Alborough Farm - Forncett St Peter

Alborough Farm, on Mill Road in Forncett St. Peter, is named after the Alborough family who built the farmhouse and farmed there for around fifty years. There is also a house called Alborough House on Stickfer Lane in Forncett St. Mary which was almost certainly built by the same family.

The oldest known Alborough ancestor in Forncett is William Alborough, who died in Forncett St Mary in December 1812. William married Susanna Goodrum in Forncett in 1778 and they had four children; John (1781-1857), Jeremiah (1784-1871), Susanna (1788-1840) and William (1791-1871). [One of John Alborough's sons emigrated from Forncett to Natal in 1855, travelling with the Reverend John Colenso. There is consequently also a branch of the Alborough family in South Africa.]

It was William Alborough (1791-1871) who founded Alborough Farm. William was a carpenter, and in 1814 he married Abigail Elliot from Tharston. The couple and their family (they had ten children) lived in a rented cottage at the very northern boundary of Forncett St Mary, on what is now known as Loughen Common. 

1882 OS map showing the cottage where the Alborough family lived in 1850

In 1850, the electoral roll records William (then aged 59) still living in that cottage, but a year later they had left. The 1851 census records William as a carpenter and a farmer of 32 acres employing three men; so, it would appear that he had "gone up in the world"! The census suggests that the family was now living at what is today called Alborough House on Stickfer Lane. At this time, William and Abigail's two elder sons, George and Jeremiah were still both living at home and were working as carpenters.

The 1852 electoral roll also lists William as having land at Forncett Common (the common beyond Forncett End). Furthermore, his sons George and Jeremiah now also appear on the roll. George was a freeholder of a house and land in Forncett St. Peter "near the church"; this was almost certainly the newly-built Alborough farmhouse on Mill Road. Jeremiah was also a freeholder of a house and land in Forncett St. Peter at "North Field". So, between 1850 and 1852 the family seems to have come into considerable wealth, and it is not at all clear where this might have come from. William's father had died in 1812 and was presumably not a wealthy man, and there was no apparent change in the circumstances of any other relatives.

Alborough House

William and Abigail Alborough lived at Alborough House in Forncett St. Mary for the rest of their lives. William farmed around 10 acres of land there until he died in 1871 and Abigail then continued to run the farm until she died in May 1880.  

Alborough House farm - OS map 1883. The boundaries of the two fields that comprised the farm remain unchanged today.

Shortly after Abigail's death, her sons, George and Jeremiah, put Alborough House and its land up for sale. The auction was held at the Safety Valve public house near the station.

Norfolk News 17th July 1880

Alborough Farm

1883 OS map showing Alborough Farm

George Alborough farmed at Alborough Farm from 1852 until his death in 1896 (age 82). The farm grew from the initial 32 acres and at and at its peak in 1881 he was farming 65 acres and employing 2 men and a boy. George's executrix was his widowed daughter, Rebecca, and he left an estate of £312 6s. George's wife, Jane, continued to live with Rebecca at Alborough Farm until her death in 1903. Rebecca then moved to Yarmouth where she married again in 1919. She died three years later.

It's not clear what happened to Alborough Farm after Jane Alborough's death, but in 1939 the occupiers were two brothers and a sister; Frederick, Arthur and Ellen Coleman. They had previously farmed with their mother, Ann, near English's stores on Low Road (at a farmhouse now called The Homestead). The Colemans were related to the Alborough family, in that their maternal grandmother was Mary Alborough (1813-1886). All three Coleman children never married and they lived at Alborough Farm until at least 1950, when Ellen Coleman died. Frederick moved to live in Bunwell, but his executor in 1953 was the farm foreman suggesting that they probably owned the farm until that date.

In the early 2000s Alborough Farm was the home of the Henman family; Brian, Evelyn and son Vaughan, who came from Essex. The Henmans ran an illegal car business from the farm which became littered with scrap cars. 

Vaughan (left) and Brian Henman at Alborough Farm

Their activities led to much local protest and finally to a court order requiring the site to be cleared. Photographs published in the EDP showed Vaughan Henman in an ugly confrontation with council officials.

Vaughan Henman arguing with council officials

The Henmans' cars were finally cleared from the farm and they left. The house then stood empty for some years before it was bought by a local developer in 2008. At this time the house was in a very poor state of repair.

Alborough farmhouse around 2008

The farmhouse was then converted to its present-day form and it is once more a private dwelling. Many of the old farm outbuildings have gone but the main house retains much of the character of that originally constructed by the Alborough family more than 150 years ago.

With particular thanks to Peter Schmidt-Hansen for help in researching this page