Reffley Farm


Research by Colin Grant



Lands which later supported this farm in Reffley were probably first established for intermittent agricultural purposes at least three thousand years ago. Initially, these were cultivated and used for grazing by inhabitants of an early settlement, who later totally enclosed their settlement with an earthen bank and ditch, to mark both territorial boundaries and to enclose cattle and livestock from straying. Although there are now no longer any known remains of this early earthwork, parts of this must have still existed in a diminished form up to the conversion of these lands into a housing estate, commencing from the nineteen-sixties.


Although nothing is known of any farming activities here before the 13th century, the wealth of interesting place names associated with this place, does suggest a self contained agricultural community had already become re-established here during the late Saxon, or early post Conquest period.


It should also be remembered that all of these lands associated with Reffley formerly covered a wide variety of terrain comprised of Woods, Fens, Wastelands, arable Fields and Pasture. That were progressively converted into a combination of Commons and Freehold land, which when connected together totaled several hundred acres. Since lands now associated with Reffley were not specifically identified in the Domesday Survey with the Manor of Gaywood, or with any other neighboring Manors, ownership and activities here during this period are still speculation. Existing records cataloging disputes relating to ownership of these lands between neighboring Lord's from the early 13th century, indicate ownership was a complicated and obscure process, which resulted in these lands becoming either separated from the Manor of Gaywood, or reallocated with lands belonging to the Manor of Rising. From this period onwards and through to the 12th century, there appears to have been continued rivalry and petty disputes between successive Lord's of both Gaywood and Reffley.


During a survey of the late 15th century called the Gaywood Dragge, freehold lands totaling 65 acres from which this farm emerged, were recorded between the Common Pasture of Reffley on the east and the Common Pasture of the Village of Gaywood, later called the Crofts Common to the west and a drift way against the Gaywood River on the south. At this date William Cobb owned all of these lands. It is significant that from the above-mentioned total acreage owned by him, 33 acres of these were held in right of his wife, whilst the remaining 32 in three pieces that were exclusively his, had already been enclosed with ditches.


The family of Cobb first established themselves with property at Sandringham, before expanding and acquiring other properties and estates in Norfolk. The William Cobb mentioned above was probably the same William Cobb* of Sentringham (Sandringham) who died in 1493 and married first Elizabeth, a daughter and heiress of (?) Elwin and secondly Agnes, a daughter and heiress of Ralph Gayton, who may have previously owned these lands. In his last Will & Testament William Cobb bequeathed 3 stone of  wool and 10 marks per annum, out of his purchased manors and lands of Sandringham,  Babingley, Wolverton, Newton, Appleton and Anmer. In addition to these, she was also to have all his manors etc, in Gayton, Gayton Thorpe, Well, Waykin (Ashwicken), Estwynch, Grymston, Southwotton and Gaywood for life. After her decease these lands formerly "my fader's (father-in-law) in Gayton &c to Geoffiy my son ".

*For pedigree of this family see the Visitation of Norfolk. Vol 1 Page+ 317. Norfolk Archaeology. 1878.



The first record which mentions a farm here of any description, together with its associated buildings, as opposed to lands occupied by various freehold and copyhold owners, was through a lease between the owner Richard Hovel of Hillington and Richard Saunders of King's Lynn, who was sub-leasing to another unknown party. By the date of the lease in 1619, the property of unspecified acreage, was being leased for three shillings and four pence a year and was known under the dual names of either Camish or Garnish Field and Qayrie (Quarry) House. Since there are two names identified with this property, there is a probability the farm had already been established here a few years earlier, as a result of enclosing of part of these Commons. This could explain why Thomas Hares, vicar of Gaywood, wrote to Hovell in May 1620, requesting permission for his parishioner's to erect a bridge from the Atlings Common (now between the River and incorporating part of the Springwood Housing Estate) over the Gaywood River onto Folkes land in Reffley. Because "these late yeares the old way with held from them, in regard whereof they have much forebourne to putt theire cattle into that common - as of right belongs unto them".


The old way presumably relates to a former drift or drove way, between the river and old inclosed freehold lands near the existing Gaywood Bridge, that was used for driving sheep and cattle at appointed times of the year over various types of common land.

Restoration of common rights and the speculated enclosure of driftway mentioned above which may have previously been incorporated into an expanding self-contained forming unit, is confirmed through a lease of 1651. This conveyance relates to the lease of a piece of waste ground as a Rabbit Warren to Nicholas Hamond of South Wotton, excluding a Close called Riffley Close, which had been enclosed for at least one hundred years previously and adjoined the said waste Ground or Reffley Wood on the East and Spring Wood on the North. The position of this Close is clearly identified on a Map of Rising Chase drawn in 1588. This particular Close appears to have been the same land formerly called the Common Pasture of Reffley, that was given by the Bishop of Norwich, during the Composition of Lynn in 1241, to his bitter rival and neighbour Hugh d'Albini Earl of Arundel, Lord of Rising and the adjacent Woottons. In addition to this, the lease for the Warren also mentions the "liberty of Drift & passage to & from the said waste Grounds as the Tenants & Inhabitants of the Town of Gaywood have usually  enjoyed".

