It is possible to trace the owners and occupiers of Pond Farm in great detail throughout
the nineteenth century. The manorial records of Temple Dinsley, wills, census returns
and maps of Preston furnish a wealth of information.
Ponds Farm 1841c. The fields noted in black were owned by Thomas Simmes;
the fields noted in red were owned by the Turners.
In 1780, the land that was part of Pond Farm, Preston a century later, was owned
by two men:Thomas Simmes of Ippollitts and John Turner of that part of Preston in
Ippollitts parish. Both were described as a ‘husbandman’ – that is, they were farmers
below the rank of yeomen.
Thomas Simmes owned:
a) The house at Preston in Hitchin parish called ‘Ponds’. It was occupied by John
b) Nine fields or closes (totalling 23 acres) of arable land, meadow and pasture
which were near the house. (These are shown in black in the map above.)
c) The field of seven acres at Preston called ‘Wellcroft’.
d) The field of six acres of arable land in Kings Walden parish known as Pitchley
Close and a further acre of land ‘lying in’ Pitchley Close.
e) Three acres of arable land which lay in ‘Upper Kings Field’ and which were occupied
by Charles Baron. Half of this land was near a chalk pit and abutted the road to
the east; the remainder was next to ‘Kings Hill’.
Thomas Simmes had married local girl, Ann Whitbread, at Ippollitts on 15 August 1769.
After Thomas died in the early 1780s, Ann inherited his estate but she also soon
died and the items noted above a) to d) were bequeathed to the Reverend John Pilkington
Morgan, vicar of Hitchin 1755-88 (‘a painful preacher’). However, as the clergyman
predeceased Ann, the property was inherited by his only son and heir, William Morgan,
of Bartholomew Close, London. The remaining piece of land (e) owned by the Simmes
was bought by John Baron, a tanner from Hitchin.
William Morgan did not enjoy his inheritance for long as he died in 1797 and his
wife, Jane Morgan of Little Britain, London inherited items a) to d). On 11 April
1811, she sold her inheritance at Preston to Charles Hill (who was already living
at ‘Ponds’) for £1,200. (A previous occupier was John Young). Possibly to finance
his purchase, Charles immediately mortgaged his newly acquired property to Richard
Oakley of Offley for £500 and sold a small parcel of his land (two rods two perches
which ‘laid into’ Painswood Close, Kings Walden) to Sir Francis Willes for £30.
Ponds Farm 1844 - with ponds. (The depression which formed the pond is visible today
Charles Hill was born in about 1771. He married Mary Groom from Kings Walden on 5
January 1795 at St Mary, Hitchin. Based on the parish records of Ippollitts and Hitchin,
details from Charles’ will and the records of Hitchin’s Back Street Baptist church,
the couple probably had nine children. The family were living at Preston in 1801
when their daughter Ann was baptized and were certainly occupying Pond farm in 1811.
Charles Hill 1771c - 1839
Ann Hill married William Dearman. In 1851 they were at Halls Green, Weston, Herts.
William was a blacksmith.
John Hill was perhaps buried in Kings Walden 7 August 1803.
Mary Hill was perhaps buried in Ippollitts 10 June 1818.
Harriet Hill married William Pettifor on 3 October 1836 in Abbots Langley, Herts.
Eliza Hill married William Rudd on 10 February 1836 at St Mary, Hitchin. In 1851,
William was a baker in Willian, Herts.
Emma Hill married William Brown. By 1861 they had bought the Red Lion inPreston.
Charlotte Hill married Daniel Queenborough on 12 February 1837 in Deptford, Kent.
Daniel farmed at Stopsley near Luton.
Charles was a prominent member of the Preston community and served as a juror of
the Temple Dinsley Court Baron. He died on 12 October 1839, aged 68, and was buried
at Kings Walden. Richard Oakley, the mortgagee of Ponds, died shortly afterwards,
on 2 November at Harpenden, Herts.
Charles Hill’s will, which was completed on 4 October 1839 (just before his death),
is crammed with information about his family which cannot be found in other sources.
His executors were his son-in-law, William Brown (who was to buy the Red Lion in
Preston) and James Titmus who was farming in Poynders End. Charles did not sign but
marked his will and the will was witnessed (and signed) by Daniel Morgan, a labourer
who lived in nearby Sootfield Green. The following were Charles’ bequests:
a) Four cottages at Whitwell (opposite the Bull Inn) were left to his daughter Charlotte,
wife of Daniel Queenborough.
b) His son, Benjamin Hill inherited his farm. However, he was charged with paying
£1,200 within three months of Charles’ death to his executors. This sum was to be
invested and the interest paid firstly to Charles’ wife, Mary and after her death
to Charles’ five daughters – Harriet, the wife of William Pettifor; Ann, the wife
of William Dearman; Eliza(beth), the wife of William Rudd; Emma, the wife of William
Brown and Louisa Hill.
c) Mary, Charles’ widow was bequeathed three more cottages in Whitwell which were
occupied by Gatward and another as well as Charles’ ready money, debts owed to him,
securities, farming stock and implements of husbandry and the use of the furniture
in his house which was to be divided between her surviving daughters at her death.
Benjamin Hill 1814c - 1871
After inheriting ‘Ponds’, two years after his father’s death in 1841, Benjamin bought
more land and a house for £370 from Richard Oakley. This property had been owned
by John Turner until 1781 and its purchase completed the property which was Pond
Farm in 1884.
