Maltings Farm - Forncett End

Maltings Farm is at the eastern end of West Road in Forncett End. It is a timber-framed farmhouse thought to date from the 17th century and was faced in red brick during the 19th century. For nearly all of the last two hundred years the farm was run by just three families. The Blomfields, the Spratts and the Smiths. The Blomfields and the Spratts were millers as well as farmers, and the farm almost certainly takes its name from the malt house that was located there.

The 1817 map of Forncett shows the farm belonging to James Blomfield (1739-1820) who was a baker and miller from Tacolneston. He also owned the Black Mill that stood at the crossroads on the Old Buckenham to Norwich turnpike. It is likely that in 1817 the occupant of Maltings Farm was James Blomfield's son, William (1775-1850).

By 1839, when the Forncett tithe map was produced, ownership of Maltings Farm had passed to William Blomfield but he had moved to Necton near Swaffham and the farm was occupied by his son James Blomfield jnr. (1797-1849). The plot is recorded as comprising "house, malthouse and yards" and it is undoubtedly the malting activity that gave the farm its name. The 1841 census listed the occupants of Maltings Farm as being James Blomfield and his family (wife Sarah and daughter, Hannah, age 6), Issac Hunt, journeyman miller (age 25) and Charles Leighton (19) apprentice to the miller.

James Blomfield died in 1849, but in 1851 his wife, Sarah, was still at Maltings Farm and listed as a farmer of 300 acres employing 12 men. In 1853 some of the Blomfield estate, including Lakes Farm in Tacolneston, the mill and various other land and cottages was put up for auction, but this didn't include Maltings Farm. However, in 1864 Sarah Blomfield appears to have decided to sell all the remaining estate, and the auction included "A valuable farm, 86 acres, 3 roods, 4 perch, fine arable and pasture land, with good farmhouse and buildings, in the occupation of Mr. James Spratt as yearly tentant." 

Norfolk Chronicle 10th September 1864

In 1861 James Spratt was living at Lakes Farm in Tacolneston, so between 1861 and 1864 he and his family (his wife Rebecca and their eight children) had moved into Maltings Farm where he lived for the next 30 years. In 1867 he appears to have bought the Black Mill from Miles Blomfield (Sarah Blomfield's brother-in-law) and it seems that at some point he also bought Maltings Farm. By 1871 James Spratt was farming 176 acres and employing 6 men and 2 boys, and by 1881 his lands had grown to 538 acres, employing 18 men and 3 boys. This wasn't just at Maltings Farm, as James Spratt also owned farms in Fundenhall and Tacolneston. At some time between 1864 and 1873 James Spratt also appears to have opened a shop at Maltings Farm. He may well have used it to sell flour or malt from his milling activities. 

Mr. Spratt's former shop front at Maltings Farm
Mr. Spratt's former shop front at Maltings Farm

However, by 1873 the shop was not in use and at a meeting chaired by the Rev W G Wilson (12 others present). "It was unanimously agreed that the vacant shop belonging to Mr Spratt be hired for the purpose of an Infant School at Forncett End, to accommodate 25 young children under 8 years of age, at an annual rent of £7 to commence on the 1st of April next...". The school ran here at Maltings Farm until 1892 when it moved to the Baptist Chapel school room in Tabernacle Lane.

1884 OS map showing Maltings Farm and the school

James Spratt died in 1895 and his estate was put up for sale by his son, Robert. Two farms; Pegg Farm in Fundenhall and Phillippo's Farm in Tacolneston were auctioned off but Maltings Farm (120 acres arable, 16 acres of pasture) appears to have been let rather than sold.

It's not clear who was living at the farm in 1901, but by 1911 the new occupant was Walter John Smith who was born in Tacolneston where his father, Robert, farmed about 48 acres. Walter married Clara Humphreys from Forncett in 1883 and their descendants have run Maltings Farm ever since.

Walter Smith was not only a farmer he was also a carrier. Initially he used a horse and cart for his business but in 1916 he started a bus service from Forncett to Norwich three days a week. His service ran until at least 1930 and when he finally discontinued the service he used the body in his farmyard as an office for the Independent Order of Oddfellows. Smith was local secretary of this friendly society, a means of insuring against sickness etc. in the days before Social Security.

Walter's son Reginald (Reggie) took over the running of the farm when his father retired. Reggie married Jessie Ludkin (daughter of Henry Ludkin) in 1920 and they had four sons and a daughter. Their eldest three sons Stanley, Donald and Gerald all worked on the farm once they were old enough.