sign Hempstead


Green Farm
Hempstead Hall Farm
Hole Farm
Lodge Farm
Mill Farm
Pine Farm
Red House Farm

Red House Farm
Red House Farm - 22nd March 2020
Red House Farm - 22nd March 2020

Court Green belonged to Red House Farm in the 1700s.

Farmhouse, early 18th century, brick with patterned headers, plain tiles to front, pantiles to rear. Single range, three bays. Two storeys with attic and cellar. Gable end stacks with rebuilt shafts. Plinth with flint at base, platband, dentil cornice. Symmetrical facade: central doorway has porch with Tuscan entablature supported by two columns with upper part fluted, lower part smooth; five cross windows in pairs to bays one and three to ground and first floor, some with original leaded panes, fittings and pintle hinges, those to ground floor in reset openings. Plaque on left hand side to Samuel Fowles, d.1906, head keeper of the Hempstead Estate. Both gables with parapets, tumbled brickwork and eaves platband. Continuous outshut at rear, raised to 1½ storeys, with fenestration of 1980's.
A. Cattermole (NLU) - 31st January 2006

The first detailed knowledge of the buildings and land at Hempstead_Hall comes to us from the Book created William Newman in 1726 (NRO Het87). He succeeded his uncle, Thomas, as Lord of the Manor in 1698. Why he waited 28 years before embarking on his booklet is unclear. On the outside cover of William Newman's book in ink appears the following:

On the inside there is a page heading -
this Book contains a survey of my estate
lying in Hempstead near Holt in the
County of Norfolk
Surveyed AD 1726 by James Corbridge

The Newman family, who lived at what is now the Manor House, Baconsthorpe, owned Hempstead_Hall and Red House Farm (but not Green_Farm which was owned by the Woods) since 1683 and were the Lords of both the Hempstead Manors.

William took over in 1698 from Thomas, his uncle, but he created his Book only three years before his death in 1729.

There then appears a “Survey of the Barn Farm or Red House Farm as the closes abutteth on each other”. This sounds as though perhaps the farm had been known as Barn Farm and had changed its name following the recent building of the Red House. The name of the occupier has been left out. The Red House and its barns are clearly shown on their present site. The house was of three stories, four windows on the first and second floors and three attic windows - but there was no pillared front door at this time.

Horsepit Pond did not exist - nor did the present Mill nor did any of the ponds which feed the mill. “Selbrigg Lane” is shown as the present driveway to Selbrigg Cottage but continuing well beyond to the east as it ran through to Baconsthorpe Castle. “Court Green” - so described - belonged to Red House Farm.
One curious difference between 1726 and the present day is that the current Selbrigg Cottage did not then exist. Instead, on the north side of the lane appears another cottage looking south. One can only guess that the Gurneys rebuilt it on a better site in the early 19th Century to house their highly skilled and no doubt hugely valued decoy keeper - facing north over the newly constructed Selbrigg pond and its decoys.
Hempstead, A Norfolk Village - Robin Carver, 2000

Red House Farm - 22nd March 2020
Red House Farm - 22nd March 2020
The farmhouse is Grade II listed

Richard Joseph Gurney who, having inherited Green_Farm in 1773, went on to buy further land at Hempstead probably for its Glaven Valley shooting. It was his brother-in-law Robert Barclay who bought Northrepps Hall in 1790. The three brother and one sister, Rachel, reared thirty-six children between them - including "Betsy" who became in due course Elizabeth Fry, the great prison and social reformer.

In 1795 Robert Barclay, following his wife's death, sold Northrepps Hall to his brother-in-law Richard Joseph Gurney, whose family moved in almost immediately.

In the Universal British Directory for 1792 under the part dealing with Holt some of the surrounding villages are mentioned including
"Hempstead is two miles distant. - Gurney Esq banker in Norwich has a neat shooting seat here".

Logically this would seem to be a reference to the Red House - built in brick when all its neighbours were built in flint. However, Richard did not buy this house until 1807 but of course he may previously have leased it. The Faden 1797 map shows what looks like a dam on the Glaven just to the north of Red House Farm. Was this the Gurneys' first "improvement" - to provide water and shooting?

In Faden's map of Norfolk (printed in 1797) "Red House" is accurately marked but it is shown as being occupied by R. Kerrison Esq. The marking of a house on this map would seem to show that the house was regarded as important. In Hempstead only the White_Horse_pub is marked, whilst Hempstead_Hall and Green are ignored. It was natural that Richard should not have been shown as living in the Red House as by then he had moved to Northrepps Hall.

