A precious reminder
Obriss Farm was given to the Landmark Trust in 1990 by the executors of Mrs Helena Cooper. Mrs Cooper had inherited the farm from her father, who bought it in the 1920s. While neither actually farmed Obriss themselves, both took a close interest in it, and in the way it was run by their tenants. As pressure mounted on farmers in recent decades to rely more and more on chemicals and to industrialise their production, so Obriss, run along traditional lines, became a precious reminder of different values. Its fields remained unsprayed and wildlife thrived.
Mrs Cooper was keen that this aspect of Obriss should be preserved, but also wished for the buildings to be repaired, cared for, and enjoyed. It was for this reason that her executors opted for the Landmark Trust as its new guardian. While the farm buildings at Obriss remain in agricultural use, the farmhouse is now let throughout the year for short stays to parties of up to five people, to enjoy the unspoilt surroundings and the life of a small working farm through the seasons.
Managing a farm is not a typical task for Landmark, so the fields are let for pasture to a farmer whose family have farmed in the area for many years. Another solution was needed for the woods, which make up nearly a third of the farm. Landmark has entered into a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme for the management of the farm, including the woodland and it will reinstate and replant various areas.
The buildings of Obriss Farm
Obriss is typical of the small mixed farms which were formed in this area in the Tudor and Elizabethan era by yeomen, some freeholders, some tenants of larger landowners. Such farms were often the result of enclosing the large open fields of the medieval period, and this seems to have been the case at Obriss. A field to the north-east of the house has the clear `ridge and furrow' pattern left by medieval ploughs. The farm straddles the parish border of Brasted and Westerham. Its own boundaries, and those of its fields, have probably changed little in the last two or three hundred years.
The earliest building dates from between 1550 and 1600. This is the timber-framed bakehouse which stands behind the farmhouse. Examination by the archaeologist David Martin has revealed that this is in origin a detached kitchen, a rare survival of a once common building type. It was once about twice the size it is now, and probably served a combined use not only as a kitchen but as a bakehouse and brewhouse as well, with storage rooms and possibly some accommodation for servants. In the 19th century, when its brick chimney was added, it was used as a bakehouse and washhouse, and possibly a smokehouse, smoking bacon from this and neighbouring farms.
The front part of the farmhouse itself, which is timber-framed, is also thought to date from before 1600, although it has been added to and altered since. The character of the house as it is now, with its parlour and large kitchen, belongs more to the early 19th century.
For a short history of Obriss Farm please click here.
To read the full history album for Obriss Farm please click here.