardens and workplace create a harmonious sustainable whole. It would be wrong to say we were driven by an eco friendly creed so long ago. More simply, we wanted a wholesome, pleasant and natural place to live, but as it happens achieving that entailed applying many of the skills, values and commitments now seen as “Green,” and this section records some of the steps we have taken over time. Thanks to our wedding revenue we have just doubled the size of the holding here. It’s an opportunity to turn more bare land into something of beauty for the future. Please click on South Farm visual history pdf to see photos of the restoration progression.
Our main objective in 1974 was to create a comfortable family home in a classic country house, whilst preserving the integrity of the historic buildings we had acquired. In particular the farmyard, dating back to Tudor times, represented the high point of Victorian farming that followed the establishment of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1840, and borrowed much from the 18th century advances of pioneers like South Farm’s former landlord, the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke. Both the original Tudor dwelling and its later 18th century frontage were largely unchanged when we arrived.
We succeeded in that all the pre 20th century buildings were stabilised and retained, the original footprint is unchanged, and nothing of the 20th century was added. The character of the House remains essentially as it was, though undeniably more comfortable. Only in the last decade did we add a discreet but highly functional kitchen behind the Tudor Barn, a farm workshop and the Summer House in the garden.
In the house there had been a century of room divisions and fireplace cover ups. Our task was to re-expose chimney breasts, beams, studs and floor tiles, revealing original features and function, whilst excluding damp, drafts and cold.
The farm buildings were stabilised in the 1970’s and the periodic painting of roofs and feather edge timber was resumed, preserving them for future restoration. The Barnyard remains left unchanged and still houses a collection of rare breeds, pigs, bantams, chickens, goats and ducks. The horse barn too remains in its original state at present, a time capsule of the days when eight Shire horses provided a sustainable power source for the entire farm. Its thanks to the weddings held here that comprehensive restoration of the Barn, the Cow Byre, the Granary, the stables and the trap shed have been achieved in recent years.