A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
Preston Farms: Temple Farm
Temple Farm was located near Temple Dinsley and was part of its estate. In the nineteenth century it sprawled between the three parishes of Ippollitts (to the north), Hitchin and Kings Walden. It occupied around 230 acres.
Land associated with Temple Farm in Ippollitts Parish in 1873
Notes: Parts of two named fields are in different divisions of land (ie Leggatts Dale). One division includes five named fields Being on an chalk escarpment, there were a number of springs on Temple Land, the water from which would have been welcomed by the farmers..
Land associated with Temple Farm in Hitchin and Kings Walden Parishes in 1873
There was a distinction between land farmed from Temple Farm and land owned by the Temple Dinsley Estate. So, for example, to the north of Eight Acres (15, above) there was a field called ‘California’ which was part of the Estate, but not of Temple Farm. Possibly because of this distinction, the acreage assigned to Temple Farm fluctuated during the nineteenth century: 1861, 239 acres; 1871, 236 acres; 1873, 203 acres (which included a small amount of woodland) ; 1881, 222 acres. In 1873, the farmhouse was described as being ‘comfortable’ and built of brick and tile. It consisted of a hall, two sitting rooms, a scullery, a cellar, a dairy, five bedrooms and a store room. The farmyard (which straddled the Ippollitts/Hitchin parish border) included two barns, a cart horse stable, an open shed, an implement and cart shed, a chaff house, a granary, a loose box, a nag stable, a coach house enclosing two spacious cattle yards. It was said to be in a good state of repair.
The plan above shows Temple Farm in 1898 (ringed; the farm house presumably is to the north). Note its proximity to Temple Dinsley and the nearby ponds. It was approached not from the drive to the mansion but by a separate track from Crunnells Green.
Additions to Temple Farm by Lutyens
The photograph above shows Lutyens’ additions to Temple Farm. This is the only extant photograph of the farm. He also designed a piggery which still stands today, as shown by the second photograph below. This is a listed building and described as ‘red brick in flemish-bond with steep pyramidal handmade red tile roof. A small square single-storey building with stable door in middle of NW side. Half-round ridge tiles to hips. Central small window on SE side lower half blocked. Eaves project about one foot in middle of NE side. An important landscape feature, in view of the mansion from the park.’ From about 1929, the piggery was used as a pumping station of water supplied from Temple Dinsley to Home Farm, Crunnells Green House, Kiln Wood Cottage and Hitchwood Cottages. This was still operating in 1945, but had been discontinued by 1975.
Above: Top, piggery c1913; Middle, piggery 2011; Bottom, herd of cows at Temple Farm c1913
Tenant farmers at Temple Farm from 1801
1801 The census notes J Harwood (a farmer with five in his household) immediately after the entry for Temple Dinsley. This was corroborated in 1807 and may indicate that J (Joseph?) was the tenant farmer at Temple Farm. A Joseph Harwood (baptised 1765 at Barkway, Herts) was Thomas Harwood’s nephew, and it was Thomas who inherited Temple Dinsley. However, this information should be treated cautiously. 1825 By now, John Forster was farming at Temple Farm. His details can be found at this link: John Forster. He remained there until around 1845 when he moved to Offley. On 26 September 1845, there was a sale advertised of live and dead farming stock and brewing utensils at Temple Farm, Preston – comprising eight cart and nag horses, twelve cows, heifers and sturke, a fat calf, 60 sheep, two fat hogs, 60 head of swine, carts, ploughs, harrows, two scarifiers, agricultural implements. Sold by direction of the proprietor who is quitting the farm. 1846 The Rate Book reveals that William Pallet was at Temple Farm in 1846. In 1851,William and Sarah Pallett were farming there. William was born in around 1800 at Aston, Herts. The couple had two servants and two maids: Mary Brown, 15, born Ippollitts and Elizabeth Breed, 25, born Ickleford. Also in their household were Charles Day, a horse keeper, and Thomas Smith, a thirty-eight-year-old shepherd. There are several indications that sheep were farmed here as well as crops. On Thursday, 2 September 1852, Martha Farr of Thistley Farm, near Gosmore was taken before John Curling Esq. charged with stealing on or about 5 August a silver dessert spoon the property of Mr William Pallett at the Temple Farm, Preston where the prisoner had been charing. The evidence being conclusive, she was committed for trial. Bail was accepted. William Pallet was still at Temple Farm on 6 July 1854 when, as a widower, he married the widow Anne Whiteley. By 1861 they had moved to Stoke Newington, London where he was trading as a cotton and linen merchant. 1861 Edward and Alice Bird were at Temple Farm. Edward, 27, was born in Cambridgeshire and employed five men and three boys. In the household were the Preston youngsters, Harriet Bottoms (18) maid, and plough-boy, Richard Crawley (14). The Bird’s nursemaid was Emily Day (13) who was born at Aylott, Herts. Edward and Alice were still at the farm in 1867, as in the January of that year, William Crew and Richard Crawley were charged with poaching on land on the occupation of Mr Bird of Preston. The evidence not being sufficient, the case was dismissed. But by 1871, the Birds had flown north to Salford, Lancashire, where Edward was a meat inspector. 