A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

Poynders End Farm in the nineteenth century

Hugh E. Seebohm purchases Poynders End Farm

In 1903, the banker Hugh Seebohm purchased the 92-acre farm, the sale being completed on 24 December.  He now owned the Farmhouse (brick-built with a tiled roof, with its four bedrooms, sitting room, kitchen,scullery, bake-house and pantry) and the farm buildings (mainly made of wood and thatch, comprising a large barn, chaff barn, open shed, stable, cow-house, three enclosed yards and a well of excellent water) which were assessed as being in ‘poor’ condition in 1910. Perhaps the ‘very elevated position’ of the farm which commanded ‘views of several counties’ made the property more appealing.

 

Immediately, Hugh commissioned the architect, Geoffry Lucas of 83 Bancroft, Hitchin, to design an ‘Arts and Crafts’-style house to be built on his land (shown below). This was completed in 1905.

 

Hugh’s granddaughter, the novelist Victoria Glendinning OBE, wrote of Poynders End, ‘...a severe, roughcast vaguely Tudor house with massive brick chimneys and no great beauty - or so it seems to me now, though it

had great glamour for me in childhood....during the early part of the Second World War, we - my brother, sister and I - lived at Poynders End for a time...I remember the smell of the house which was really the smell of the

oak used for the wide staircase and the floor of the big drawing room - wood block floors (probably made from oak) and having building bricks, like the wood blocks. There was a leather box of counters, as big as £2 pieces

in sets of, what were to me, glorious colours - probably made of bakerlite.’

 

She recalled lying on the grass near the house and calling to her step-grandmother, ‘Mysie’ (Marjorie) who was

at an upper window, ‘There’s something I’ve got to learn how to do’. ‘I know what it is’, she replied hopefully, ‘You’ve got to learn to read’. ‘No’, I said, ‘ I’ve got to learn to whistle’.

 

In her early teenage years, Victoria stayed with Derrick and his ‘lovely, warm blonde wife, Patricia. She took

me shopping with her to Stevenage where the new town was in the process of being built. It was the first time

I ever saw a supermarket.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was here that Hugh and Leslie had their four children and that Leslie tragically died as a result of haemorrhaging  during an ectopic pregnancy. The news report of her funeral at St Martin’s, Preston can be read at this link: Funeral of Mrs H. Seebohm. Hugh later married a World War I widow, Marjorie Lyall who was a friend of his first wife’s mother, Norah Gribble.

Hugh Seebohm - the farmer

In 1941, the farm was appraised as part of the National Farm Survey. It was marked with an ‘A’ for management. By then, it comprised 143 acres which were given over as follows: wheat (20 acres); barley (12 1/2); oats (35), mixed corn (8 3/4); maize (2); beans for stock feeding (17); potatoes (3 1/4); turnips and swedes for fodder (3/4); mangolds (2 1/4); kale for fodder ( 2 1/4); permanent grass for grazing (40).

 

The livestock included nine cows and heifers in milk; five heifers with first calf; one bull; five other cattle; thirty fowls over six months old and three horses - geldings, which were used on the farm. The soil was described as 90% medium; 10% light and the farm was infested with rabbits. Hugh employed six men aged over twenty-one and one woman on the farm and there was a Fordson tractor.

 

In addition to his farming activities, Hugh was involved in Preston village activities. He was elected as a school manager and the Preston Cricket Club History notes that he ‘always gave much sympathetic help and assistance to the village’.

Derrick Seebohm

Derrick was educated at Rugby and Cambridge and then lived in Canada. He returned in the 1930s to work at Barclays Bank at Luton. He won Royal Agricultural Society awards for inventions of an electrical fence system, a sillage cutter and his dairy herd. He was also active in the National Farmers’ Union. During World War II, Derrick was in the Ministry of Economic Warfare.

 

Following Hugh Seebohm’s death, Derrick ‘inherited Poynders End, but it didn’t pay and had to be sold’. It was first put on the market in May 1946 but Derrick  was still there in 1951 according to the electoral roll. By 1961, he and Patricia had moved to a spacious chalet bungalow at 25 Chequers Lane (now Chequers Cottage - shown right). Their ‘daily’ was Mrs Emily Peters.

 

 

Derrick Seebohm

Frederic Seebohm

George Seebohm

Fidelity Seebohm

Above:The Poynders End Estate in 1895

Hugh E Seebohm

Leslie Grace Seebohm (nee Gribble)

Hugh in a dog cart with his three sons at Poynders End

Right: Poynders End Farm (aka Tudor Cottage shown below in 2006)  and outbuildings in 1895

Poynders End Farm was in the parish of Ippollitts (see link: Poynders End) and the manor of Temple Dinsley. For most of the nineteenth century it appears to have been worked by absentee farmers who installed labourers in the farm house: James Payne (1851-61), Thomas Prine (1871), John French (1881), George French (1891).

