AGM July 2017 and the Trustees’ Report

The Trustees’ Report for 2016 was presented at the AGM of the Farnham Trust at the Garden Gallery, Museum of Farnham on Friday 21st July 2017.

After the formal part of the meeting, there was an excellent illustrated talk from Martin Higgins on Fashion and Tradition in Surrey Timber Framed Buldings. Martin is chairman of the DBRG (Domestic Buildings Research Group) and also County Historic Buildings Officer.

Farnham Trust Trustees Report 2016

Old Yew Tree Cottage Progress May 2017

On Monday 15th May a working party of trustees met at Old Yew Tree Cottage to start tidying the garden. In the two years since the house has been unoccupied the garden had become very overgrown and so we set about cutting back the shrubs, ivy and brambles in preparation for the building work to commence. The cottage is fortunate in having a large garden full of beautiful plants which the Trust would like to save.

In the next few weeks the builders will be coming to the cottage to start some preparatory works.

New Trustees

Are you interested in architecture, and the conservation of older buildings?

The Farnham Buildings Preservation Trust is looking for new trustees. If you have enthusiasm or relevant skills, such as building conservation, construction project and financial management, experience of planning law, or public relations, the Farnham Trust would like to hear from you.

Since its foundation in 1968, the Trust has been responsible for saving many Farnham buildings which would otherwise have disappeared from the street scene. The Trust is a registered charity and a Company Limited by Guarantee. There are currently twelve trustees, working on a voluntary and unpaid basis, who are also Directors of the Company, meeting as a Board once a month. The Trust’s present project is the restoration of Yew Tree Cottage in Wrecclesham, the oldest parts of which date back to 1561. In 2015 when the Trust bought the house, it had not changed hands since the 1950s, and the challenge has been to restore the building sympathetically as a family home without damaging the historic structure and fabric.

This is very interesting and worthwhile work, and if you would like to help as a trustee, please get in touch with us at

Old Yew Tree Cottage Progress October 2016

At the end of August 2016, the Trust got their Planning and Listed Building consents, on target, from Waverley Borough Council. The applications had been very detailed so as to avoid lengthy time and cost in discharging Conditions attached to the consents. We are pleased to state that Waverley have been impressed with our architect’s approach and the Trust’s philosophy, aims and choice of materials (e.g. hand made bricks to match colour and size) which ensured a smoother consideration of the application.

We had also commissioned a full ecological survey and the main finding was, as expected, the presence of Bats. These were Pippistrelle Bats, Britain’s most common species. Their presence will not prevent the works although once we get the new extension to roof level, there will be a need to have a licensed bat handler to be available to provide guidance/instructions. Another recommendation of the ecology report is to retain the high hedge to the front as this provides a good barrier for the bats from the street lights.

We have also had the ground floor chimneys cleaned. Up the chimney in the main living room (the oldest part of the house) nails can be viewed which were used to hang meat to cure.

In September the Farnham Society had an exhibition of paintings by Michael Blower which were for sale to raise funds for the Farnham Society. They were extensive and very good. The Trust acquired one of Old Yew Tree Cottage which we intend to be sold with the cottage with the wish that the painting, along with an information note, remains with the cottage in perpetuity. As an aside, Michael has offered to undertake commissions of people’s houses to raise further funds for the Farnham Society. If interested, please contact him or the Farnham Society.

During September our architects, Stedman Blower, progressed the Tender documents and plans as well as the structural engineering report. These will be required for both the Tender documents and for discharging Building Regulations. In respect of the Building Regulations, we will not be able to meet the current regulations in some areas, e.g. thermal insulation, stairs, but this is accepted by Waverley as it is a Heritage Asset.

Stedman Blower have also approached a number of contractors known to have the skills to work on listed buildings to ascertain their desire to tender and undertake construction in our time scale. We are pleased to report that there are a reasonable number who responded positively. We expect to finalise the engineering report and Tender documents by mid-October when the Tender documents will be issued with a 4-week return period and they will start to discharge conditions and the Building Regulations.

Once Tenders are received back, they will be reviewed and we are likely to have to “Value Engineer”, in other words, look where we can reduce costs without impacting the quality of the heritage work. It may also mean opening up some of the structure to reduce costs risk which will need approval (method and extent) from the Conservation Officer at Waverley BC. We are also aware that when we open up the building, particularly roof timbers, the Domestic Building Research Group wish to access the property again.

Our intention is to get a contract placed to enable a contractor to start on site in January and it is still expected to be a 9 month construction project. With any luck, we will be able to open up Old Yew Tree Cottage for Heritage Open Days 2017 next September. At this point we will be able to implement our exit strategy by putting the property on the market and recouping our outlay ready for the next project.

Verney Lecture 2016

The 2016 Verney Lecture was held in the Barley Room at the Farnham Maltings on Friday 30th September 2016.