1870 Temple Farm was now occupied by George Frederick Pigott and his wife Mary (nee Willmott). Three men and four boys helped them work the farm. George was born in 1838 at Woodside, Caddington, near Luton in Bedfordshire, while Mary was born even nearer to Preston at Sandon Green, Herts. The couple married at St Albans in 1863 and had at least seven children, five of whom were born at Preston between 1871 and 1880. George leased the farm for fourteen years from 29 September 1870 at an annual rent of £327 14s 0d. A clause was inserted into the agreement that he would leave the lease on payment of £700, however this was not insisted on by the Pryors who bought the Temple Dinsley Estate in 1873. There were two news reports in 1883 that featured George Pigott. ‘On the farm of Mr Pigott of Preston (Temple Farm) 15 sheep were injured and three killed.’ ALLEGED FALSE PRETENCES BY HARVEST-MEN AT PRESTON. William Cherry, 53 labourer (on bail) was indicted for obtaining two gallons of beer and one pint of brandy on false pretences from Robert Gosney at Preston on 29 August. Gosney stated that he keeps the Red Lion Inn at Preston and on the morning of the 29 August prisoner went to his house and asked for a gallon of beer and half a pint of brandy value 3s 4d, saying he was working for Mr Pigott (of Temple Farm, Preston), a farmer whose beer had gone bad and he had therefore sent him for it. In the afternoon the prisoner again went to the house and asked for the same quantity of beer and brandy saying it was Mr Pigott and he would make it all right. On the faith of these statements, witness let him have the liquor. Pigott, farmer of Preston, stated that he did not now the prisoner and consequently had never given him the authority to get the liquor in his name. Prisoner said Herbert Reynolds fetched the beer and brandy in the morning and he (prisoner) fetched it in the afternoon and said it was to be charged to the same person as in the morning, but Mr Pigott’s name was never mentioned and he did not even know of his existence’. Although George and Mary were at Temple Farm in 1886 (when the religious survey noted they were Anglicans and a son was also living at the farm) it appears that Mary died at St Albans in March 1889 and by 1891 Temple Farm was in the hands of their son, Alfred George Pigott. (George died on 15 June 1910 at St Leonards on Sea. He was residing at Tennyson Road, Harpenden. Alfred was an executor of his estate which amounted to £20,721. Alfred Pigott was born in around 1866 at Sandon Green and married Ellen Mary Kirkby at Bishops Stortford in early 1897. In 1891, Alfred had Elizabeth Field as his housekeeper and Edward Tanguary, a curate at St Mary’s, Hitchin as a lodger. In July 1898, Alfred was taken to task by the Preston School headmistress for employing school boys - although he was a school manager. She ominously wrote, ‘I have spoken about it’. By 1901, Alfred and Ellen had two children who were born at Preston and their household included two gardeners. In that year a labourer was found guilty of setting fire to one of Alfred’s stacks. SETTING FIRE TO A STACK AT PRESTON February 9, 1901. William Andrews (45) labourer, pleaded guilty to an indictment for setting fire to a stack of wheat, the property of Alfred George Pigott at Preston on 31 January. Mr Earle, who prosecuted said that the prisoner had set fire to and destroyed a stack worth £75. (The prisoner was seen near to the stack a little while before the fire broke out. Being charged, he said “I did set fire to it. Don’t know what made me do it”. The prisoner, it seemed, had worked a few days for Mr Pigott a few months ago.) It was only fair to say that had not the prisoner admitted his guilt, there would have been some difficult in tracing the culprit. The police in reply to his Lordship said they knew nothing against the prisoner except that he was discharged from the Army 20 years ago for committing a felony. The learned judge, in passing sentence of 12 months hard labour said he had been guilty of one of the most wicked things he could do. Mr Earle said that it had just come to his knowledge that the prisoner had an accident some two years ago and had been queer in his head ever since. Supt. Reynolds having verified this statement, his Lordship said he must take it into consideration and he should reduce the sentence to one of six months hard labour. Alfred vacated the farm sometime between 1903 and 1906 and moved to a farm near St Albans. He died on 15 December 1934 while living at 15 Ringmont Road, St Albans. His estate was valued at £8,012. 1910. William James Brightman was in residence at Temple Farm. However, by the following year, he had moved to Avenue Farm at Gosmore. He died on 25 February 1920 leaving an estate of £13,017. From 1912, the farmhouse appears to have been divided between two families (although in 1915, the Temple Dinsley Estate manager, Reginald J W Dawson, was also living there before his move to Crunnells Green House). There were the Whites, Arthur Wilson and Mary and the Dartons. No connection between this family of Dartons and the Dartons who owned Temple Dinsley has been found. Harry/Henry Darton was born at Ardeley, Herts in 1874 and was the son of agricultural labourer, William Darton. The couple had three sons, William (Willie) Alfred Darton (born 1900 at Ardeley), Charles (Charlie) Ernest Darton (born 1902 in the Hitchin registration district) and Reginald Darton (born 1912). All three sons feature in the history of the Preston Cricket team. (see link: Dartons and cricket) They also had a daughter, Winifred Darton who was born at Little Hill End, Preston in 1910. The Whites and the Dartons are recorded on the electoral register as being at Temple Farm from 1912 until at least 1930.
When was Temple Farm demolished?
Mrs Maybrick’s History of Preston states that two Preston farms were demolished during the time Douglas Vickers was at Temple Dinsley. Vickers left Preston in 1929 and as shown above, Temple Farm was still standing in 1929 at the latest when details for the 1930 electoral roll were collected. The farm is not shown on the 1945 map of Preston. Today, the only evidence of Temple Farm is the piggery which is plainly visible from the gates at Crunnells Green.