Corner Farm - Forncett End
Corner Farmhouse, as its name implies, stands on the junction between Long Stratton Road and Northfield Road, providing an attractive landmark at the eastern boundary of Forncett End. The L-shaped, timber-framed house is believed to date to the 17th century and most of the house is externally rendered, although the west wing has a stepped brick gable and the northern end is brick faced. Until the late 1980s a 17th or 18th century timber-framed barn stood close by.
The early owners of Corner Farm are difficult to trace but the 1817 map of Forncett shows the farmhouse and much of the surrounding land to be owned by Thomas Palmer. Palmer was born around 1762 in Mattishall, Norfolk. He married Hannah Bayes in 1784 and they had eleven children, most of whom were born in Bunwell, but only three girls and one boy lived to adulthood. Thomas Palmer moved to Forncett around 1810 and the Palmer family were then major landowners in Forncett for nearly 100 years. By 1839, the tithe map for Forncett shows that he owned some 124 acres and his son, John Palmer, owned 72 acres including Chestnut Farm in Forncett End.
1817 map of Fornett End showing Corner Farm - courtesy of Norfolk Record Office
In the 1841 census, Thomas Palmer had been joined at Corner Farm by his grandson, Thomas Palmer jnr., aged 21. By 1851 Thomas snr. was a "retired farmer" aged 90 and Thomas jnr. had clearly taken over the farm, as he was listed as a farmer of 100 acres employing four men. Thomas snr. died in December 1851 and was buried in Bunwell.
Thomas Palmer jnr. appears to have run Corner Farm until about 1867 when a sale of stock noted that he had let his farm.
Norfolk News 24 Aug 1867
This date coincides with Thomas Palmer's move from farmer to philanthropist. In October 1865 he had funded the construction of a new Methodist Church in Forncett End and it seems likely that about this time he moved from Corner Farm to the newly-built Austhorpe House.
From this time onwards Corner Farm was apparently run by a series of tenant farmers. In 1871 the farm was home to John Ludkin (born in Bunwell in 1823) and his family. It was now some 225 acres and employed 8 men and 3 boys. In 1881 and 1891 the tenant was John Waters (born in Strumpshaw in 1827) and in 1901 the tenant was William Knott (born in Watton in 1834).
However, in 1883 Thomas Palmer suffered a serious stroke that left him paralysed and confined to bed for the rest of his life, and from that point onwards, his farm was managed by his sister's brother, Edward Betts, who was himself a farmer in Great Moulton.
When Thomas Palmer died in 1903 he left the majority of his estate to Edward Betts and the will was strongly disputed by Thomas's half brother, William Palmer. In 1905, following a widely reported court case, the judge found in favour of Betts, who therefore inherited Corner Farm. However, it seems likely that Edward Betts' death five years later precipitated the sale of the farm.
At some time between 1911 and 1914 Corner Farm was bought by William Thurston. William's father (also called William) started farming in Forncett End and then moved to Silfield where he farmed (probably at Bixley Farm on Silfield Road) for the rest of his life. William Thurston jnr. was born in Silfield in 1876 and at the age of 27 he married Louisa Orris whose father, Alfred Orris, farmed at Lime Tree Farm in Forncett End.
William and Louisa Thurston - around 1900
Initially William and Louisa ran a small farm on Silfield Street, but around 1914 they moved to Forncett End to run Corner Farm, next door to Louisa's family at Lime Tree Farm. Like many farming families, the Thurstons were very active in the Methodist church. William was a Junior Steward on the Wymondham Circuit and he was mentioned in an article in the Christian Messenger in 1922:
"Mr. William Thurston, Junr., a man of striking personality and distinctive quality of mind. A working farmer, who in his busy life finds time to read good literature and, living as he does in close touch with nature, is able to vivify his thought with the best of all illustrations. A preacher and a leader of young people, President of the Local Free Church Council, solid and reliable, sympathetic and sensible, one wonders what the rural side of our circuit would do without his wise and kindly guidance."
The Thurstons had five children, May, Lilian, Edward and twins Henry and John. May, Henry and John all worked on the farm, whilst Edward became a teacher and Lilian married Norman Humphreys who drove buses for his father's firm in Forncett. The boys were keen village cricket players in the 30s. They hosted the Forncett matches in a field at Corner Farm and tales of much village rivalry were told in the family. Ted and Harry also played hockey for Norfolk.
The Thurston family photo album provides a fascinating insight into life
at Corner Farm in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Thurston Family - about 1926
Rear of Corner Farm
Horse and Pond, Corner Farm
Farmyard - Corner Farm
Lime Tree Farm from Corner Farm
Harry at Lime Tree Farm
William Thurston and Fordson Model F Tractor
Harry and Jack cutting crop
Ted, Harry and Jack - about 1923
William Thurston bringing in the sheaves
William Thurston, farm workers, Harry and Jack
In December 1990 Edward Thurston (aged 80) recorded an interview with his daughter, Patricia, in which he reminisced about life on the farm in the 1920s. Some extracts from that recording can be found below:
Louisa Thurston died in 1936 and four years later William married her sister, Selina, who had been widowed for over 20 years. At this time William retired from farming, left Corner Farm, and moved to live with Selina at The Horseshoes in Forncett End. William died in 1958 and Selina died in 1965
Corner Farm was taken over by Frederick William Woodcock.
With particular thanks to Trish Bright (nee Thurston) and Bill Thurston for their invaluable help in researching this page.