The origin of these unusual Place, or Field names is now speculation. The options for Garnish could relate to land, which had earlier been subject to litigation (i), or fortifies and protects (2), and finally a corruption of Carnage, a place for the slaughter of animal's <3),


It is clear from documents that the above variations of any of these interpretations could have been applied here, since Reffley was originally fortified by an earthen bank, whilst by the 17th century, Reffley was known to have had certain lands allocated for pasturing cattle in preparation to slaughter.


The remaining place name Quarry House could relate to either a piece of land called Clay Pit Close, presumably used for marling lighter soils, or alternatively from clay excavated for brickmaking. However, an adjoining and now obscure quarry allocated for the excavation of gravel and other building materials is also another possibility. Whilst a more dubious alternative could relate to the rearing and hunting of game (4). Since these lands were attached to woodland that were traditionally used for hunting game and formerly part of the Chase of Rising and later called Riffley Chase, either of these inconclusive examples could have also applied here.

1. Oxford English Dictionary

2* 3.4, Skeet Concise Dictionary of English Ethnology


By the late 18th century the farm was illustrated on Fadens Map of Norfolk, and identified as Garnish Field House, which at this date (1796), appears to have been engaged in new developments. Through a petition from members of the Reffley Society, Sir Martin Folkes was asked to reconsider his decision in locating a proposed new farm building for his tenant Mr Stort, close to the sacred grounds of their Temple. Although they had no objection in principle to the erection of a building, they considered a "distance of 100 yards from ours there is a spot which we think far preferable and which we hope Mr S will have no objections to comply with. We can assure you, that this application, is not thro any wish, to deprive him or any other person of that pleasant retreat, which we through your generosity do fully enjoy, but as we raised the Temple, at considerable expense, merely that we should select, we would if possible prevent any encroachments upon what we style our consecrated ground",


Approximately forty years later the farm had been leased by Sir William Browne Folkes to John Feltwell, who recently died here on the 11th of February 1835, Apart from being a tenant farmer of Folkes, Feltwell also appears to have borrowed money from his landlord for a mortgage to purchase four freehold terraced cottages at "Pot Row” in Grimston,


Little is known of John Feltwell’s life apart from his mamage at St. Faiths, Gaywood to Catherine Harod, coincidentally on the same day (20th of May 1802) and place as Thomas Feltwell, who may have been his brother, when he married Mary Rungary. Apart from his known occupation in agriculture as a tenant farmer, he also appears to have become a Churchwarden of St Faiths at a relatively young age in 1773 and on six other occasions up to 1815. On his decease the estate was equally divided between his son and daughter William and Sarah and his natural son, Henry Feltwell Hare, who may have been an illegitimate son after his wife's decease.


Shortly after the decease of John Feltwell, the farm was surveyed and valued for Sir William Browne Folkes in May 1835, by Mr Charles Burcham, Architect and Land Surveyor of Lynn. In his survey the farm was recorded with buildings which comprised farmhouse, barn, stables, wagon lodge and other outbuildings and yards, which were stated to have been a in dilapidated condition. In addition to these buildings were 96l/2 acres of arable land, together with 861/2 acres of pasture, which totalled 183 acres.


Within his brief survey he reported that "from the present state of this farm, a tenant will be required to lay out a sum of money in under draining, repairing fences and getting the land into a proper state of cultivation “. He estimated that landlord (Folkes), would have to provide a capital outlay of between five to six hundred pounds for rebuilding the farmhouse, whilst the tenant would be responsible for the carriage of all materials.


In conclusion he stated that "In taking the above matters into consideration, I am of opinion that this farm cannot be brought into a fair state of cultivation without a lease to be granted for 12 years”, calculated at £120 a year for the first 4 years and rising to £180 per year for the remainder of the lease.


As a consequence of this report, it would appear that Burcham was instructed to design a new farmhouse before the end of the month (May), together with a specification to accompany its design in preparation for construction, which he estimated would cost £380. It is significant that nearly 160 years later, this former isolated building has survived the ravages of taste and time, by retaining most of its original materials and features that were listed in the original specification. Since no mention is made of any allocation of money for the remaining farm buildings, it is assumed that the tenant was to have sole responsibility for repairs and maintenance of these agricultural buildings.


From NRS 8750 21D5
July 1835

Specification to a Plan for an Intended New Farm House for Sir M.B. Folkes Bart at Reffley.

All internal walls 14 inches thick to first floor and 9 inches to Roof.

9 inch walls to Cellar and knogging and lath partitions for all internal walls, chimneys as per plan, to be brick built with good hard burnt bricks and arches pointed.