 

The owner of the farm towards the end of the century was Edward D. Roberts who was farming just over the county border at Fielding Farm, Silsoe, Ampthill, Beds. When he died in early 1890, his executors attempted to sell the farm three times but in a market glutted with farms due to an agricultural depression, it remained unsold.

 

Finally, with a hint of desperation, the executors announced an auction at The Sun Hotel, Hitchin on 19 February 1895 stating, ‘It is absolutely necessary to effect a sale as the trust is about to expire’.

 

Included with the farm buildings were live and dead stock - horses, bullocks and poultry; four hundred yards of barbed wire; two clamps of ‘Marigold Wurtzels’ and an American cooking stove. In the barns were machines for dressing corn, cutting up roots and chaff for feed and for breaking cattle cake. The contraptions were linked by cogs and shafts to a horse which plodded around the farmyard.

 

The farm was bought by Mr Byatt. He introduced more poultry and a dairy herd and erected 12,000 feet of green-housing. Two years later, he sold up and in 1901 the resident farmer was 25-year-old Ernest Barber.

Poynders End was constructed of wood and brick with a stuccoed finish and tiled roof. On the ground floor were a hall, dining room, drawing room, w.c., servants hall, pantry, kitchen, scullery, larders and boot-room. Located on the first floor were  three bedrooms, two dressing rooms, two w.c.s, a study, night and day nurseries with bathroom and six servants bedrooms. In 1911, the servants were a cook, parlourmaid, housemaid, children’s nurse and children’s maid.

 

Richard Seebohm described the atmosphere in the house as ‘austere (no-one spoke at meals) but loving’.

Derrick Seebohm (left) entering into the spirit of a peculiar Preston pastime. Beside him is

Jack Raffell. The other man is Dennis Waller who built much of the present-day village

Like his father, Derrick was involved with the village community - ‘a well respected local dignitary’. He was elected as the representative of the Parish on the board of Preston School Managers in 1947. From that same year, he chaired Preston Cricket Club (his wife, Patricia was a Vice President and Chairman of Hitchin Magistrates) and Chairman of Preston Parish. He established footpaths and boundaries, organised the planting of trees and was a guiding hand when Preston first won its ‘Best Kept Village’ award. He was described as a ‘hands-on man and an enthusiastic worker, able to get the best out of people’. Curiously, he does not appear in any of the photographs taken when the award was unveiled. When asked the reason, a co-worker commented that Derrick did not seek the limelight.

 

Shortly before his move to Huntingdonshire, Derrick was interviewed by a local news reporter.  He mused, ‘I regard our departure with a mixture of excitement and regret. Its time younger people came into the village and the responsibility for the future must be left to them...the village must grow to make it more viable. At the present time we cannot raise enough people for our cricket and football teams. Outsiders have to help us out’.

 

Frederic Seebohm and Preston

Victoria Glendinning recalls that Frederick and Evangeline ‘owned a weekend cottage with its own electricity generator (very noisy) at Sootfield Green. I used to stay there when the children were babies’.

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A History of a Quaker Family by Richard Seebohm

In his obituary, Hugh was described as remaining ‘to the end the traditional country banker. He was indeed essentially a countryman, finding his chief delight in himself and his farm and in this peaceful environment his love of trees and birds, of which his knowledge was profound, would best be indulged’.

The Seebohms

of Poynders End

Although Poynders End was considered to be a ‘hobby farm’, Hugh increased his holding by fifty acres as a result of two purchases in around 1911 and 1931. There is a pencilled note in the 1910 Inland Revenue Valuation Survey that he bought (3 and 4) Hitchwood Cottages. He then built Nos 5 - 7 Hitchwood Cottages (below) in a style that complimented Lutyen’s cottages in the area.

 

Sources: I am grateful to Richard Seebohm for his family photographs and information and to Penny Causer for her photograph. Sale of Poynders End Farm (1895) HALS; Censuses 1851-1911; ‘Victoria Glenndinning’s Hertfordshire’ ;

1910 Inland Revenue Valuation and 1941 National Farm Survey - The National Archives, Kew; D Frost - ‘History of Preston Cricket Club’; the memories of Harry Hollingsworth; The Times; Preston electoral register - HALS; Evening Post 13 May 1970.

For more background information about the roots of the Seebohm family, I recommend the article prepared for the Hitchin Historical Society in 1994 by Richard Seebohm which can be read at this link: (1) History of the Seebohm family (2) Bibliography.

A report of the death of Hugh’s first wife, Leslie can be found here : Mrs Leslie Seebohm

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