What is not entirely clear is why in 1803 (NRO HET 168x2) it is recorded that R. J. and J. Gurney (presumably Richard Joseph and his brother John jointly) owned 227 acres at Hempstead. Did John Gurney of Earlham also have apart interest in the Hempstead land? In 1807 John Gurney had helped buy Hempstead Hall and the Red House Farm but what part did he play in 1803?

In 1803 Richard Joseph Gurney dealt with the tenancy of both his Red House Farm land and the adjoining land held by him and his brother by which time the building up of the family's Hempstead estate was now complete.

Under ref NRO HET 3 168x2 there is a schedule of fields and acreages headed -

15th Dec1803
Red House Farm consists of
of which is occupied by Joshua Coleby
Richard Gurney by himself and Gamekeeper
271 2 13

The schedule refers to a map which is not with the other papers. There was a Horsepit Plantation of 16 acres so did this indicate that the Horsepit Pond was by now in existence? However, there is no reference to any pond at Selbrigg - only to "Selbrigg Meadow."

There is a Memorandum of the same date headed -
"Hempstead Estate belongs to RJ & JG contains


The list of tenants shows that the Landlord occupied 28 acres including"Selbrigg Cottage and Land" but the rest appears to be let with Joshua Coleby occupying 101 acres for which he paid £156pa. There were two cottages, a Blacksmith's Shop let to Daglass and a public house let to Tuck.

These two schedules prepared on the same date would seem to indicate two ownerships - the Hempstead Estate owned by R.J. & J. Gurney and Red House Farm owned by Richard Joseph Gurney - the common factor being Joshua Coleby who was tenant on both.

There is also a paper headed -
"An estimate made by John Coleby of the value of Red House Farm to rent for a term of Fourteen Years subject to customary covenants." The acreage shown as 269 acres, perhaps indicating that Richard Joseph Gurney was considering letting the whole of the farm, keeping only for himself the farmhouse and barns.

Was John Coleby the son, or brother, of Joshua Coleby?

Mysteriously another paper signed by John Coleby and dated June 23rd 1803 refers to "Red House Farm - 68 acres". John Coleby was meticulous since on the same date he prepared a valuation headed "Calculations on one acre of the Red House Farm in order to ascertain the value of 68 acres being a further part of the same".

All one can suggest is that these fragmented papers represent the value used in negotiations between Richard Joseph Gurney as owner of Red House Farm and the Coleby family as present and future tenants.

One of the few known persons to have stayed at Red House was "Betsey" Fry (the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry). It seems that Betsey as a child was a strange mixture of the practical and the hopelessly impractical. She was engaged to be married at the age of 15, very suitably it appears, but this was called off. Later at the age of 19 she became engaged to Joe Fry whose family business at that time (later to become Frys Chocolate) was the importation of tea and chocolate. Before her marriage Betsey wrote to Joe Fry regarding her Uncle Richard's off to them of his property at Hempstead for their honeymoon. "The more I think of it the better I like it", she wrote, "for we are within three miles of the sea and sweet country surround us, quite retired and, as well, we should live free of expense."

Betsey and Joe Fry were married at "Goats" (the Quaker Chapel in Goats Lane Norwich) on 19th August 1800 after which she and Joe, plus her sister Rachel, spent nearly a fortnight at Hempstead. Rachel called it a "treacle-moon".

In "Elizabeth Fry" by June Rose publishe3d in 1980 the author relates to the honeymoon, saying that the couple went to "stay at Uncle Richard's shooting box overlooking a large pond at Hempstead in Norfolk.

It would seem that the Red House at one time must have served the Gurneys as their estate warrener's cottage. The 1851 Census shows it then being lived in by William Brighten described as "Warrener" (aged 86) and Samuel Fowl described as "Warreners assistant". Samuel Fowl (then aged 21) continued to live in the Red House and became the much-loved gamekeeper commemorated on the tablet described below. though with his name spelt differently.

Andrew Johnstone was a Buxton "in-law" and became an M.P. Throughout the last half of the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century the shooting and fishing on the Gurney family's Hempstead Estate seems to have been enjoyed by many members of that already large and extended family. So much so that they erected a fine memorial stone on the front of the Red House which reads as follows:-

To the honoured memory of
For forty five years keeper on the Hempstead Estate
Born Feb 1830 Died Oct 1906
In testimony of the regard of some of those to whom
he was ever a faithful servant and a pleasant companion

Tablet in memory of Samuel Fowle
Tablet on Red House Farmhouse in memory of Samuel Fowle
inscribed by the famous calligrapher Eric Gill

The tablet is made from Hopton-Wood stone and was sculpted by Eric Gill. In a book recording Gill's "Inscriptions" for 1906-1907, it is recorded that the table was "commissioned and designed by Edward Johnstone for his brother Andrew" and that "the composition of the inscription is exceptional".

