The History of Church Farm


At the meeting of Forncett History Group on 15th November, Mike Merrick, gave an illustrated talk about the history of Church Farm in Low Road, Forncett St Peter. This comprehensive story was made possible only by the foresight of a previous owner, Jill Gilleberg, who lodged the deeds of the property, which date back to 1795, with the Norfolk Record Office. In addition, the Thurston family, who lived at Church Farm for over 70 years, had an extensive collection of family photographs, which was fortuitously saved from destruction by a keen local historian.

The story of Church Farm touches on very many aspects of social history in Forncett over the last two centuries. Church farmhouse was reputedly built in the early 17th century, and we know nothing of its first 100 years, but from 1795 onwards we have a very detailed record. The earliest photograph of the farmhouse is an amateur photo (below) that dates to about 1897 and was probably taken on a very early Pocket Kodak, because the original print is 2" x 1.5". 

Mary Tooley, John Warren Thurston (b.1891), Edith Thurston (née Tooley) outside Church farmhouse

Early 1896 Pocket Kodak with 102 film

Many of the later photographs were taken by Marjorie Thurston who lived at the farmhouse from around 1921 until her death (at the age of 90) in 1990. Marjorie documented family life, work on the farm and her "love affair" with motorcycles and cars from around 1915 onwards. In the 1930s and 40s she used her car to run a local taxi service for the village.

Marjorie Thurston in front of Church Farm

Marjorie and her Morris Cowley Six – November 1938

It was a particular pleasure to have people in the audience who had known Marjorie in her later life, as well as the present owners of the farmhouse who have lived there for the past 20 years and who have done a magnificent job in preserving this historic listed farmhouse. Their presence made for a very lively, enjoyable and informative discussion.

A detailed early history of Church Farm can already be found on the website (here) and in due course more information, and many more of Marjorie's photos covering the later period from 1921 onwards, will be added.