An excellent lecture entitled “From Country House to Viceroy’s House, a journey with Sir Edwin Lutyens OM” was given by Martin Lutyens, great-nephew of Sir Edwin and chairman of the Lutyens Trust, covering Sir Edwin’s early life designing many English country houses through to his perhaps greatest role in designing and building New Delhi.

The Verney Memorial Lecture is an annual lecture in memory of Sir John Verney who in 1968 founded the Farnham Building Preservation Trust.

Old Yew Tree Cottage Progress

We applied for planning consent for our proposed alterations for the cottage in July, you can see the details on the Waverley Council Planning website, here and here. We are happy to report our application was successful and that we received permission and listed building consent at the end of August.

On the 8th and 9th September we were pleased to show 60 visitors around the ground floor of the cottage as part of the Farnham Heritage Open Days.

Photo Anne Pullinger

Old Yew Tree Cottage Progress

A further update on the Trust’s recent acquisition, Old Yew Tree Cottage in Wrecclesham.

Our appointed architect continues to develop plans for the property and we have held preliminary discussions with the planning authority but, as mentioned before, we cannot submit the formal application until the results of the Bat Survey are known which cannot be carried out before May.

We have also received the results of the Dendrochronological dating survey (the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree rings) which suggests construction occurred in 1551 or soon after.

To quote from the survey report,

“Yew Tree Cottage consists of two parts. The older, to the north-east, now consists of two bays, but originally it continued south-west, probably forming a 3½ bay, central-smokebay house. The original smoke bay and presumed parlour bay have been replaced by a tall parlour wing of two bays. The old part is timber framed, with jowled posts and arched braces in the framing. Unusually, there are full-height intermediate posts. The roof is halfhipped at the surviving end and of clasped-purlin construction with queen struts and straight windbraces.

Measured tree-ring series from six of the nine timbers sampled are matched together to form a 152-year site chronology which is dated to span AD 1399 to AD 1550. Three precise felling dates in the winter of AD 1550/1 and two in the spring of AD 1551, together with a probable felling date in AD 1449, provide strong evidence that construction occurred in AD 1551, or soon after.

All the timbers sampled were oak. The average age of the trees dated is 104 years. Strong cross-matches with reference chronologies in the local area suggest that the dated timbers came from a local source.”


We know that oak for building was almost always used “green”, (unseasoned, not having been felled and prepared until required), so construction dates can be determined in which we can place considerable confidence.”

Old Yew Tree Cottage Progress

This is a brief update on the Trust’s recent acquisition, Old Yew Tree Cottage in Wrecclesham.

We invited three architectural practices to tender for the work of restoring the house, and we have now appointed Stedman Blower, the well known Farnham firm.

The timing for the project is to submit a planning application in May 2016, with an estimated 8 months to carry out the work. We can’t submit the planning application before May because we have to include a bat survey and because bats hibernate, the season for carrying out these surveys is between 1st May and 31st August.

We have also recently taken 8 core samples of Oak from the oldest part of the house for Dendrochronological dating (the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree rings) and are looking forward to receiving the results early in the new year.

Farnham Trust buys Old Yew Tree Cottage in Wrecclesham

The Farnham (Buildings Preservation) Trust is pleased to announce that they completed the purchase in September 2015 of Old Yew Tree Cottage, a Grade II listed building in the Wrecclesham Conservation Area which is thought to one of the oldest buildings in Wrecclesham, possibly late 16th century although there is a reference to a previous dwelling on the site in 1361.

Yew Tree CottagePhoto Laurence Knight

Our intention is to make a full record of the construction and history of the building, to renovate the property completely and sympathetically, reflecting its listed status and then sell it again as a private dwelling house.

The house was put on the market last March, after the death of the old lady who had lived there since the 1950s, and very little has been done to it in recent years. It will be an exciting project and a challenging one. We hope to be able to find out more about the age of the building, and may be able to date some of the timbers by means of dendrochronological dating, though it is possible that the timbers are not suitable for this process. The Domestic Buildings Research Group did a limited survey in the 1970s, and they hope that they will be able to add to this during the renovation process.

The Trust’s Board has appointed a Project Group of five members to oversee the project, and we are now in the process of carrying out initial surveys and appointing an architect.

Yew Tree Cottage
Yew Tree Cottage
Yew Tree CottagePhotos Laurence Knight

One claim to fame of the cottage is that it was the birthplace of Billy Beldham in 1766, an English professional cricketer known as Silver Billy who is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest batsmen of the sport’s underarm era. There are more details here on Wikipedia.

ytc_Oak_LodgeThe cottage has also been used as a model for the “Oak Lodge” cottage in the Lilliput Lane series of miniature collectible cottages, in their catalogue between 1982 and 1987.

Photo copyright © Graham Weeks aka Alice-Lewis and used with permission.

Preserving Farnham's Heritage