The History of Colemore Farm
Colemore Farm is rich in history. The current building originated as a medieval manor house in the fifteenth Century. It was updated and transformed in various ways over the years and ceased to be a working farm in the 1980s, after which it fell into disrepair. The house was rescued in the early 1990s and was restored to the house that exists today. Colemore Farm is of particular architectural importance because it is said to be one of only two known houses in Shropshire which retain a timber-framed chimney. I currently know most about the house in its earliest and later years, and with the help of various historical archives, I am piecing together more information about the intervening period.
Medieval Hall House
The early architectural history of Colemore Farm is quite well documented. Not only does it feature in The Vernacular Buildings of Shropshire, by Madge Moran, but it was also the subject of a report by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England at the time of its restoration in 1991.
In The Vernacular Buildings of Shropshire line drawings of the structural features of the house are accompanied by the following description:
"Derelict in 1989. A two-storied, box-framed, isolated farmhouse of three bays comprising a two-bay hall and a bay at the upper end of the hall. It contains a wattle and daub smoke-hood (fumbrell). Low-swinging arch-braces to the central truss descend to a T-section post."
Elsewhere the book explains that the arch-braces are unusual for Shropshire, although they were more common in other parts of England. To give some indication of the date of the original hall house, the book refers to a very similar construction in Binnal, less than a mile away, which was dendro-dated to around 1460 AD.
The report by the Royal Commision on the Historical Monuments of England gives a fuller description, summarised as follows:
"Colemore Farmhouse is a timber-framed house of middling or major gentry status dating probably to the early-mid 15th century. The original plan was linear and of at least four bays. Three bays survive but a fourth bay, at the east end of the range, has been demolished. The surviving building has evidence for a two-bay open hall with a cross-passage at one end. The hall has an arch-braced central truss and its roof is smoke-blackened. At the west end of the house was a single-bay parlour on the ground floor and a solar over. It is likely that the lost eastern bay or bays provided service rooms. In the late 16th century the hall was floored and a firehood inserted, backing on to the passage. At some point the east end of the building was demolished; this had certainly occurred by the 19th century, the date of a small lean-to against the present east gable. By the 19th century the house had declined to farmhouse status. There are two timber-framed barns of 17th century date to the north of the house, forming a farmyard on this side."
Signs of early structures within the house can still be found in various places. The dining room, for example, shows evidence of mortices and stave holes, which would have formed the supports for a partition made of wattle and daub. This indicates that it was once two rooms, with a further sub-division (possibly for a staircase to the solar above) in the northwest corner of the room.
As far as its more recent past is concerned, the farm ceased to be operated commercially in the mid 1980s. At that time it extended to over 130 acres (more than 50 hectares). All of the land was to the west of the brook which still forms the eastern boundary along the lower paddock. To the north the lands extended beyond Linley Brook.
I am fortunate that members of the last family to work the farm still live only a short distance away and they are helping me piece together and record its history.
Until it was restored, Colemore Farm had belonged to Apley Estate. From the nineteenth century parcels of land were gradually added to the farm until it reached its full size shortly before the Second World War. Early records show that in 1868 the farm consisted of "41 acres in the Parish of Astley Abbotts". In 1871 two acquisitions of land were made by Apley Estate, which ultimately became part of Colemore Farm.
The first was a parcel of about 33 acres described as "The Frog Mill land in the Parish of Astley Abbotts lying immediately south of the Linley Brook. This land was the property of Mr Stephenson and was exchanged for a small area of Apley Estate land astride the Cantern Brook [just north of Bridgnorth] on the immediate west of the Bridgnorth-Broseley Road." By that time Frog Mill, which had been a corn mill, was disused and its mill pool had become silted up.
The second acquisition was an area at "Linley and Wren's Nest, including Colliers Works Coppice, all lying north of the Linley Brook in the Parish of Linley. Total 105.0.25 acres. This land was purchased from Lord Forester."
A typewritten summary of the history of the farm by the Apley Estate manager, R F Roney-Dougal, summarises the changes as follows:
"(a) in 1871, 16 acres of Frog Mill land put to the farm. Increase in acreage from 41 to 57 all in parish of Astley Abbotts.
(b) In 1887, 3.3.0 acres, late Linley station, put to the farm. Increase in acreage from 57 to 61, all in parish of Astley Abbotts.
(c) In 1909, 4.1.0 acreas put to the farm. Increase in acreage from 61 to 65, all in parish of Astley Abbotts.
(d) In 1909, 28 acres put to the farm. This increased the acreage from 65 in Parish of Astley Abbotts to 65 (Parish of Astley Abbotts) and 28 (Parish of Linley). Total 93 acres.
(e) In 1911, 18 acres put to the farm. This increased the acreage to 65 (Parish of Astley Abbotts) and 46 (Linley). Total 111.
(f) In 1937, 17 acres put to the farm. This increased the Linley Parish acreage from 46 to 63. Total of 128 acres. N.B. The Rent Book show the acreage as 68 (Astley Abbotts) and 68 (Linley). Total 136."