Turner’s property consisted of a house and three fields totalling three acres which
adjoined the house. Previous occupants of the fields included Benjamin Gootheridge
and William Harding. John Turner had bought the property from John Morgan in 1778.
He mortgaged them to Elizabeth Simpson of Hitchin for £80 in 1782.
By 1788 the three fields were farmed by George Groom, John Brown and John Turner’s
son, James. John had died and by his will dated 6 March 1785, his entire estate was
left to James. Twenty years later, in 1806 James Turner mortgaged his property to
William Wilshere Esq. of Hitchin for £165. In 1811, James sold the property (which
included outhouses, barns, stables, yards and orchards) to Richard Oakley for £270
– which is how Benjamin Hill was able to purchase it from Richard in 1841 for £370.
Benjamin married Hannah Pennyfather from Datchworth, Herts at St George Hanover Square,
London in the summer of 1839 and the couple had at least three children – the eldest,
Ellen was born at Tewin. The censuses from 1841 to 1861 record that Benjamin was
farming at Preston with a holding of 70 acres, employing two men and two boys.
Benjamin was a pillar of local society as, like his father, he served on the jury
of the Temple Dinsley Manorial Court Baron. He was involved in a court case in 1841
when Henry Stratton, (one of Benjamin’s farm labourers) was charged with leaving
his service without the consent of his master. Stratton was reprimanded and discharged
on paying the expenses incurred. Then two years later, Benjamin was fined 30/- including
costs for assaulting his shepherd boy, Charles Stevens, who stated that his master
knocked him down and that when he got up, his master ran a two-tined fork through
the top of his hat into his head, making it bleed
Ellen Hill married John Campkin in the city of London in September Qtr 1867. She
died at Runcorn Reg District in the December Qtr 1868
Harriet Hill married William Dobney in the June Qtr 1862 in Hitchin Reg. District.
In 1871 they were living at Finsbury London and William was a railway foreman.
William Hill married Christian Parker from Luffenhall, Herts and was farming at Hertingfordbury
Benjamin died on 15 January 1871.By his will dated 27 July 1870, his estate was bequeathed
to his wife, Hannah, Daniel Pennyfather, farmer of Colts Farm Datchworth (Hannah’s
brother) and Thomas Campkin, farmer of Broomhall, Watton, Herts (brother of John,
Benjamin’s son-in-law). Hannah was to receive the rents from her late husband’s property.
Soon after Benjamin’s death, Hannah was living with her unmarried son, William at
Birchall Farm, Hertingfordbury. Although William was only 26, he was running a farm
of 220 acres.
In 1871, Ponds Farm was occupied by 25-year-old Nicholas Toke with his wife and young
Hannah leased Pond Farm from 29 September 1877 to Stephen Marriott, of neighbouring
Castle Farm, for 15 years and he installed his son, Thomas at the farm. Hannah was
living at Hope Villa, Stevenage at the time and four years later, Hannah was living
alone at London Road, Stevenage. Hannah died on 13 November 1883 and seven months
later, on 29 June 1884, Ponds farm was sold at the Sun Hotel, Hitchin by Benjamin’s
surviving trustee, Thomas Campkin.
The Sales Particulars well describe the farm, where a new house had recently been
built – evidently replacing the old farm house. Pond Farm was ‘a very enjoyable prettily
timbered choice estate’ with a newly-erected dwelling-house, with a garden and paddock
orchard. The house was well placed on rising ground with extensive views of the surrounding
The house had an entrance; two front bedrooms and a large back bedroom measuring
23 feet by 14feet; a servants bedroom, two staircases; two comfortable and cheerful
sitting rooms (one with a marble mantelpiece); a large kitchen with a brick-built
oven, a pantry and dairy and a large brick and tiled cellar.
Pond farmhouse in 2006
The farm land consisted of old pasture and market garden land of 40 acres which was
‘considered to be some of the best land in the neighbourhood’ with perfect drainage
due to the nature of the soil.. If the hedges were judiciously removed, it would
be ‘a pretty little park’. There were ponds of water on the property – hence its
name, presumably - including one which was fed by a spring which had never been known
It was a well-arranged and substantially built farmer which had been recently erected.
It had a cattle yard partially enclosed by brick wall; a brick-built and slated open
cattle shed; a stable for four horses and a chaff house; a loose box or piggery,
three-bayed open cart shed. A granary and a hen house. Nearby were two brick, timber
and thatched buildings which were a cow house and a corn barn.
Finally (as with the sale of Temple Dinsley ten years earlier) a selling point of
Ponds farm was that it was well calculated for a hunting lodge being near the Hertfordshire
and Puckeridge fox hounds.
The sale of Pond Farm - 1884
The estate was sold for £1375 to John Harvey Lovell of Bedford Sqaure, Brighton and
George Bryan Milman, a lieutenant-general from London. In January 1885, the new owners
bought the freehold to the estate from the lord of the manor for £375.
Six years later, in 1891, Benjamin’s daughter, the widow Emma Brown, was living at
the property with her spinster daughter, Matilda. At the turn of the century the
mineral water manufacturer, Nelson Jones and his wife were living in the house.
There was a succession of occupiers of Pond Farm from 1901:
1908c Alfred Brown
1910 John Smallwood
1920 Bernard Daniel and Florence Hayton (who moved to Rose Cottage