MANOR FARM, EVERTON
Bernard O'Connor 2000
Apart from St Mary’s Church, Manor Farm is one of the oldest houses in the village. Its earliest part dates back to .... when *** was Lord of Everton Manor. The manor house itself was probably on the moated site which is now called Story Moats. The occupants of Manor Farm were their tenants over the generations. It is quite possible that there was a more ancient building on the site of the farm as a moat has been reported immediately to the east of the present house. This was not defensive - more an attractive Norman feature which provided the owners with fish for Fridays, the forty days Lent, as well as ducks, eggs and frogs.
Following the Reformation in the 16th century, everyone was expected to conform to the new Church of England. The recusants, those who wanted to keep their Roman Catholic faith, were often fined or imprisoned if they were found out. Those wanting to "keep their faith" had to do so in secret and in many of the larger households a special hiding place constructed for a visiting priest. These "priest holes" were often in a recess up the chimney, others were under stairs, behind oak panelling or in the roof. There is said to be such "priest hole" in Manor Farm located .... What was called a “monk’s hole” was reportedly found in the Blacksmith’s house at the top of the hill on the other side of the road.
There is said to be a tunnel connecting Everton House with the Church. It would have allowed the occupants a dry route to the services. Maybe this gave rise to a similar story of a tunnel from Manor Farm to the church that was said to have been discovered during digging work on the road outside the Thornton Arms. The cellar of the pub has some bricked-up sections which may have given rise to this story.
Also found in the walls of Manor Farm were two mummified rats and a mummified cat. These are supposed to have been immured to deter witches. A child’s bonnet was also found. (Conversation with Mrs Gurney, Everton) Two apparitions are said to have been seen in Manor Farm: one a Quaker Lady who walked through a bedroom wall and the other was a man in old-fashioned riding clothes who stood in the kitchen.
After the Civil War, it was occupied by the vicar’s daughter and her husband. Judith Fowl spent some time at the vicarage looking after her ill mother. In 1661, fourteen months after the restoration of James II, she died. Judith stayed on in the vicarage looking after her father. The church register records that in “June 1661 Samuel Luke married Judith Fowl the daughter of the Vicar of Everton with Tetworth.” Two months later her father died and the register recalls “Thomas Fowl had been vicar of Everton 32 years was buried August 1662 formerly fellow of Clare Hall.” (Hamlyn, F.C. (194-), ‘A Country Vicar and his Daughter’, Beds. Mag. Book 5, p.121)
Judith had to move out to allow Rev. Thomas Peele, the new vicar, to move in. The Hearth tax, based on how many chimneys a house had, revealed where she went. It was a tax that the occupier rather than the landlord had to pay. In 1671 there were twenty-four families in Everton with “five persons receiving constant alms.” Samuel and Judith lived in Manor Farm which had six chimneys – a considerable size. It suggests that it had six ground floor rooms as it was unlikely that upstairs bedrooms had fireplaces. There is a plan of the old dwelling with heavy beams in the roof. Samuel’s entry was one of the first in the tithe book and suggests he owned a farm of considerable size. He was described as a gentleman and from the annual amount he paid he was one of Everton’s major farmers.
“In those days labour was easily procurable and Judith Luke’s influence and position would have been sufficient to attract as many employees as she desired or could afford. She prepared for her coming family. At the end of their first married year as son was born and baptised Thomas after his grandfather. In 1664 John was born and in 1667 another son was called Samuel after his father; lastly in 1668 a daughter was baptized Elizabeth. Many mothers of the seventeenth century were short-lived, child-bearing proving a dangerous and arduous task. Judith Luke proved no exception to this melancholy rule. Her eldest child was born during her first married year and the rest of the family arrived at regular intervals. When the youngest was seven the eldest was twelve years old, and on November 30th 1674 Judith Luke died after a married life of a little over twelve years.
After the tragic death of his wife, Samuel faced a world as a widower, with his four children, Thomas twelve years of age, John eleven, Samuel seven and Elizabeth six. For the next seventeen years the registers are silent. When next we hear of the Lukes Thomas has reached the age of twenty-nine. By that time he appears in the tithe book entered up each half year by the vicar. His name was placed second in the list of tithe payers, although others contributed a greater amount, and his social standing in the village warranted the title of ‘Mr' or ‘gent’.
He married Mary – as she came from another parish her surname is not recorded – and in 1695 they had a daughter baptized Alice in Everton church, and a son Robert baptized in 1697. But things went badly. Thomas fell ill, and from the fact that he paid no tithe for two years it must be concluded that he was too ill to farm profitably. In 1701, when he was only 38 years old, he died. His death is recorded in the register of those who were buried in a woollen shroud according to the Act. There appeared some uncertainty about his status. After his name the title ‘Gent’ has been written in but erased and ‘yeoman’ substituted. So Thomas Luke, grandson of the vicar of Everton, was buried in the churchyard of the church where his mother’s father had ministered during the thirty-two years of the Civil War and Commonwealth. The name of Luke does not appear again in the tithe book, and the last entry of the family in the parish register records the baptism of Mary Luke, daughter of Thomas’ son Robert. She was the great, great grand-daughter of Thomas Fowl.”
(Hamlyn, F.C. (194-), ‘A Country Vicar and his Daughter’, Beds. Mag. Book 5, p. 124-5)
Over the centuries various additions have been made. In 1876 the tenant was John Kirkham. Parker Dynes was the tenant in the early 1900s and Hilda Brooker recalled that children used to gather ripe acorns which he bought from them and sold to nurserymen who grew trees. Albert Darlow was the tenant in 1931 who was also farming Port Mahon Farm. Mr Gurney took over as tenant later in the 1900s.
During repair work on the house in the late 20th century the removal of some floorboards in one of the downstairs rooms revealed numerous clay inkwells strewn on the earth floor about two feet below. This suggests that the room had been used as a schoolroom at some time during the 19th century. The original village school house was in a barn belonging to Church Farm on the land opposite the Parish Hall. It was called Jubilee Barn, probably built at the time of Queen Victoria's silver jubilee in 1896? As pupil numbers increased the board of governors decided on larger premises - a building at the end of Manor Farm. This was again a temporary room until the present school was built in ???? and the schoolroom was lived in by Mr and Mrs Gurney. Jubilee Barn was burnt down in 1956 and rebuilt by Mr Pym. Frank Hunt was the foreman of the builders and it is said he put two half crowns in the brickwork.
At the back of the farm was a brewhouse where the farmer brewed his own ale. This was given to the farm labourers. Often a small barrel was taken out into the fields and the men and women could have a pint or two with their lunch of bread and cheese. During harvest time they got twice as much.
Hilda Brooker reported there also being a bakehouse in the farm and that Mr and Mrs Gurney used to allow friends to use it to bake their Christmas bread and cakes.
The farm used to employ many local people but with increased mechanisation over the 20th century, progressively less.
After the War ? a box making plant was established which provided employment for some years.
Development of the free range pig farm.