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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 The original smoke bay and presumed parlour bay have been replaced by a tall parlour wing of two bays.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.

AGM June 2015 and the Trustees’ Report

The Trustees’ report for 2014 was presented at the AGM of the Farnham Trust at the Garden Gallery, Museum of Farnham on Friday 19th June 2015.

The Chairman opened his address with the sad news that Bob Parks, a long serving Trustee and supporter of this Trust, had passed away.

This year has been quiet on the projects front but we stand ready to act when a suitable project presents itself.

We were pleased to receive a bequest from the estate of Beryl McKay, due to her love of the buildings of Farnham. The Trust will find an appropriate use for it that she would be pleased with.

We have continued with our bursary to Sam Taylor, woodworker, who is now studying for NVQ level 3 in Wood Occupations.

On the grants front, we have made grants to The Deadwater Valley Trust for Walldown Earthworks, to the Rural life Centre in respect of their original cycle repair workshop and to St Leonards Church at Hartley Mauditt. This is in addition to our promised contribution to the publication of the book about our founder, Sir John Verney.

Our Verney lectures continued with a talk in March on the Eden Project in Cornwall, given by the co-founder architect Jonathan Ball. I was pleased to note that the numbers were up this year and look forward to the year we manage to pack the Great Hall at the Maltings.

After the Chairman’s address, there was a talk by Julian Pooley, the archivist in charge of Public Services at the Surrey History Centre.

Farnham Trust Trustees Report 2014

The Verney Memorial Lecture 2015

The founding of the Eden Project, an illustrated lecture by
Co-founder of the Eden Project

Millions of people have visited the internationally acclaimed Eden Project in Cornwall, which has been called the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was created by two inspirational people, Tim Smit, the owner of Heligan Gardens, and Cornish architect Jonathan Ball, as a Millennium Project and landmark attraction for Cornwall. They had an extraordinary vision, born in the course of an amazing six-hour conversation in September 1994: to create the largest greenhouses on Planet Earth to tell the story of the great plant hunters, and to create a museum of plant history.

On Friday 27th March 2015 we had the opportunity to hear from co-founder Jonathan Ball about the eventful six years which led up to the opening of the project, at a lecture entitled “Everyman’s Eden”, held at the Farnham Maltings. The lecture was organised by the Farnham Building Preservation Trust as the second in the trust’s new series of Verney Memorial Lectures.

Jonathan Ball, who describes himself as first and foremost a Cornishman, is a distinguished architect who was appointed MBE for services to architecture in 1992. He was installed as a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedh in 2002, served on the crew of Bude Lifeboat for 25 years and was President of Surf Life Saving Great Britain from 2001 to 2009.

The lecture also included an opportunity to see displays illustrating many of the important conservation projects undertaken by the Farnham Trust in the 47 years since its foundation in 1968.

Inaugural Verney Memorial Lecture, March 2014

On the 21st March, the Trust held the inaugural Verney Memorial Lecture, an annual lecture in memory of Sir John, at the Farnham Maltings.

The lecture, given by Dr. Steven Brindle of English Heritage, was entitled “The Fire and Restoration of Windsor Castle 1992 – 1997” .

Sir John Verney Centenary Lunch, October 2013

On Saturday 5th October 2013 at the Farnham Pottery, Lady Jan Verney was the guest of honour at a very special lunch party held  at the Farnham Pottery.  The occasion, hosted by the Farnham Building Preservation Trust, was part of the celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Sir John Verney, Bt, MC, TD, 1913-1993, distinguished soldier, writer, artist and conservationist, who lived in Farnham from 1944 to 1977.  There were over 100 specially invited guests present, including a large group of the Verney family representing four generations, as well as many of the people who had known and worked with John Verney in Farnham.

Sir John Verney Lunch
Lady Jan Verney with her son, daughters and grandsons, accompanied by Alan Windsor, Michael Blower (president of the Farnham Trust), the Mayor of Farnham, and Martin Lloyd (chairman of the Farnham Trust).
Photo by David Fisher, Aldershot and Farnham Camera Club.

John Verney’s work as an ardent conservationist had a very great influence in Farnham and had it not been for him, many buildings which are treasured today as part of the town’s exceptional architectural heritage might no longer exist.  He was a man who devoted himself to the service of his fellow citizens, and he left Farnham with friends in every walk of life.

He was a chairman of the Farnham Society, and in 1968 he founded the Farnham Building Preservation Trust, which in its 45 years of existence has saved many important Farnham buildings large and small.  In 1969 he led the campaign to save the Maltings from demolition, and from 1968 until 1974 he was an Independent member of what was then Farnham Urban District Council, until it was replaced by Waverley.

Martin Lloyd, chairman of the Farnham Trust, said that he was honoured and delighted to welcome Lady Verney to the lunch party, together with members of her family.  He recalled some of the many restoration projects undertaken in Farnham by the trust since its foundation, including saving the Farnham Pottery from demolition, which had been the trust’s biggest project to date, and he described some of the important and influential work the trust continues to do today.

The next speaker was Laurence Kinney, a founder member of the Farnham Trust, who recalled Sir John’s sense of humour and his essential fairness even to those with whom he had not always seen eye to eye.  Juliet Verney, one of Sir John’s daughters, spoke next, with a tribute to the way her mother had efficiently managed a large house and six children so that her husband was free to carry on with all his work, his painting, and his many interests.

Finally, architect Michael Blower, President of the Farnham Trust, spoke of some of the work he had done with John Verney.  He had served as a member of a working party led by John Verney which had the task of identifying the many Farnham buildings of historical or architectural importance which had been missed when the Statutory List was introduced in 1947.  Michael Blower recalled John Verney’s determination to save the Farnham Maltings, and his complaint that those who hesitated were “a hotbed of cold feet”.  With typical farsightedness, he had been concerned as early as the 1970s about the preservation of the unique buildings at the Farnham Pottery, which were deteriorating, and Michael Blower described how eventually, in 1998, when the buildings were at imminent risk of demolition by developers, the Farnham Trust was able to step in, acquire them, and carry out a careful restoration.

The speeches were followed by two presentations by the Farnham Trust to the new owners of the Farnham Pottery, Guy and Elaine Hains.  The first, presented by Dennis Pratt, treasurer of the Trust, was a watercolour painting of the pottery done by John Verney in 1946.  The second, presented by past trustee Denise Todd, was a collection of items of the highly prized greenware produced by the pottery in the past.  These had been purchased through the generosity of Langley Potters, a Buckinghamshire group who had for several years donated the proceeds of their annual sales.

Many parts of the Farnham Pottery buildings were opened to visitors for the occasion although building work was in progress.  Thanks to the Farnham Trust and their successors Guy and Elaine Hains, the buildings are safely rescued and being used in ways which are appropriate to their unique character.  It was therefore fitting and symbolic of his work that the centenary lunch honouring Sir John Verney was held at the pottery which he had loved and had been so anxious to save.