History of Lyncombe Hill Fields

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Early History

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.

Henry Dagger

From around 1861 until 1901 Lyncombe Hill Farm, sometimes known as Greenway Farm, was run by a tenant farmer, Henry Dagger.  He was a dairy farmer, hay and straw dealer with some pigs and poultry.  He ran the farm with his wife Margaret, with whom he had two sons, until her death in 1877.  In 1878 he married Sarah Millwater and she came to live and work at the farm with her son Edward Millwater.  Henry was not only a tenant farmer; deeds show that he bought some land called Blakley on Lyncombe Hill Farm in 1889 and took out a mortgage for this purchase to the value of £450 plus interest.  He also owned two houses on Englishcombe Lane.

Henry Dagger appeared in the local press on various issues.  In 1884 he was called before the magistrates’ court over the disputed ownership of a fox terrier and in 1894 two of his young farm hands were accused of embezzling money from Mrs Dagger.  He also faced fines from the police for various misdemeanours: leaving his cart on a turnpike road, keeping pigs to the annoyance of his neighbours, failing to send his son to school, not having a dog licence and also for removing pigs to Somerset without a licence and abusing a court official.  He also appeared in 1890 at the inquest of a carter in his employ who had died after a loaded hay waggon rolled over him on Midford Hill.

Subsequent Tenants and Owners

When Dagger died in 1901 the farm tenancy passed to Sarah Dagger and her son Edward Millwater who ran the farm until 1906. Edward appears to have been an absentee farmer who left the running of the farm to employees. In 1904, however, he was forced to appear in court over the adulteration of milk sold by the farm to Charles Davis who ran a dairy business on Lyncombe Hill. Millwater had to accept responsibility for his worker’s dilution of the milk by 22% and took a very heavy fine of £10.

Henry Brooke took the tenancy from 1906 to 1919 but evidence from census records suggests he never lived on the farm but in the newly built Shakespeare Avenue.  Newspaper adverts show that he kept cows, horses and pigs but had no plough land.  He regularly wanted farm workers but did not offer accommodation on the farm.  One farm worker, Frank Bryant, who spanned the three tenancies of Dagger, Millwater and Brooke, walked every day from Mount Beacon, Lansdown to manage the farm from 1879 to 1919.

In 1919 the Lyncombe Farm Estate was put up for auction. The farm occupied 21 acres (8.5 ha) and had a dwelling house, farm buildings and pasture land.  Two men bought the estate, Edward Tompkins bought the larger share and Henry Brooke the former tenant bought the smaller share.  Edward Tompkins was a well know Bath butcher who had his business in Green Street and lived on Bloomfield Road.  Tenancies for the farm continued with a variety of tenants appearing in the Post Office Directories up to the 2nd World War: John Butler, Charles Davis, JG Derriman and William Gorvin.

Very soon after the auction and sale of the farm, the Council decided to find a new larger site for the City of Bath Secondary School (founded in 1896) which was based at the Guildhall in cramped conditions.  In 1921 the Council considered buying Lyncombe Hill Farm for the new school site but due to serious opposition, as seen in the local press, the compulsory purchase of the site was shelved.  In 1928 the scheme was revived with plans to build a boys’ school and the Council bought nine acres of the estate by compulsory purchase.  The foundation stone for what became City of Bath Boys School was laid on 20th April 1931 and the school opened in January 1932.  

Purchase by the City Council

By 1936 the remaining land of Lyncombe Hill Farm was owned by local businessman Alfred Hole of Rosemount.  He aimed to build 150 houses on the site and contracted Messrs Cole and Evans to pursue the development and seek planning permission.  The Council rejected the housing proposals on the grounds that the area was zoned as an open space.  Cole and Evans appealed and the matter went to a Ministry of Health Inquiry where again the development was rejected.  This was followed by a dispute over the compensation payable to the owner, Alfred Hole, who had demanded what the council considered an exorbitant price for the plot.  The matter went to arbitration and £6,005 was finally paid by the Council.  This was half what Hole had demanded but twice that which the Council had initially offered.  Details of the case was even discussed in Parliament and recorded in Hansard in July 1938.

In 1941 the Allotments Committee was allowed to acquire two acres of land from the Lyncombe Farm estate for the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign.  The land remained as allotments after the war and in 1948 the area was extended to 3 acres.  In 1949 to allotment holders were given permission to access the site from Alexandra Park.

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 100 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 100 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 and Sara-Jane Socha for much of the information recorded here. Please see also the 1799, 1885-6, 1919 and 1936 maps included in
the Maps section of the FLHF 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 (included in the Maps section of this website) 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’.  

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.

The Significance of no. 103 Greenway Lane, ‘Lyncombe Cottage’

FLHF is very pleased to have had the opportunity to examine the Deeds of
No. 103 Greenway Lane, now named’ Lyncombe Cottage’, courtesy of the
present owners. This is the house on the North side of Greenway Lane,
closest to the main entrance to Lyncombe Hill Fields and to the disused
barn described above. It is clear from these documents and maps that at
the time of the 1919 sale of the Farm, this house and its garden formed
an integral part of the farm. The house is not however mentioned
separately in any of the earlier Census records, where the residential
address is simply ‘Lyncombe Hill Farm’. FLHF considers that it is probable
that this had become the sole dwelling house for the farm at some time
either during or prior to the long tenancy of Henry Dagger. The present
owners were told when they bought the house that the oldest parts date
from around 1840, but there is no evidence to corroborate this.

It is also clear from these documents that the compulsory purchase of the
farm by the City Council in 1939 initially assumed that this house and its
garden would be included in the transaction. This proposal was then
reversed prior to the purchase of the farm being completed. Alfred Hole (who as mentioned above bought the farm in 1936 in the hope of
developing it for housing) continued to be the owner of this house until
his death in 1956. He rented the house to tenants, initially to William and
Winifred Gorvin, who lived there from 1938 until 1964. William described
himself as a general labourer in the National Register of 1939.
Subsequently the house was bought by George and Elsie Over in 1964,
and then by Edwin and Stella Chittenden in 1966. The Overs changed the
name of the house from ‘Lyncombe Hill Farm’ to ‘Lyncombe Cottage’.

The Deeds of 103 Greenway Lane also shed new light on the past
ownership of the various fields that comprised the 17.8 acres of
Lyncombe Hill Farm that were sold in 1919. This sale was triggered by
the death of Kate Marion Miller who died as an 84-year widow in 1916
having resided in Sydney Buildings. The ‘Abstract of the Title of Alfred
Hole Esq’, dated 1937, enables the ownership of the farm to be tracked
back from this date to a lady called Denne Salmon who died aged 90 in
Bathampton in 1853, but as we already know the key character for
Lyncombe Hill Farm throughout the period 1861 to 1901 was the tenant,
Henry Dagger.

A brick building with cars parked in front of it

Description automatically generated with low confidence

103 Greenway Lane, ‘Lyncombe Cottage’

The History Group of the Friends of Lyncombe Hill Fields made a presentation by Zoom entitled “Lyncombe Hill Fields – Delving Deeper into their History, Ownership and Tenant Farmers” on the evening of Wednesday 24th November 2021.  This was organised by the Widcombe Association.  A recording of the presentation and the associated slides can be found using the following link and passcode:


Passcode: ^rhYj!m8