The Griffins of Stockton Fields (later Hill Farm) 1817-
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The first Griffin to settle at Stockton Fields was William, born in 1791 or 1792 into a farming family of Avon Dassett, a village just eight miles south of Stockton. By an agreement dated 18th November 1817, when he was between 25 and 26 years old, William Griffin leased an estate in Stockton for fourteen years from a Mrs Lamb.
He was the third of nine children of William and Jane (née King). The first three sons were named Thomas, William and John; these were names that appeared in generation after generation of Griffins. William’s ancestry can be traced back to 12th century Leicestershire, later to Braybrooke in Northamptonshire, and finally to Warwickshire. In the reign of Henry VIII, three sons of an Edward Griffin who was an Usher of the Chamber and Sergeant at Arms in the royal court settled in the county. Henry was at Long Itchington, a village adjoining Stockton, John was about five miles away at Priors Marston, and Thomas at Fenny Compton, seven miles from Stockton and just a mile from William’s birthplace, Avon Dassett. There is a gap in the Griffin ancestral line due to a typical absence of mid-
The lady who granted William his lease was almost certainly Mrs Ann Lamb, wife of the landowner, Thomas Lamb. In 1817 he was out in Calcutta, serving in the Bengal Army. In 1841 William was to sign an agreement with that same Thomas Lamb, by then Capt. Lamb, to take over a quarry and equipment in Stockton and so found Griffin’s Lime Works.
Three months later, on February 5th, 1818, an inventory which survives among Griffin family papers was made of stock, implements, rent advanced, and household contents, property of Mr Sharman of Stockton, almost certainly the preceding tenant. The decade of 1810 to 1820 was marked by harsh winters and some very wet weather and this may have caused the delay between the signing of the new tenancy agreement and the valuation.
There were 86 sheep and lambs and six head of cattle, which together with advance rent paid for 51 acres of “grass keeping” (pasture land) gave a total value of £264 1s 0d. A few items of furniture and some dairy and butchery equipment which were to remain in the house totalled £17 11s 6d. Thirdly came a total of £76 7s 0d for farmyard equipment and ricks, and several items which may represent rent advanced or pending receipts. Listed are five named closes (enclosed fields), “stableing for six horses” and “Lodgeing for A man and litter for his horses”. An unspecified item is added, valued at £1 13s 0d, and £10 are deducted, for unknown reasons, giving a final total of £349 12s 6d. This sum of 349 pounds, twelve shillings and sixpence (£349 12½p) is the equivalent in today’s money of around £28,000, based on inflation figures. The calculation is clearly only accurate for things that have shadowed inflation increases, for example in 1948 my parents’ first small house cost them £800, which by coincidence again produces a current value of £28,000 using the average inflation figures. If it had not been demolished to build a new estate, it would surely have been worth at least five or six times that today. You can download here an image of the inventory and a transcript.
Stockton Fields farmhouse in the early 1900s. It was demolished in 1981.
The above photograph shows Warwickshire Shorthorns and a horned sheep on the House Ground. The tree on the left appears to be in flower, and may be the laburnum which still stood there many years afterwards, or a predecessor of it; the pear tree on the front wall was still bearing fruit fifty years after this picture was taken. In the distance stands a stately elm tree. Now that nearly all English elms have disappeared, killed by deadly Dutch elm disease, the only local reminder of these trees that once graced the Warwickshire countryside is in the name of a Stockton village street, Elm Row. Outside the village, it becomes a track that leads northwards and passes to the east of the old farmyard of Stockton Fields, and the tree in the picture stood alongside it.
Leaning against the front door is believed be Thomas Griffin (1868-
The Griffins’ farm appears on the First Series Ordnance Survey map of the early 19th century, a series completed by 1844, as “Stockton Field”. Various documents show that over the years others, if not the family themselves, sometimes referred to the farm using the name “The Hill”, or something similar. However, the name used by the family themselves was Stockton Fields until after the Second World War, when the name Hill Farm was finally adopted, due to increasing confusion caused by the existence of a “Stockton Fields Farm” not far away. On the 1939 register, made when identity cards were distributed at the beginning of the Second World War, the Griffins’ home was given that very name, Stockton Fields Farm.