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Delving into the history of a grand farmhouse
10:00am Saturday 1st October 2011 in Stephen Nunn
Buy this photo » Delving into the history of a grand farmhouse
Located off Main Road, on the outskirts of the ancient farming parish of Mundon, Limbourne Park Farm House is a fascinating, if somewhat enigmatic grade-II listed building.
Nestling at the end of a grand, tree-lined avenue, it sits sedately in what appears to be all its porticoed Georgian grandeur.
However, that deceiving façade of gault brick in Flemish bond, complete with a range of broad sash windows and a roof of hand-made red clay tiles, hides a much older, and more complex story.
There is no doubt that the property was refronted towards the close of the 18th century, as a brick with a corresponding date of 1793 has recently been rediscovered within part of its fabric.
Inside there is an impressive, classical late-18th century stairway with stick balusters, wreathed rosewood handrail, with a beautiful inlaid six-pointed star and fretted tread-ends.
So perhaps it isn’t that complex after all – one of a number of Essex yeoman farmers’ homes, built during the reign of George III (1760-1820).
But that clearly isn’t right because if you look more closely, the clues suddenly come thick and fast.
Other parts, mainly at the rear of the house, contain timberframing and plaster that is a good hundred years earlier – of around the mid to late 17th century.
There is even a curious wall painting of a winged cherub’s face from the same era. Not only that, but on three sides of the structure there is what appears to be an incomplete and much older rectangular “homestead moat”.
And what of the strange placename itself – Limbourne?
It is recorded as Lymbourne on a rental dated 1526, and it has been suggested that the site was possibly associated with a man called John de Lymbourne.
According to the Subsidy Rolls, John was around as early as 1327 and he carried what we now know as a locative byname – he was literally “of Lymbourne”.
Not far away, snaking off the salty River Blackwater, is Limbourne Creek and John probably lived somewhere near that inlet and adopted it as his surname.
There is other evidence to suggest that the centre of the village of Mundon gradually moved from the creeks and marshlands to the area around the inn.
Contrary to popular belief, the creek-name has nothing at all to do with lime burning, but derives from the ancient British word “lim”, linked to the Old- English “burna” – the “lime-tree brook’.
It appears in the written record in 1276, but must be even earlier than that. Indeed, it even features in Maldon’s oldest known Charter of 1171 as a boundary point described as Limburne.
So could the rear section, the farmhouse, actually date from John de Lymbourne’s migration inland? The moat would support that idea.
And so, are some of those old timbers really as early as the 14th century? Or do they perhaps date from the time of that 16th-century rental? Only dendro- chronology, or tree-ring dating, will confirm the true date of those gnarled old beams.
What we do know is that, like the house, the associated “park”
or farmlands have changed considerably in size and shape over the succeeding years.
The 1805 Ordnance Survey shows the then extent of the estate and, curiously, calls the place Limdon. Some 215 acres were then sold off in 1834 on behalf of the trustees and executors of one James Whitehead.
That parcel of land passed to Mr Hart, of Woodham Mortimer Hall, who, in turn, was involved in a deed of covenant to Charles George Parker the following year.
However, William Henry Hart is listed as the owner/farmer of Limbourne in 1841 and 1851. The Perry family were there throughout the 1860s to 1880s, employing six men and two boys, working 248 acres. By 1891, the Hendry brothers from Scotland, John and Henry, were there growing wheat and barley in the acres of clay soil.
The house was uninhabited at the time of the 1901 Census, but the owner of Limbourne Park shortly afterwards looks to have been a Mr G A Wilson and he applied for a temporary iron cottage to be built on the farm later that year.
Moving the clock forward to 1908, and Edward Frederick Home of the hunt: The Limbourne Beagles in the 1920s.
Picture courtesy of Shirley Carr and her History of The Essex Farmers’ and Union Hunt On the map: A section of the 1898 Ordnance Survey showing Limbourne Creek top and the park bottom.
Worn lived there, but by 1912 the grandly named William Purnell Lambert was the resident farmer.
We are told that from 1915 to 1921 the well-known Fitch family (also once of Brick House Farm, Maldon) were at Limbourne.
In 1921, the Simpson family moved in. During their tenure, in 1926, a bungalow called The Grove was sold on behalf of the late Willifred Norrell and, yet again, the site was described as “formerly part of the Limbourne Park Estate”.
In that same year, the Limbourne Beagles was formed, a privately owned pack that was kennelled at the park. They hunted twice a week until they were disbanded on the outbreak of the Second World War.
In 1940/1941, Mapledean Farm and Crosby Croft, were then also sold off separately.
In more recent times, the Carr family purchased the estate in 1969 and has farmed Limbourne, as well as adjacent Butterfields and Lawling Hall, ever since.
Limbourne Lodge was disposed of separately in 1998, but the underlying shape of the Park Farm and, of course, the grand old house itself carry on in a time-honoured pattern of agricultural heritage and continuity.
And who knows, we could even be looking at a place that has been continuously ploughed and occupied since the time of John de Lymbourne all those centuries ago.