History & Archaeology

Elmswell lies in a rich and nationally important archaeological landscape, with sites dating from the Neolithic to the post medieval. The reuse of certain ancient landscape features as boundaries from prehistoric times to the medieval and consequently to the present day, has allowed the estate to carry on as a distinct and discrete parcel of land from at least the time of Edward the Confessor ( 1042 – 66 ). There is also evidence of the use of the local springs as a ritual site, which may have culminated in the presence of a late Roman shrine on or near Bramble Hill. Proof of settlement at Elmswell can be found in terms of numerous burial mounds which date back to the Bronze age. Some of these were first excavated by John Mortimer in 1873 and are now all listed as National Monuments.

elsmwell farms history

Although it is difficult to decipher settlement patterns of the Romano- British period, Roman finds abound thanks to the work of Colder and others in 1935. As far back as the mid 1930’s the presence of Anglo Saxon pottery had been noted at Elmswell. The latest coins found at Elmswell date to c AD 390 – 5. The Doomsday entry for Elmswell gives the dimensions of the estate as 1 league long and half a league wide. Given that a league is 5km, the proportions of the modern estate are very similar indeed. It would appear that the size of the estate has changed very little from the 11th century to the time of Henry Best and on to the present day. The Doomsday book records for the first time the place name ‘ Elmswell ‘. Early historical authorities vouch for the topographic origin describing the village as ‘ formerly embosomed in lofty elms… and from its springs… it derives its name.,During the 11th century it was known as either Elmesuuelle or Helmeswelle – both names are used in the Doomsday book.

In the post medieval period c 1500 – 1700 the estate reverted to the crown, was sold to Thomas Crompton who in turn sold it to Henry Best in 1597 for £ 2000. Subsequently he sold it to his brother James, through whose family it passed until 1844. Henry Bests writings in Bests Book of Farming give an insight into farming in the 17th century and it is here that he makes reference to arranging for 400 000 bricks to be fired, presumably in Brick Close just north of the A166. The construction of two halls at Elmswell, known as the east and west halls in 1635 and 1640 are perhaps the most permanent reminder of Best. Today the east hall, known as Elmswell Old Hall, is a controlled ruin.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw significant change with the imposition of enclosures, railways and depopulation. Enclosures arrived in Elmswell in November 1777, when the award was enrolled. The enclosure field pattern has now mostly disappeared from the landscape, but is still very apparent from the estate maps of the 1840s. The Mackrill family purchased the estate in July 1939 for the sum of £ 25,250, with the first family member moving onto the estate in 1962. Since then a number of parcels of land have been added to the original estate.

archeaology dig