of Bracon Hall
HALL FARM, East Carleton Road, Bracon Ash
The farm by the East Carleton Road is clearly marked 'Wind Mill Farm' on Faden's map of Norfolk, published in 1797 (below). The nearest windmill is in Mulbarton: whether the farm and land were related to that mill at that time is uncertain, but there were links in the following century.
By 1842 the Tithe Apportionment (extract from accompanying map below) gives Elizabeth Berney as both owner and occupier of what is now Hall Farm as well as of Bracon Hall and tenant of Mergate Hall, so quite where she was resident is an open question.... The 1841 census lists two possible farmhouses near the blacksmith - the one most likely to be Hall Farm is occupied by William Smith (age 79). By 1851, this farm is occupied by Edward Barnard, son of the widowed Mary Barnard who continues to live at Mergate Farm with her three daughters.
By 1861 we meet the retired Mulbarton miller, Charles Cremer, as 'farmer' at Hall Farm and he is there until his death in January 1886. He is listed in the Directories as well as census records as 'farmer of 196 acres'. Charles Cremer's wife Maria nee Muskett was already a widow when they married in 1838, and her sister Rachel married into the Spratt family who owned the mill and had worked there before Charles. For a while he took on the Mulbarton Maltings, too - which are very close to Hall Farm.
After Charles Cremer died the farmhouse seems to have remained empty - no occupant is listed in 1891. The next person to be listed in census or directories is Mrs Eliza Dyball in 1908 and 1911, with son Alfred as 'Assistant Manager', and by 1914 the resident is Frederick Brown, - in the 1922 Directory as farmer and 'assistant overseer for Bracon Ash and Flordon'. Locals called it 'Brown's Farm'.
Frederick Brown (b.c.1858, Swainsthorpe) moved from Glebe Farm in Newton Flotman with his second wife, Lucy, and is on the Register of Elelctors from 1914. In 1931, Frederick and Rosa May Brown (b.1880 and daughter of Frederick's first marriage) moved from the farm to a house he had built for his retirement, 'The Retreat' in The Street. Rosa was living there in 1939. Living with her was Clara Violet Flint who married Clifford Arthur Kedge in early 1941 and they continues to live with Rosa at The Retreat. Tragically Arthur was taken as a POW by the Japanese and died near the infamous River Kwai on 13 Oct. 1943. He is commemorated on the war memorial in Mulbarton Church. His widow remarried and became Mrs Butler. She and her new husband continued to live at The Retreat, where Peter Butler is remembered as offering Saturday morning haircuts.
In 1939 Hall Farm is occupied by Alfred & Helen Walker and their daughter Patricia. Resident in nearby cottages are Gilbert T ('Tom') Cotton, Teamman, his wife Esme and another farm labourer, and next door is William Farrow, Cowman and his family. They were to see great changes in the post-war years....
In 1950, a new farmhouse was built after Miss Dora Lavinia Berney applied for planning permission to replace the old house with the new brick house that remains today. The new farmhouse was erected in part of what had been the orchard, and some of the old fruit trees were kept and still fruit today. When finished, the Walkers moved in and the old house was demolished, although part of the wall was kept as a boundary wall and some outbuildings and the large barn remained. The Walkers were still there in 1961, the year that the Bracon Hall estate was conveyed to Richard Trench Berney following the death of Dora Berney in 1959. Thus Hall Farm became Richard Berney's property. The new house was served by water pumped from the well until mains water was available - Mr Berney had the well filled in but part of the pumping system is still in place.
Tom and Esme Cotton lived in the wooden bungalow opposite Hall Farm house when they were first married, then moved into a cottage opposite the farm. Tom was an avid supporter of Swardeston cricket club and his ashes are buried on the pitch! The old bungalow was home to some Polish people at the end of the war - probably from the Polish squadron stationed briefly at Hethel, many of whom could or would not return to their Russian-occupied homeland. It became a store until it fell down.
years, Richard Berney farmed the land himself but gradually sold off fields and
property to finance the estate. Thus in the 1980s Hall Farm house was sold
separately from any land and conveyed by Richard Berney to the current owners.
By 2002 the next-door barn had been converted into homes and the last of the
farm buildings demolished.
The farm itself is now run from Bracon Hall - an arable farm growing wheat, barley, oil-seed rape and sugar beet. The whole estate, including woodland, pasture, lake and wetland is approximately 400 acres and the current Berneys who own the land are managing it to improve the ecology - more information here.
[With thanks to Nigel Legg for information; photos taken by the late Bryan Tungate.]