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Week 17: Land #52ancestors

April 20, 2020

Professional genealogist and podcaster Amy Johnson Crow has put out the challenge to genealogists and family historians, to write stories about 52 of their ancestors in 52 weeks.

I am happily taking up the challenge, and look forward to writing stories, that will collate many years of research results. In most cases, the research for my ancestors is not complete, and possibly never will be complete, but I’m hoping to build a story of the lives they lived with the information I have to hand. I’m hoping to publish these stories in a book at the end of 2020. Each week a prompt will be given as the theme for the week.

Week 17: Land

My great great great grandfather THOMAS WATERS was born at Eyeworth, Bedfordshire, in 1793.  In 1824, he married ANN IZZARD, at Dunton Bedfordshire, and began farming at Newton Bury Farm.  I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly when he began farming, but I found a record in “A survey of the Farms and Land in the Parish of Dunton, Bedfordshire” that had him listed as the owner of the property in 1838. My great great grandfather spent his life on that farm, and was a farm worker there, in his younger years, before leaving England for Australia.

The size of the farm was a little over 170 acres with a moated homestead, situated 8 miles from Biggleswade on the Great Northern Main Road, and 3 miles from Potton, on the Bletchley and Cambridge branch of the London and North Western Railway. The Newton Bury farm homestead was a 17th century farmhouse, timber framed with external plastering.

Newton Bury Moated Site

The Newton Bury moated site is a Scheduled Monument in Dunton, Central Bedfordshire, England, scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The moated site at Newton Bury Farm is a well-preserved example of a small, double- island type which retains evidence of the water management system. Despite alterations to the monument, particularly the infilling of sections of the ditches and the later use of the moated enclosures as a farm, the major part of the site has survived with minimal disturbance. Environmental evidence will be preserved in the silts within the ditches, and the islands will contain evidence of the original buildings. The monument lies in an area where moated sites are particularly numerous, enabling chronological and social variations to be explored.

The existence of historical records relating to the ownership of the site further enhances its importance. The moated site at Newton Bury lies approximately 1km to the north west of the village of Dunton. The monument includes the remains of a rectangular medieval moated enclosure, situated in the south west corner of a larger outer enclosure. The inner moated enclosure measures 90m east to west by 80m north to south. The surrounding moat has been infilled along the eastern side, though its course is still visible as a shallow depression, 6m wide by 1m deep. Elsewhere it measures up to 4m deep and is currently dry. The north east and south west angles of the moat have been enlarged to form ponds, probably during the post-medieval period. Cattle were watered at the pond situated in the north east angle.

The interior contains the remains of Newton Bury farmhouse. The outer enclosure extends to the north and east of the inner moat. There is a well in the southern part of this enclosure. The visible earthworks consist of a junction of two ditches and a separate section of bank. The ditches measure some 9m wide and 1m deep and form the north eastern corner of the enclosure. An outflow leat, connected to a modern drain to the east, is associated with these ditches. A leat is artificial drainage. The section of ditch delineating the north side of the enclosure has recently been backfilled, but it will survive as a buried feature.

The remainder of the north side of the outer enclosure is defined by a 2m high bank attached to the north east angle of the moat. The bank is on the same alignment as the recently backfilled ditch and may have once survived along the inner edge of the outer enclosure. The south east angle of the outer enclosure can be traced on the ground as a soil mark and a shallow depression. Historical documents relating to Newton Bury Manor trace ownership and descent from 1504.

 National Grid Reference: TL 22684 44681 © Historic England 2016, List Entry No. 1010113

Sale of Newton Bury Farm

Newton Bury Farm wasn’t mentioned in the will of Thomas Waters, so I am assuming that the farm was sold before his death. Subsequently, the farm was sold in 1909 by the current owner. At the time of that sale the land, Newtonbury was valuable gardening land in the heart of the market gardening district. It was described as having rich, arable land, in a high state of cultivation and old pasture with an old fashioned moated house, surrounded by prettily timbered meadows and orchards.  The asking price in 1909 was £342.

The homestead was occupied until the 1940s and then left to fall into a derelict condition. It was demolished in 1963.

The Newtonbury farm homestead eventually fell into disrepair and was demolished. I have seen a satellite photo, which shows the land today. Of course, the moat has been filled in, but you can see the mark on the land where it was. I don’t have that photo in my possession.



Links to my other blogs: Best Bookish Blog and Next Phase In Fitness & Life

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Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales
The Victorian History of the County of Bedford, Vol 1
Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service Ref: Z 956/26
Ordinance Survey Map List entry Number: 1010113 – historic
“A survey of the Farms and Land in the Parish of Dunton, Bedfordshire”, prepared by Catlin Johnson, Land Measurer

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