The Farm in the middle of Gillingham

<<Tidings, May 2019>>

Village Farm, so-called because it stands just off the Street on King’s Dam, is a very old house, certainly one of the oldest in the village. It was built around 1600 and extended, after a fire, in about 1820.

Once, no doubt, it was half-timbered and had a thatched roof. At some time since then, it was covered with plaster in the Dutch style and a tiled roof was added. By 1828 the plaster was in such a bad state it had to be pulled off. For a short while it was possible to see what the original house looked like: the old timbers were still there, much decayed. It must have been a pretty place in its prime.

Village Farm, as it might have looked in the past

Now, unfortunately, it needed a coat of rough cast to hold it together.

An old parishioner recalls an early tenant being named Gepps. In 1837, Mr Gepps also owned the White Lion Hotel at Beccles. He had a celebrated bay pony which he once drove one hundred miles in 12 hours.

The next to live at the Village Farm was Mr Benjamin Brundell, who died in 1872. In fact, there were once two farms and two houses, the second standing on the north side of the Street. That house, with its barn and other outbuildings, burned down in 1843 (some say the fire was set by a workman who had been dismissed and did it out of spite). Mr Brundell moved from the burnt-out building into Village Farm and the land held by the two farms was combined into one.

His son, John Brundell, also lived there. He was  “very excitable” and will long be remembered in Gillingham. In addition to the farm, he had a plumber’s business in Beccles. From time to time, it’s said, he would climb St Michael’s Church tower to watch his men in Gillingham go out to work in the fields. If they were late, they heard about it when he returned.

The next tenant was a Mr Wyllys, son of Judge Wyllys, and he lived there about five years. He was followed by Mr Daniel Dawe who had 11 children, nine daughters and two boys.

By 1914 Mr James P. Hemmant was living at the Village Farm and members of his family stayed there, installing electric light in 1932, for the next sixty years. Which is where Hemmant Way across the Street gets its name.

Information from the Gillingham Parish website facts/