Pierrepont Farm

200 acres
Heathland dairy farm

CRT’s Pierrepont is a 200-acre heathland dairy farm near Frensham in rural Surrey

At its heart is a working Jersey robotic dairy and a collection of historic Grade II listed farm buildings. We have restored disused dairy buildings into vibrant artisan business units surrounded by idyllic countryside and wildlife.

Dairy farmers find the cost of producing quality milk and providing great habitat for both cattle and wildlife a real challenge. Figures show that the number of registered dairy producers in the UK fell by 61% between 1995 and 2014.

With support from our donors, CRT has enabled Mike and Bev Clear, the tenant farmers at Pierrepont to offer a home to these charismatic cows and wonderful wildlife. 

Pierrepont Farm is where tradition and technology work together. The cows are fitted with special ankle ‘tags’ so they are free to take themselves from field to cowshed and into the state-of-the-art dairy building, where they are milked using an automatic robotic diary. The tags allow the farmer to track the cows' location, productivity and health. The robotic dairy milks the cow, measures the weight of the udder and tests the quality of the milk.

There is a wet meadow beside the River Wey, which has been designated an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) because of its important flora. The river is abundant with fish and other wildlife including some of the most beautiful dragonflies.

Volunteer hanging a  Redstart box in  Tankersford Wood

The farm has several different areas of woodland. Each has its own unique feature and they are all alive with wildlife. Volunteers play a vital role at Pierrepont Farm working with Mike to conduct conservation activities and complete all the wildlife monitoring. The volunteers manage the woodlands and have a conservation management plan, whereby they regularly coppice trees and allow for different habitats to thrive as light enters. They even make charcoal on the farm, which they sell to fund their conservation activities. They are a happy bunch and always welcome new members!

Mike and Bev, who now have an award-winning herd of Jersey cows, have seen the farm undergo major developments. When they first arrived they did everything by hand in a traditional style, but this has changed dramatically with the innovative new dairy building, which includes a viewing area for educational visits.

Pierrepont Farm Open Day 

Pierrepont provides an outstanding environment for enterprise and food sustainability within an Area of Outstanding Landscape Value. It is only a 10-minute cycle ride from Frensham and many locals visit the Old Dairy business units for local produce, including ale, cider, cheese, jewellery, Windsor chairs and more

The Old Dairy


Jo Baker

The farm was gifted to the CRT by Jo Baker in 2006. 
She remained a very close CRT Friend until she passed away in 2018.

Location

Stand at the front gate of Pierrepont farmhouse on a quiet summer evening, listen intently and you may justcatch the very faintest of echoes of Gavotte and Minuet and the rustle of silks and satins.

Fifty yards away on that grassy knoll ahead of you where the Jerseys now graze (as they are doing in the photograph below) was once a fine mansion called Clinton Lodge, after the then owner, the Earl of Lincoln, which the Duke of Kingston later bought, renaming it Pierrepont Lodge after his family name and adding a splendid ballroom and a new kitchen.

Eddie's Paddock

Not that the property had always been a rich man’s plaything, for in 1601 a John Inwood paid the Lord of the Manor of Farnham 2/6d [“half-a-crown”, or 12½ pence in today’s coinage] rent for “6 acres at Tankards Forde with a cottage and barn new built”. By 1690 it had been acquired by Frensham Beale Manor, when the rental was 8/- [eight shillings, or 40 pence]. Tankards, or Tancreds ford, about 200 yards away (and the origin of the name of today’s Tankersford Wood), was one of the few crossing places for the River Wey before Millbridge was built about half a mile upstream. A number of field names were written in the Court Rolls at that date, but sadly none of those names survive today.

When George Mabanke, a wealthy maltster of Guildford wrote his will in 1725, he described a larger farm — 40 acres in Farnham Manor and 20 in Frensham, with messuage and barn (which still stands today), occupied by a Thomas Farnham. The local history is of a long struggle to win small pockets from “the waste”, poor sandy soil only good for heather, “fuzz” (gorse) & rabbits, which can still drive CRT’s farmer Mike Clear to distraction, and, in those days, a haunt of rogues, vagabonds and smugglers. Twenty eight years and two owners after Mr Mabanke’s will, the Earl of Lincoln (known accurately, if unkindly, as Lincoln the Fat) was enrolled in the court rolls, bringing us back to where we started.

19th century sheep shearingSheep shearing at Pierrepont in the later part of the 19th century.

Evelyn Pierrepont, Duke of Kingston, should have had all life’s advantages, but alas! amiability and handsome good looks hardly compensated for a poor education and lack of sense.

To Frensham, however, he came in 1761, with his vast fortune and mistress Elizabeth Chudleigh, no better than she ought, by all accounts, and they disported and gambolled for ten years, by which time he had married the lady, she almost certainly bigamously, but his health was failing and Pierrepont Lodge was sold in short order through two rich merchants and a minor M.P. to Ralph Winstanley Wood, who, after a military career, had made his pile from salt.

Perhaps he had no need of a ballroom, or it was the thought of those disreputable vagabonds coming over the ford and passing in front of his house, but demolish it he did and built his own mansion half a mile to the west, calling it Highfield Lodge.

Here he indulged in the pursuits of a family man and country landowner, adding considerably to his property in Frensham and having his and his wife’s portrait painted by the fashionable Francis Wheatley. About 1817 disaster struck, though, when he lost his fortune to a son-in-law’s unwise investments. Happily, another son-in-law, Crawford Davison, came to the rescue and purchased Highfield, allowing his father-in-law to remain there the rest of his long life.

Crawford was a merchant in rice, but not typically avaricious, as he went out of his way to relieve the suffering of Frensham people after a poor harvest by supplying rice, and his description of the illness and death of his eldest son Thomas shows him as a kind and considerate Christian. In 1836 he died and the estate, now over 300 acres, passed to his surviving son, also Crawford, but the house must have been too large for this bachelor, as he only lived there a few years, then moved first to the Priory at Millbridge and then to Bentley with his sister Mary, renting out Highfield until 1862, when he sold it to Richard Henry Combe, of the brewery firm which later became Watney, Combe and Reid.

Dummy Sherman tank

During the Second World War (1939-45), Pierrepont Farm was used as a training site for Canadian combat engineers. As well as practising building Bailey bridges the engineers also developed dummy Sherman tanks, like the one above, to mislead the Germans into thinking that the D-Day landings would be in the Pas de Calais, instead of Normandy. Somehow, this tank was left at the farm and was filmed in 2010 for a History Channel programme.

R. H. was a country lover who added greatly to the estate. He started his own pack of foxhounds in 1876, the year he completed his new house on the same site as Highfield. Designed by Norman Shaw and reverting to the name of Pierrepont, this is the building that stands there today.

His son Richard inherited in 1900 on his father’s death, by which time the estate had grown to 1500 acres and included Frensham’s Little Pond, Manor House and Hotel. A benevolent employer, he lived happily enough there with his wife, but their one son was killed in the First World War, so after their deaths in 1939 and 1941, the estate was put up for auction.

The house was requisitioned by the military, but the farm and other property were purchased by Major Allnatt, a property developer. As children, his son and daughter Jo were brought up on the farm, idyllic but spartan, tin baths and paraffin lamps, and it was to here she would return many years later to start her own beloved pedigree Jersey herd and, with great generosity, many years later gift it to the CRT.

Please make a donation today so the CRT can continue to restore a living, working countryside...

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