Gerard John Chapman (centre) at Hill Farm, circa 1905

Hill Farm - Forncett End

Hill farmhouse stands on West Road (known locally as Duck's Mud) in Forncett End. It is thought to have been built originally in the 17th or 18th century, at a time when Duck's Mud would have joined Tabernacle Lane to the turnpike near Tollgate Farm (a route still marked today by a footpath). Indeed Frances Davenport's map of Forncett in 1565 suggests that a dwelling existed on the site of Hill farmhouse even then.

Hill Farmhouse - 2006. (Copyright IoE Mrs Caroline Beer. Source Historic England Archive ioe01_15116_08)

The enclosure map of 1817 (below) shows the farm to have been owned by Philip Chasteney who came from a farming family in Tibenham. 

Chasteney died in 1833 and his lands, including the farmhouse, appear to have been bought by William Blomfield, whose son, James, lived close by at Maltings Farm. James also ran the Black Mill on the crossroads in Forncett End. So, by the time that the Tithe records were drawn up in 1839, the Blomfield family owned nearly 100 acres in Forncett End, including both Maltings Farm and Hill Farm. The occupier of Hill Farm would appear to have been John Frost.

In 1849 James Blomfield died of rheumatic fever at the relatively young age of 52, and less than a year later, his father William died, aged 75. Both are buried in St. Peter's churchyard in Forncett. James' wife, Sarah Blomfield, continued to run the farm for a while and in 1851 Sarah was listed as farming 300 acres and employing 12 men. So, it seems likely that the Blomfields still owned Hill Farm. However, by 1861 Sarah Blomfield had retired from farming and many of her interests, including the Black Mill, had been sold.

As Hill Farm is not identified in the census returns it is very difficult to be certain who was living there for the next few years. Around 1863 James Spratt took over the running of the Black Mill and by 1871 he was living at Maltings Farm. Nearby, most probably at Hill Farm, George Lloyd, who was born in Forncett St Peter in 1812, was farming 22 acres and employing 2 men. In 1881 the nearby farm was occupied by James Williams (born in Bracon Ash in 1837) who was farming 32 acres and employing 2 men, and in 1891 James' widow, Eliza, was running the farm. Around this time, the 1883 O.S. map (below) shows Hill Farm to have been quite extensive with large outbuildings to the east of the farmhouse.

Soon after 1891 Hill Farm appears to have been brought by Thomas Chapman, a farmer from Fundenhall, who is listed as farming in Forncett in Kelly's Directory of 1892. Thomas Chapman also ran the post office and shop in Fundenhall, and in 1893 Thomas's son, Gerard, married Ellen Clapham who was an assistant in the shop. Gerard and Ellen then moved to Hill Farm and over the next twelve years they had six children, Claud, Gerard, Hugh, Emily, John and Rita.  

Sadly, Gerard John Chapman died in August 1908, aged only 41. His wife, Ellen, sold the farm in 1909 and moved with her children to Carleton Rode. A report of the farm sale gives a very clear picture of the livestock (including 14 horses), wagons etc. that were owned by the Chapman family.

The farm was bought by William Watling who had been born in Forncett St Peter in 1860. The Watling family ran Hill Farm for over two decades with William's son, Harold, taking over from his father in the later years. However, William Watling died in 1932, and in 1933 the farm was again put up for sale.

The Farm (of 91 acres) was sold to a Henry Jessup from East Carleton for £1000 but it seems likely that the farm was purchased for his daughter, Ellen Jessup, and son-in-law, Thomas Lord. Thomas Lord was born in Mulbarton in 1876 and he married Ellen Beatrice Jessup in 1901. At the time of their marriage Thomas's family were farming at Carleton Rode and Ellen was a servant at Carleton Rode rectory. Over the next 35 years Thomas and Ellen ran many different farms in the locality. In 1933 they were farming at Whitehouse Farm in Tacolneston but by 1939 they had moved to Lime Tree Farm in Forncett End.

The Lord family about 1918. L-R (back) Frank, Ernie, Tom; (front) Grace, Ellen, Violet

In 1922 one of Thomas Lord's daughters, Ellen Edith Lord, had married Gerard Philip Chapman and, although Thomas Lord is listed as the farmer at Hill Farm in 1933 and 1937, it would appear that Gerard and Ellen moved to Hill Farm in 1933. So, the wheel had turned full circle because Gerard Philip Chapman was back at the farmhouse that he had left 30 years earlier when his father died. 

Gerard Philip Chapman ran Hill Farm until sometime in the 1950s when he took over Lime Tree Farm from his father-in-law, Tom Lord. 

The new occupants were Eric and Sylvia Taylor who had previously farmed near East Winch in north Norfolk. Around 1960 the farm was bought by Harold Thorndyke, son of James Thorndyke who lived at Homestead Farm in Forncett St. Mary. Eric Taylor then worked for Harold until his retirement in around 1981. 

Eric Taylor

Soon after 1981, Harold Thorndyke sold the farm and the farmhouse and built a new bungalow next door, where he and his wife, Norah, lived until 1985. The old farm outbuildings were subsequently demolished and three new houses were built on the site between 1986 and 1988.

With thanks to the Chapman family, Paul Gardner, Su Leavesley and Graham Prior for help in researching this page.