The area of Lyncombe and Widcombe (with its centre at Cliftune, believed to be a settlement below Beechen Cliff) was granted to Bath Priory by King Edgar in the year 970. In the Domesday Book of 1086, the area is named as ‘Lincome’ and in subsequent centuries it had its manorial centre at Lyncombe Hall in Lyncombe Vale. In 1539 the Priory, along with all such religious institutions in England, was dissolved by Henry VIII and the land passed to the ownership of the Crown. By the beginning of the 17th century, Hugh Sexey had bought the manor outright and, when he died in 1610, the trustees of the estate as well as founding a hospital in his name, (also known as Bruton Hospital), sold property from the various estates.
In the mid-1800s until 1901 Lyncombe Hill Farm, also known as Greenway Farm, was run by Henry Dagger as a dairy farm with some pigs and poultry. He supplied milk to customers directly and via other milk sellers. After the death of Henry Dagger, the farm was run by Edward Millwater and then Henry Brooke. When offered for sale in 1919 the farm occupied 21 acres (8.5 ha) and had a house, farm buildings and pasture land.
At the same time, the council decided to find a new home for the City of Bath Secondary School (founded in 1896) from the Guildhall. The council considered buying Lyncombe Hill Farm for the new school but this was voted down. The scheme was revived in 1928 when it was intended to buy nine acres of the estate. The foundation stone for what became Beechen Cliff school was laid on 20th April 1931 and the school opened in January 1932. In 1936 permission was sought by some developers to build 150 houses on another part of the Lyncombe Hill Farm. This was turned down by the council which wanted to keep the area as a public open space. The matter went to the Ministry of Health, which was responsible for such matters, and again the development was rejected. The owners of the land then offered it to the council for what the council considered an exorbitant price, the matter went to arbitration and the council then acquired it at a much lower price in 1938. In 1941 two acres of the land was turned into allotments for the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign.
The 10 acres of Lyncombe Hill Farm for which a Licence to manage was awarded to the Friends of Lyncombe Hill Fields on September 1st 2020 are therefore a reminder of what until the start of the 20th Century comprised around 90 acres of prime farmland within the area defined by Lyncombe Hill, Greenway Lane, Entry Hill, Wellsway and the north face of Beechen Cliff. Roughly half of these 90 acres has had houses built on it, but the other half of the total site (including Alexandra Park which opened in 1901, and the rights of way across Beechen Cliff school) is still available to be enjoyed by all of us.
Thanks are due to Phil Bendall for much of the information recorded here. Please see also the 1799 map included in the maps section of this website.
The Farm Buildings at Lyncombe Hill Farm
Census returns for the years 1861 to 1911 indicate that the household living at Lyncombe Hill Farm at that time comprised between 3 and 5 people. The 1885-6 Ordnance Survey map indicates that the farm buildings comprised the stone building (now known generally as the ‘disused barn’) that still stands just inside the South gate on Greenway Lane, and another block at right angles to this for which some of the foundations can still be seen. Local historians Phil Bendall and Kirsten Elliott believe that the dwelling house for the farm comprised the Western part of the surviving building. Local author of walking books, Andrew Swift says in his book ‘On Foot in Bath: Fifteen Walks Around a World Heritage City’ that this building “may date from Tudor times, making it one of the oldest buildings in city.” The other buildings that no longer exist would have been outbuildings for milking, stabling the horse and cart, housing the chickens and pigs etc.
Drawings of the building by Peter Coard as it was in 1964 are included here, courtesy of ‘Bath in Time’. The 1885-6 Ordnance Survey map is included in the Maps section of this website.
Please note that this surviving building is specifically excluded from the area of the Licence awarded to the Friends of Lyncombe Hill Fields, and that no attempt should be made to enter the building as it is considered to be unsafe.