All ceilings and Stud Partitions to be lathed and plastered and walls rendered two coats.
Back Kitchen, Pantry, Cellar and Dairy, to be paved with good hard burnt bricks.
Kitchen and Passage to be laid with 9 inch Pamments.

Stone cills to Front Sashes, Stone Step to front door, Stone facings and hearths to 4 fire places.

The Roof and Ridges top be covered with Ladies Slate.
Valleys to be leaded and Zinc spouts to Eaves.

Iron chimney bars to fire places and Anchors and all other suitable Ironwork where required.
Roof Principals 5 X 4. Purlins 3 X 4. Ceiling Joist 3 X 1. Floor Joist 7 X 21/2.

Inch deal floors to Parlour & Bedrooms. Inch deal Staircase with Fir handrail,

Suitable chimney pieces, to closets with proper doors and shelves.

8 nr Sashes and frames as per Plan. 2 Girt lights, 3 lath windows, Front door 1 3/4 inch 4
Pannel", Inch ledger doors to Cellar, Pantry, dairy and lean to. 1 1/4 inh 4 Panel to all other
rooms. Single moulded architraves to doors and windows. 3/4 inch linnings to all windows and 1 1/2 inch Jaumbs to doors, torus skirting to Parlour and square skirting to bedrooms, Lintels 3inch thick where required.

2 tier of bond timber round all external walls.

All windows glazed with seconds Crown Glass. All Woodwork painted 2 Coats inside and 3 Coats outside.

The Total Cost of the Farm House as shown upon the plan and built agreeable to the above specification will be £380.

King's Lynn

July 1835                                                                    C. Burcham




The first tenant to be accommodated in the new Carstone faced farmhouse building was George

Blake, from Hethersett, near Norwich, who remained here for at least twenty years before leasing

another farm in Gaywood from the Bagge family, called Hall Farm, It appears from a schedule of

lands attached to Reffley Farm in 1838, that over 60 acres of pasture and 10 acres of arable, were

leased by Folkes to William King, George Cutting Edward Emmerson and William Land

William King was a brickmaker, bricklayer and builder, who was also leasing part of lands from

Folkes attached to the former Public House at Highgate called the Spread Eagle. In addition to

this he also leased from Folkes a piece of land called the “Old Brickyard", situated almost behind

the Red Mount Chapel, which are now part of the recreation ground opposite Tennyson Road,

The remaining part of the Spread Eagle land was leased to George Cutting, a beer brewer who

was probably the first landlord of this former Public House.


William Land lived near the New Inn and was leasing a part of Reffley Wood, together with a

piece of pasture attached to the farm called “Brick Kiln Piece", denoting its former activity.

By 1850 the name of the farm had changed to "Spring Farm", presumably to identify it with a

celebrated chalybeate spring and its adjacent Temple of the Reffley Society, erected in 1789.

Also coinciding with this change of name, was a change in recorded status of the tenant, who was

listed amongst the nobility, gentry and clergy in the Lynn section of Slaters Directory for 1850.

From this date onwards and up to the speculated closure of the farm during the early 1970’s, the

farm retained its latter name of “Spring Farm".


After Blake, the next tenant was Edward Morris Emerson, who appears to have resided and

farmed here until approximately 1890. He may have been a son of Edward Emerson, who during

1838 was leasing land from the Churchwardens of Gaywood, together with 28 acres from Sir

William Browne Folkes that were part of Reffley Fen.


A directory for 1892 records Albert Miles Blomfield as tenant, who was possibly a son of Alfred

Blomfield, brewer and farmer, who later owned the windmill at Reffley until his decease around

1890 and grandson of Miles Blomfield, who founded a brewery near the New Inn.


The precise date of the arrival of the next tenant, Alfred John Playford is not known, although he was recorded here in the Gaywood Register of Electors for 1918. Reminiscences of this farm are

recorded in the autobiography of Len Rush, a former Gaywood inhabitant, who later became a

carpenter and keeper of the Queen's pigeons, whose father was farm foreman.


He remembered Playford "as a small neat man with a fair moustache and a lovely sense of

humour ~ who was also a master baker from Burnham Market". After moving into the

farmhouse, his bakery at Burnham was ran by his three daughters, which also served the seven parishes of Burnham.


As a boy he remembered this as a large and prosperous farm of about six hundred acres. Apart from the “ginger bread” coloured carstone faced farmhouse, there  was also a large farm yard paved with bricks which gave access to a variety of facilities including hay stacks, riding stables, diary house, a large brick barn, cow house, cart shed, cake home and other farm outbuildings.

By the early nineteen thirties, Playford must have either died or retired to live with his daughters at Burnham, when he was succeeded by Harry Jarritt Bone who had been installed as the new tenant.

How long Bone remained as tenant is still to be resolved, since he was not recorded in a directory

for 1938, which implies a new tenant may have taken over the lease.


For over twenty years after the war between 1951 and 1973, when directories ceased to be

published, Frederick Charles Skerry had become the new tenant and later owner of  Spring Farm, during its final declining years.