Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Can Court

So, what is the history behind Can Court Farm and where should I begin my research?

Last week I came across the grave of Margaret Fanny Willis in the abandoned churchyard at Eysey and traced her husband and sister in law, brother and sister Ernest and Ellen Willis, to Can Court, Lydiard Tregoze.

Now I want to know more about the farm where they grew up, and where best to turn to but the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Reports published annually from 1968 – 2007. These reports are a mine of information to those interested in Lydiard Park and the surrounding area, and the St John family. The Friends are currently digitising the Reports and some of them are available to members through the website. Central Library, Swindon also have a complete bound set available on their shelves in Local Studies.

In Report No. 15 published in 1982, Canon Brian Carne wrote an article about Can Court and some of its owners and occupiers.

The Bradford family were tenant farmers in the parish of Lydiard Tregoz from at least the 1730s when Cornelius and his wife Mary Pontin raised a large family at Can Court. The family continued to farm at Can Court until 1858 when John Ambrose Willis, the father of Ernest and Ellen, took over the tenancy.

The earliest references to Can Court is 1564 when the property was held by Henry Compton as part of his manor of Elcombe in Wroughton.

Subsequent owners included Henry Compton’s son, William Lord Compton; Thomas Hutchings; Thomas Baskerville and Sir John Benet until 1624 when the Master and Fellows of Pembroke College, Oxford acquired the property.

Canon Carne quotes from the Victoria History of Wiltshire, Vol IX p.30, which provides a description of the property.

“The farmhouse is a tall stone building of four stories dating from the 17th century. There are three rooms to each floor, separated by stud partitions, and a massive oak staircase reaching from basement to attics. The twin-gabled front is flanked by projecting chimneys with tall diagonally set stacks; in the centre is a timber framed porch of two stories with a hipped roof. The stone windows, most of which have survived, have ovolo moulded mullions and are surmounted by relieving arches. The ground floor contains a hall and parlour with a smaller room and the staircase at the rear. Oak panelling in the hall is framed in narrow panels and there is an arcaded overmantle. The unusual plan of the house and the workmanship of its fittings may indicate that it was not designed as an ordinary farmhouse, while its architectural character suggests a building date of c.1650. In front of the house is a small enclosed forecourt. At the entrance to this there is a stone slab on which an inscription was still legible in the later 19th century. It apparently commemorated Cornelius Bradford (d. c.1750). The Bradford family were tenants of Can Court for most of the 18th century before leaving it for Midgehall.”

Can Court survived the 1980s West Swindon development and is separated from its former neighbours at Toothill and Blagrove by the M4.

In 1985 Can Court Farmhouse received a Grade II listing. The description on the British Listed Building Register reads as follows:

Farmhouse, late C16. Coursed limestone with ashlar quoins, stone slated roof. 2-storey, 3 bays; cellar and attics. Central hall with 2-storey porch, flanking reception rooms and rear extension.
Gable stacks with diagonal flues. Elevation: twin steep pitched gables with ball finials. Upper floor windows ovolo moulded stone-mullioned with square labels. Lower windows renewed. Stone
relieving arches. Porch timber framed with moulded jetty bressumers and moulded eaves.
Interior: not seen. Said to have panelling and stair brought from Broad Hinton Manor House.

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