As tenant for life under the 1925 Settled Land Act, Gerard Hudson Gurney, who died childless on May 18th 1934, owned the Hempstead Estate.

Gerard Gurney's free estate and other lands and his Hempstead Estate passed to his two brothers-in-law, Edmund Richard Meade-Waldo and Edward Archibald Ruggles-Brise, as his Executors, who held the Hempstead Estate on trust for his mother Mary Jane Gurney for life, but otherwise for his three sisters: Agatha Ruggles-Brise, Margaret Editha Meade-Waldo and Cecily Jane Ruggles-Brise (two brothers had married two sisters). None of the three sisters lived in Norfolk and no attempt was made to sell the Hempstead Estate before the 1939-45 war since agricultural prices and rents were then hopelessly depressed. However, land prices and profits rose substantially in the war and a debate ensued as to how the best interest of these (by now elderly) ladies could be assured. After much discussion and after many arguments to the effect that land prices always collapse after wars (as had happened after the 1914-1918 war) a decision was made to sell at the first possible moment. Accordingly the Hempstead Estate was advertised to be sold by Francis Hornor & Son at the Royal Hotel, Norwich on Saturday, June 16th 1945 not much more than a month after the end of the war. The sisters were selling not only the Hempstead Estate but also land at Earlham and other land on the Wiveton marshes plus the Manor Farm, Baconsthorpe.

The estate was bought as a whole (with a single high bid) by Mr George Knight. After the purchase Mr George Knight sold off the Bodham, Holt and Baconsthorpe Farms. He sold Red House Farm to Mr D R Hagen as the tenant and Selbrigg Pond to Mr Jack Bainbridge and on 6 April 1946 Hempstead_Hall_Farm (318a) to RH & ME Mack.

The 408 acres of woodland (mostly let to the Forestry Commission) were sold to Mr John Watson, Mill_Farm, including Hempstead_Mill and land adjoining Green_Farm, to Mr R D H Harmer, and Church_Farm and Hole_Farm to Mr Richard Johnson. The Mill Pool and cottages were sold to Mr I J Coussells.

During their 163 years ownership the Gurneys physically altered the Parish more than any other major landowner, being responsible for adding buildings to the Red House, for rebuilding Hempstead_Hall, building the mill, two millponds, and three lakes or ponds above the millponds - and yet they had only really acquired it in the first place for the excellent shooting and never lived permanently in the Parish.
Hempstead, A Norfolk Village - Robin Carver, 2000

Mystery Solved!

At Red House Farm, Hempstead there is a tablet by Eric Gill, famous and notorious sculptor and typographer of the early twentieth century, which reads:

To the honoured memory of
For forty five years keeper on the Hempstead Estate
Born Feb 1830 Died Oct 1906
In testimony of the regard of some of those to whom
he was ever a faithful servant and a pleasant companion

The Gurney’s, Buxton's and Barclay's of the nineteenth century were not exactly in the avant-garde of the artistic world - how is it that they employed an up-and-coming sculptor of whom they had probably never heard?

At the Lettering Arts Centre at Snape there is currently an exhibition of the works of MacDonald Gill (the less well-known younger brother of Eric) who designed the standard gravestone for all the British dead in both wars (there is one in Hempstead churchyard). It is stated that he ‘studied lettering under the celebrated calligrapher and type designer Edward Johnstone'.

Pennies then dropped. In the Hempstead Village History it is recorded that the tablet was ‘commissioned and designed by Edward Johnstone for his brother Andrew'. Andrew was a Buxton son-in-law but nothing was known of his brother Edward who, as it now turns out, was the father of modern lettering and able to influence an important commission for one of his pupils - Eric Gill. Mystery solved! The Gurney Hempstead Estate left several memorials. They built the Mill; three dams above it including Selbrigg_Pond; built a famous duck decoy on the Pond; and, at the Red House provided a honeymoon hideaway for Elizabeth Fry (recently pictured on the £5 note).
Church & Village News - Robin Carver, September 2014

Horsepit map 1885
O. S. Map 1885
Courtesy of NLS map images

Red House map November 2023
O. S. Map November 2023
Courtesy of Historic England map images

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