The St John family dominated the parish of Lydiard Tregoze during the 18th century. Not only did they own the impressive neo-Palladian Lydiard mansion and parkland of approximately 147 acres but also numerous farms.
Brook Farm appears on the 1773 Andrews and Drury map of Wiltshire named simply ‘The Brook,’ taking its name from the brook that once flowed through the farmyard.
Today the much altered former farmhouse is a pub and restaurant on the edge of the West Swindon 1980’s development, straddling the divide between town and country but during the 19th century Brook Farm included land in both Lydiard Tregoze and Lydiard Millicent parishes.
Details from the 1841 tithe map of Lydiard Millicent describe over 119 acres of land belonging to John Lewis Mallet, and fields of pasture named Great Shelfinch, Tumpy, The Mead, Middle Leaze and Ram Leaze. There were two cottages with gardens, an orchard and, standing in over one acre of land, the homestead and a garden. The tithe map for Lydiard Tregoze details a further 50 acres of pasture owned by Lord Bolingbroke and farmed by his tenant Thomas Plummer.
In 1853 Thomas’s daughter Sarah married Richard Frampton Tuckey and made the short journey across the parish to begin her married life at Lower Shaw Farm. Widowed ten years later, Sarah married for a second time in 1868 and with her new husband, Joses Badcock returned to her childhood home at Brook.
When the then owner, Joses Badcock sold the property in 1901 the sale catalogue described Brook Farm as being a ‘high class residential pasture farm’ with a farmhouse ‘built of brick with a slate roof.’ On the ground floor there was a Drawing Room, a Dining Room and a Morning Room as well as a large entrance hall with five bedrooms and a large box room on the first floor. On the second floor there were two servant’s bedrooms. The ground floor included a Large Dairy with a ‘spacious cheese room with tacks and stands’ above.
Brook Farm had just a handful of owners during the first half of the 20th century, among them Miss Elizabeth Akers, Alfred Leonard Purkis and Harold Pears. When Harold Pears sold the property in 1939 a note is made that: ‘The Owner is at present renting a further 61 acres from Lady Bolingbroke, the tenancy of which could no doubt be transferred.’
By the end of the 19th century the Bolingbroke family were in serious financial difficulties. Henry, the 5th Viscount died in 1899, leaving a run down, neglected estate, parts of which were sold in 1920 with a further large sale in 1930. The Evening Advertiser of 3rd December 1930 reported “each tenant had by Lady Bolingbroke’s instructions, the opportunity of purchasing privately and seven such sales were negotiated amounting to £20,500. Only five lots actually came under the hammer, including the Bincknoll and Cotmarsh Farms, about 820 acres.”
Lady Bolingbroke died in 1940 and in 1943 the trustees of her will sold off what remained of the Lydiard Estate. It was the end of an era.