Highworth Road, Shrivenham
Looking across the paddocks towards Sandhill Farm reveals an imposing Elizabethan style house. It’s very impressive and one wonders why it was chosen to be a farmhouse. The owner, Robert Gay, very kindly allowed members of the Shrivenham Heritage Society to have a closer look.
Once in the farmyard, it’s clear that there has been several phases of building and the elegant, Elizabethan style house, covers up the more farm style building behind.
The Department of the Environment, Listed Buildings in the Vale of the White Horse, suggest that the rear, red stone building is an 18th century rebuilding of an earlier house. This is probably a fair assessment, especially when looking more closely to the mixture of material to the rear on the north side.
It is known by documentary evidence that the farm was once part of the Barrington Estate. Before that it most likely would have belonged to the ancient Manor of Stallpits. Whilst the Beckett Estate was for a short period in Trust, at the beginning of the 19th century, the Manager was George Merryweather, who arrived in April 1815. One of his tasks was to produce a list of what the Manor of Beckett was responsible for, land, property, tithes, etc. For some of this he relied upon previous inventories, and it’s from one dated 1796 that we have a description of all the farms (BRO - D/EX/447/2/1). The descriptions include the size of the house and outbuildings. However, the entry for Sandhill is most puzzling as it states that the tenant was William Akerman, but there is no description of any buildings whatsoever. We can only deduce that either there were no buildings there in 1796, or, more likely, the buildings were in separate ownership from the farm. By 1816, the land, consisting of 158 acres is being farmed by Moses Akerman at a rental of £372 per annum. (BRO - D/EX52/E1)
But by 1844, the Tithe Map for Shrivenham shows us that the farm belonged to Lord Barrington in its entirety and the occupier is Joseph Hewer. The listing reads, House, Homestead, Orchard, Garden and all the field names associated. The drawing of the buildings on the Tithe Map is accurate and it shows that the Elizabethan style house was present. This relates well to when the house was built, as on the front of it is a plaque bearing the date of 1841. But the style of the plaque creates another mystery. It bears a coronet over the initials ‘EB’ and the date of 1841 below. This plaque is closely similar to the one on the front of Shrivenham House in the village, the only difference being that it bears the date 1834. We know by documentary evidence that Elizabeth Barrington paid for the rebuilding of the west end of Shrivenham House before she moved in, and the plaque marks that fact. Also there are striking similarities between the two properties. So can we assume that she was also responsible for the house at Sandhill ?
One explanation for this could lie in the land holdings of the Earl of Radnor at Coleshill. Documents at the Berkshire Record Office show that Radnor owned land and property widely dispersed around the area. Record D/EX 192/10 in the archive is a fascinating little survey book and lists land and property around the Shrivenham and Watchfield area. Drawings on pages 11 and 19, show that Sir Mark Stuart Pleydell of Coleshill (to become the Radnor Estate) held property at Sandhill. However, it’s difficult to decipher and more research needs to be done. But it would make sense of some of the above, and make it possible that Barrington acquired the property at Sandhill from Radnor sometime around 1820 -1840.
Sandhill Farm is another jewel in the parish of Shrivenham. Robert Gay has been there for over 40 years and keeps the property in good condition. We are grateful to him for allowing us to visit.