Wednesday, January 04, 2006

30 years - History repeats itself


Coate Farmhouse and its out-buildings are in a very poor state at the moment. The Trust has lodged a formal complaint with Swindon Borough Council, the owners of the Grade II listed building, asking that restoration is undertaken now.

There was a similar appeal launched in 1975 by Sir John Betjeman. Mark Daniel's sketch of the farmhouse and outbuildings is illustrated above.

COATE FARM APPEAL 1975

An appeal by Sir John Betjeman with
Richard Adams
Ronald Blythe
Robert Dougall
Spike Milligan
Johnny Morris
Henry Williamson – Vice-president Richard Jefferies Society

Coate Farm, near Swindon, where writer Richard Jefferies was born and spent most of his short life, is in great danger through decay. Several thousand Pounds are needed urgently if the outbuildings are to be saved. This place is important for two reasons:

First, most of the remaining buildings have survived from before the middle of the last century, gaining importance from Jefferies’ descriptions of the farm, the countryside and its people during a period critical to English rural life;

Secondly, Jefferies’ work has been a source of inspiration to imaginative people for a hundred years and has profoundly affected modern country writing.

Parts of the farmhouse date from about 1700 but the outbuildings were constructed by Jefferies’ father, James, about 1840, largely with his own hands. At a time when agricultural depression was forcing many small dairy-farmers off the land, James hung on grimly – and built to last. Eventually he was ruined but his patience with young Richard, who preferred scribbling in notebooks to physical work, gave the world a great writer. The old buildings stand as a monument to a brave farmer and his son, whose vision helped inspire some of the best literature in the world.

It sometimes happens that Scheduled buildings are restored by some official body particularly if, like Coate Farm, they are actually owned by the local authority. However, the Council cannot now spend money on work to which it is not already committed – and the buildings cannot wait. Private support is the only hope.

I would be most grateful if you would help to save Coate Farm by sending a donation to: The Coate Farm Restoration Fund
c/o Mark Daniel etc

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Letters
Swindon Advertiser
3 January 2005

Richard Jefferies' house being left to rot

I visited the Swindon area over the Christmas period to take in a trip to Coate as I am fond of the works of the author Richard Jefferies.

I was so pleased to find that some of the places mentioned in his writing are little changed. Imagine my dismay when, quite by accident, I stumbled upon Jefferies' birthplace house, to find it falling into what can only be described as a dilapidated state.

Jefferies is internationally renowned as a nature writer and has inspired many of our finest authors and artists, many of whom would, like myself, be horrified to think that his house, now a museum, was being left to rot. May I invite the owners of the property, Swindon Borough Council, to explain why this important building is being left to ruin?

C BARTRAM Littleport Ely, Cambs

Jefferies Land Conservation Trust said...

Swindon Advertiser
9 January 2006

Jefferies land is left derelict

THE Jefferies Land Conservation Trust shares C Bartram's concern (Adver, January 3) about the state of the Richard Jefferies' museum, outbuildings and grounds at Coate.
We have lodged a formal complaint with Swindon Council about the unkempt look of this Grade II-listed property.

Richard Jefferies' father set about beautifying the garden at Coate farm and instilled a passion for nature in his son that made him an acclaimed writer on wildlife.

Visitors are still attracted to Jefferies' land and want to see what inspired the author.

But what do they find? They discover brambles and dereliction where the writer was born and bred and news of a massive building programme on the fields that inspired his writing.

If there is anyone out there with a few thousand quid to spare, the trust would like to hear from you. We would love to buy Jefferies' home and make it beautiful again.

Patrick said...

Good project ... maybe the original article by Mark Daniel should be reprinted in Advertiser, The Countryman, Times, Telegraph, Guardian, etc ... as portraying the absurdity, waste of good people's time and money ... and most specifically the incompetence, disregard and dereliction of duty by SBC.

Jefferies Land Conservation Trust said...

18 good souls turned out on Sunday 29 January is order to tackle the brambles, nettles and overgrowth at Coate Farm.

Anyone interested in helping in the future should contact us, please.