Friday, August 12, 2022

Astwood Court Farm

Some of the walls still have very good timber-framing from the late 16th century, but the front of the building was refaced in brick in about 1790 and has segment-headed windows (this means topped with a shape like a slice off the edge of a circle). The building is an H-shape if viewed from above (in plan), with projecting gabled wings and a slightly recessed centre which has two gables above it. The timber-framed other three side walls have vertical timbers set closely together, and each has a large sandstone chimney stack with three star-plan brick shafts. On the north front, the wings have big diagonal bracing timbers, and the west gable has herringbone-pattern timber framing in the gable. (A gable is the triangular area at the end of the roof, above the main floors of the building).

In c 1600 George Dethick, the last in the line of this family, sold the land, on which this magnificent timber-framed house was built, to John Wheeler, who might possibly have come from Droitwich, where there are references to a John Wheeler of Wich in 1601 when he failed to make up the Kings Highway around ‘Leathorne Bridge’ and ‘Hill End’, ‘as he should according to the law’. However, there was also a family named Wheeler at Astwood as early as 1524 when ‘William Whelar of Astwod’ is listed on the lay subsidy rolls as having duly paid his taxes.

John Wheeler of Astwood was buried at Dodderhill Church on 16th December 1635 having written his will just a few days before he died on the 7th December. He left the majority of his estate, which included ‘lands and tenements in Dodderhill, Stoke Prior and elsewhere in the realm of England’ together with ‘three phats or bullaryes of salt water in Droytwich’, to his son John. To his wife, he left ‘the bed wheron I usually lye and all the apperturnances thereunto appertayninge’! One of the witnesses to the will was Philip Berecroft of Mere Hall in Hanbury.

An inventory of John’s goods and chattels was taken by his neighbours on 28th December 1635 and this document lists all the rooms and contents of his house and outbuildings. There was a hall, containing, amongst other things, a long pike; a parlour, with a carpet; a pantry which contained two silver bowls, a silver salt and a gilt salt, a dozen silver spoons, threescore (60) pewter dishes, and some glasses. ‘Chambers’ were over the parlour, pantry and hall, and there was also a gallery above the parlour and pantry. The chamber over the hall contained ‘a tablebord and frame, a greate joyned chest, butter, cheese, lard and other howshold provision with two planks and tressells to sett provision upon’. In the house there was also a kitchen, buttery, with chambers over both, and a study containing a coffer and books. There were two more chambers in the gallery, one containing ‘ymplements of howsewifrie and yarn’; two cellars; a ‘Mens’ chamber; a boulting house; a backhouse and a chamber over the backhouse, a total of 21 rooms. The inventory was valued at £452 10s. Mr Wheeler had been a very wealthy man. John’s son John, and his son John, both inherited the estate which continued in the Wheeler ownership for over 200 years, until the early 18th century. Matthew Wilson later became tenant of the farm and his descendants continued to farm Astwood Court until the late 1930s.

At some time during the late 18th century a brick façade was added to the front elevation of the house, giving it a Georgian appearance, a total contrast to the back and sides of the house which remained timber-framed.

The Rev. James Volant Vashon, rector of Salwarpe, owned the property during the middle part of the 19th century. At some point in time in the 1880s the farm was bought by John Corbett, who by this time had bought many of the farms and other property in and around Dodderhill. In 1900, the property, rented by Mrs Emma Wilson, consisted of the farm buildings and yard, four cottages and over 244 acres at a yearly rent of £333 per year. Her son, John Pardoe Wilson, was to manage it. In 1920, when the Corbett estate was sold, John P Wilson bought the farm and buildings, together with over 161 acres of land, for £6190 2/11d. By 1940 John P Wilson’s son, Mathew, was farming at Causeway Meadows.

The Farm was Lot 45 in the Corbett Estate Sale of 1920 – these two photographs are from the catalogue.

Astwood Court - 1920 Corbett Sale Brochure
Astwood Court Farm - Back of house.  Corbett Sale 1920
National Lottery - Heritage Lottery Fund© Dodderhill Parish Survey Project 2007 | Site Design & Build: Red Box Consultants Ltd.