Corporation Farm is on the Wymondham Road in Hethel. Its unusual name comes from the fact that the land was administered by the Corporation of the City Norwich after it acquired the holdings of the Great Hospital which were given to the City at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It is likely that all or part of the land was a given for the upkeep of the Great Hospital in Norwich by a Bequest in 1554. On Andrew Bryant's map of the County of Norfolk, surveyed 1824-5 and published in 1825, it is clearly marked as Hospital Farm.
At the time of the tithe apportionment in the 1840s (and the 1841 census) its approximately 200 acres was farmed by William Stannard. In the 1851 census it is 'Stanard's Farm' with William (age 50) as farmer of 210 acres employing 10 men. By 1861 he is farming 470 acres with 11 men and 6 boys. In the 1869 Post Office Directory (and again in 1877), Fryer Benjamin Stannard is among a list of farmers, though not necessarily at Corporation Farm. The farmer listed in the 1871 census is Samuel Cann and his large family, farming 240 acres with 7 men and 3 boys, and he is also an Auction Valuer. Then comes another long-term tenant: George Millard is there in 1881, 1891 and 1901 (224 acres, 3 men, 4 boys) - with a note that both he and one of his daughters are deaf. The farm name is not given in 1911, but by then the farmer may have been John Rowe, whose daughter, Pansy, was a teacher at Bracon Ash & Hethel CP school.
Jumping ahead to 1939, Knyvett Millard (born 1879) was farming Corporation Farm and his wife Phyllis entered her work as 'poultry & dairy work & domestic duties' in the 1939 Register. However, Knyvett Millard propelled both Corporation Farm and Hethel to fame through one horse: Colonel Harry Llewellyn's horse Foxhunter, who together won the only gold medal for Britain in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, was born and bred at Corporation Farm. '....and my goodness, wasn't the whole village proud of the fact that this super-star had originally come from Hethel', writes Michael Coates. Wreningham is also proud that the horse was taken to their blacksmith to be shoed!
During World War II, some of the farmland was commandeered for Hethel airfield, thus reducing the acreage of Corporation Farm. An area of the farm is still fenced off where the airfield's sewerage works were built.
After the war, Hugh Rackham took on the tenancy in 1946 when he returned from active service. His father, George William Rackham, had farmed Hill Farm until he retired to Stanfield Hall. Hugh's brother (also George) continued at Hill Farm and Hugh farmed next-door Corporation Farm. During the war he had served with the 1st Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment which had been captured in Singapore and Hugh had been a POW in Japan. The land is a medium strong clay, and his daughter remembers that cereals and sugar beet were the main crops of Corporation Farm, along with beef cattle for fattening and potatoes. Over the years, land was also given over to growing blackcurrants for Norfolk Fruitgrowers and peas and beans for Birdseye. Hugh Rackham also took on the tenancy of the land of Church Farm where he kept a dairy herd: the two farms were adjacent, linked by a cart-track. In 1961 he built a new barn to house the cattle with a self-feeding silage system. But later he gave up the cattle and concentrated on barley with smaller acreages of wheat and sugar beet. Another new barn, built in 1966, was capable of storing 200 tonnes of corn and included a drying tunnel.
When Hugh Rackham retired in 1987, Church Farm returned to the Myhills and Corporation Farm was put up for sale by auction on 26th June; it then had just over 140 acres of land straddling both sides of the Wymondham Road (see sale map, above). There were various provisos that Mr Rackham could access the corn held in storage and lift the sugar beet crop by 31st December.
The sale document notes that under Mr Rachham's ownership, hedges had been removed to enlarge fields for the use of modern machinery, and drains put in to make the clay soil easier to work. It also notes the large number of farm buildings which date from when the farm was larger, and these included several traditional barns and bullock yard and the two large buildings added in the 1960s.
The farm house is a Grade II listed building which 'reputedly has Tudor origins' (from the Estate Agent's blurb). A brick building with a pantiled roof, the most noticeable feature is the group of tall chimneys. In 1987 it had 3 reception rooms, kitchen, cold store and still room on the ground floor; 4 bedrooms and a bathroom on the 1t floor; and a further 2 bedrooms in the attic. Adjacent was a small cottage with 2 downstairs and 1 upstairs room. Surrounding the farmhouse was a 1.65 acre garden with flowers, vegetables and an old orchard.
Rather than going to another tenant, Corporation Farm was bought by Mr Gray of Hill Farm who kept the land but sold the buildings. Today the historic barns adjacent to the old farmhouse, and the workers' cottages across the road, have all been converted and extended to become a small hamlet of Hethel parish.