Thursday, February 7, 2013

Coleshill Model Farm

Innovation was the order of the day at Coleshill when work began on revamping the Earl of Radnor’s home farm. 

The previous farmstead had already received the seal of approval from radical politician William Cobbett, who brought rural poverty to the attention of 19th century parliament.

“I saw also at Coleshill, the most complete farmyard that I ever saw, and I believe there is in all England, many and complete as English farm yards are,” Cobbett wrote on a fact finding ride across southern  England in 1826.

“And here, too, there is no misery amongst those who do the work,” Cobbett noted when he stopped off to view the Locust trees the Earl of Radnor had brought from him twenty years previously.  “Here all are comfortable; gaunt hunger here stares no man in the face.”

The idea of this efficient, split level farmstead came from the Earl of Radnor’s land agent but it was architect George Lamb who designed the ground breaking farmstead.  Building work on the Coleshill Home Farm was begun by William Pedley, a Highworth carpenter, builder and bricklayer.  With a thirty week window in which to complete the project the unfortunate Mr Pedley failed, losing both the contract and his business in the process and another builder was called in to complete the work.

Built in 1854, the 300 acre model farm at Coleshill implemented innovative design and labour saving devices during a period of agricultural prosperity.   The energy saving design of the model farm made the best use of gravity and included a tramway to distribute feed around the various buildings and manure to the midden. 

The farm buildings were designed for mixed farming – grain, root crops, cattle, pigs and sheep. An enthusiastic pig breeder, the design of the piggery was of particular importance to the Earl.  Well ventilated with louvered windows to minimise disease, the pigs' accommodation at Coleshill was second to none.  Lambs were fattened in stalls with wooden slatted floors, a method which came back into fashion again 100 years later.

The centre piece of the farmstead was the granary with a mixing room below where the roots and straw were chopped and the grain crushed by steam powered machinery and then fed into stores by a chute system.  Built from local Cotswold rubble, the building sported guttering, drain pipes and labour saving sliding doors. 

Ernest Cook, grandson of probably the best known and earliest travel agent, Thomas Cook, bought the estate at Coleshill and Buscot from the Pleydell-Bouverie family in 1946 leaving it to the National Trust on his death in 1955.

Production on the farm ended in the 1970s but the farmstead remains intact, an example of a 19th century revolution in agricultural practices which paved the way for modern methods. 

A survey of Wiltshire’s historic farmsteads is being conducted by the Wiltshire Buildings Record project based at the History Centre in Chippenham.   Volunteers record details of the farmsteads through the use of photography, sketches and historical research, a copy of which is presented to the farmer on completion. Visit the website on for more information.

Coleshill Mill


The granary

State of the art pigstyes

Farm wagon

Cottage on the estate - possibly a former gatehouse

20th century prize winning Coleshill Saddleback pigs

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