Saturday, November 25, 2006

Coate Farm out-buildings better protected by law

Today, the Richard Jefferies Society is celebrating the news that Elaine Pearce, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has authorised a new listing description for the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate that would better serve to protect the out-buildings and built features in the grounds of the old farm.

The Society wrote to English Heritage in late 2005 when they discovered that the description of the Grade II listed building on the Marlborough Road, that was first designated as such in October 1951,only mentioned the old thatched cottage and museum and not the other farm buildings and man-made structures that were so important to the Victorian author’s writing [1]. Specifically the group requested that the old barn, dairy, the pig-sties, the ha-ha wall [2] and the main garden wall along with a field boundary marker stone were included in the description.

The Society were delighted to learn that their request had been fully investigated and their wishes granted [3].

A spokesperson for the Richard Jefferies Society said:

“Over thirty years ago we were fund-raising to restore the farm-buildings that the owners, Swindon council, planned to demolish although by this time, the thatched cow-sheds and hay-rick barn had already gone. At that time we were helped by celebrities such as John Betjeman and Spike Milligan who were enthusiastic Jefferies’ fans.

"Visitors to the Museum are so thrilled when they can look at features and buildings that they have read about. For example, there is a square drain in the ha-ha wall where Jefferies describes watching wildlife shelter. We are delighted with the news that what remains might now be better protected.”

The Jefferies Museum will be open on Wednesday 13th December from 10am to 4pm. The Richard Jefferies Society is holding a meeting at the Jefferies Museum on Saturday 2nd December at 2pm when there will be an opportunity for people to delve into some of the archive files that the Society has built up over the last 50 years or more Both events are free and open to the public. More information from Jean Saunders, Secretary of the Society, on 01793 783040.


Editor’s notes:

[1] Richard Jefferies was born at Coate Farm near Swindon on 6th of November 1848. The author spent his childhood exploring Coate Water and the local fields and woods, observing wildlife and nature with an enquiring eye. The area around his home at Coate has been known for years as “Jefferies Land”. It has become a place of pilgrimage for generations of readers. Jefferies had a great exhilaration for life. His unique expression of his relationship to nature has won him a secure place in the hearts of imaginative people. He has been described as a “many sided genius”. Historians cite him as an authority on agriculture and rural life in Victorian England. Major studies of mysticism have anthologised his work and discussed his ideas. He wrote one of the great novels for boys, as well as several highly original novels for adult readers. He is recognised as one of the greatest nature writers in the language and he topped a Guardian 2005 poll for favourite country writers.

[2]pictures removed

[3] Copy of the English Heritage listing dated 10 November 2006

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Richard Jefferies Museum II

A C17 farmhouse with an adjoining early C19 house, now used as a museum.

EXTERIOR: The C17 house is built of limestone rubble with a thatched roof and brick gable stack. The low, one storey building, with attic above, has a two-bay east front with a central entrance porch (added later) and an early C19, slate cat slide extension to the south and west ends. The early C19 farmhouse is attached to its west. It is a three storey building constructed of Flemish bond brickwork with a slate roof, with brick chimney stacks at both gable ends. The north front has three bays with an entrance left of centre comprising a six-panelled door with splayed stone lintel, flanked to the left by a hipped bay window with twenty-pane sashes and to the right by a three-light leaded timber window with a splayed stone lintel. Above the entrance on first floor level is a two-light leaded timber window flanked on either side by three-light leaded windows, all with splayed stone lintels. Above the latter at attic level are two smaller three-light leaded timber windows. The rear of the house to the south has scattered fenestration, and the west gable end has two-light timber windows to the right on first floor and attic level.

INTERIOR: The C17 farmhouse has been significantly altered and restored in the C19 and C20. The early C19 house has panelled window reveals on ground and first floor levels. There is a contemporary inlaid slate fireplace on ground floor level and In the first floor bed room a timber fire surround with grate and a built-in six-panelled wardrobe.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The garden, orchard and farmyard at the Richard Jefferies Museum, enclosed by a stone wall along Marlborough Road (moved and rebuilt in the mid C20), contain a series of outbuildings and structures dating from the C19 some incorporating earlier fabric possibly

dating from the C17 or C18, including a dairy (re-roofed in the mid C20), a barn with a stable (and hayloft above), a pigsty, a workshop, a garden bothy, a ha ha and a boundary stone (the latter was moved from elsewhere on the former estate).

HISTORY: The farmstead, originating from the C17 and formerly known as Coate Farm, is the birthplace of the nature writer Richard Jefferies (1848-1887)and which is thought to have formed the main inspiration for his books. In the mid C20 it became the Richard Jefferies Museum.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: The Richard Jefferies Museum is a C17 farmhouse with an adjoining early C19 house and associated outbuildings and structures, forming an interesting historic farmstead. The various buildings show how this farmstead evolved over time, and it is also an interesting surviving example of a group of vernacular buildings on the outskirts of Swindon. Additionally, the farmstead is the birthplace of the nature writer Richard Jefferies (1848-1887), and together with its surrounding landscape, in particular the Coate Water Reservoir, it formed the main inspiration for Jefferies books, including Bevis and Amaryllis at the Fair.


M Daniel, 'Return to Jefferies' Country' in Country Life, 12 December 1974;

B Cherry and N Pevsner, The Buildings of England (1985 2nd edn), p 516;

J Chandler, Coate and Richard Jefferies (2005);

1st edition Ordnance Survey, surveyed 1878, published 1882;

P.G. Herring Jefferies Farm, Coate, Wilts, a plan of the farmstead by Beauchamp (1923).

Dated:- 10th November 2006

Signed by authority of the Secretary of State ELAINE PEARCE

Department for Culture, Media and Sport