Croft (usually pronounced “Cruft”) is a common place-name in Devon, and means “enclosure”. The Croft in Spreyton dates back to at least 1292, as the Assize Roll for that year mentions “la Croft juxta Spreyton”. The house at Croft is an old one probably dating back to medieval times and is mentioned in Pevsner’s “Buildings of England” as a former Devon long-house with good internal joinery. The lower end was converted into a kitchen in the 17th century, and its hearth incorporates a smoking chamber.
The farmhouse has been given a Grade II listing and the Historic England description is as follows:
Farmhouse. Of or earlier. Plastered cob on stone rubble footings; stone rubble
or cob stacks, one with its original granite ashlar chimney-shaft; corrugated
asbestos roof, formerly thatch [the thatch has now been restored].
Plan: evidently this was originally a 3-room-and-through-passage plan farmhouse
facing south-south-east, say south, but the service end room has been demolished.
The inner room at the right (west) end has a gable-end stack and the hall has an
axial stack backing onto the passage which is now at the left end of the house.
Since no internal inspection was available at the time of this survey the early
development of the house cannot be outlined here. Nevertheless it seems likely that
it began as some form of open hall house, maybe heated by an open hearth fire. By
the late 17th century the fireplaces would have been inserted and the rooms floored over.
Now the passage is disused as an entrance. A new front doorway has been provided
into the inner room. House is 2 storeys.
Exterior: irregular 4-window front of 19th and 20th century casements with glazing bars. The passage front doorway at the right end and the present front doorway left of centre
both contain 20th century plank door. Roof is gable-ended to left and half-hipped to right.
Interior: was not available for inspection at the time of this survey but the
farmer claims that it contains a great deal of early carpentry detail and that it
has been little modernised since the 19th century. A detailed internal investigation should
be undertaken before any modernisation or alteration here.
It seems that in medieval times Croft and neighbouring farm of Rugroad were treated as a single unit. For instance, in an 1802 conveyance of the right to certain Spreyton tithes they are bracketed together as “Cruft or Croff’s Heath and Rugroad”.
There is a curious rent associated with the properties, namely an annual rental of one pair of gloves payable to the Lord of the Manor. Such rentals tend to date back to medieval times, but were usually forgotten. This one seems to have survived for an exceptional time. In 1644, a Henry or Hugh Pyke was recorded as paying 1 pair of gloves to the Lord of the Manor. A 19th century document refers to an annual payment of one glove being due out of“Croft or Rugroad tenement” to the Battishill family of Spreyton Barton, who had by then acquired a half-share of the Manor of Spreyton. This strange rent had by mutual agreement been commuted to 1s.6d. The other half of the manor was split between two owners, each of whom was due a part of a glove or its agreed monetary equivalent.
1726: Croft was part of the Manor of Spreyton. But at some point a freehold interest in the property appears to have passed to a family called Pyke living in the Isle of Wight, as in 1726 John Pyke of Newport in the Isle of Wight made over the property to his son (several Pykes appear in the Spreyton parish registers in the 18th century, so John Pyke probably purchased or inherited the property from Spreyton connections). It was described in the deed of conveyance as consisting of 30 acres of “land” (ie arable land), 6 acres of meadow, 30 acres of pasture, 2 acres of woodland and 40 acres of furze and heath – ie a total of 102 acres. The tenant at the time was one John Longford.
1761, the Pyke family let Croft to Christopher Copplestone, a yeoman farmer. He signed a 7-year lease at an annual rental of £7. The lease contained a number of provisions on how he should cultivate the land, and required him to pay an extra £3 of rent for every acre of meadow that he ploughed up.
1765:the Pyke who owned Croft in the mid-18th century, George Pyke, mortgaged the property, and in 1765, after his death it was sold to pay the mortgage. The purchaser was George Cann, the owner of the neighbouring farm of Falkedon and a member of one of the main landowning families of Spreyton. The deed describes the farm as having only 70 acres, so presumably Pyke had already sold some of the land.
1802: George Cann was a bachelor, and when he died in 1802 he left most of his property, including Croft, to his sister’s son, George Lambert Gorwyn (1763-37).
1812: George Lambert Gorwyn appears to have farmed the land (he is recorded in parish documents as taking an apprentice for Croft in 1812), but he himself lived at Falkedon and no doubt he either used the house at Croft for his farm labourers or let it. In 1812, according to the Spreyton parish records, William and Elizabeth Woodley were living there.
1837: When George died in 1847, he bequeathed Croft, along with his other properties in Spreyton, to his grandson, another George Lambert Gorwyn (1818-1885), who lived at Coffins.
1885: When the latter died, the property passed to his son George Lambert (the family had by then dropped the Gorwyn), the future MP and 1st Viscount Lambert.
1891: At the time of the 1891 census, a farm labourer turned farmer called Samuel Powlesland was living in Croft with his wife and grandson.The grandson was said to have been fathered by George Lambert Gorwyn, and no doubt Samuel and his family were put into Croft as a way of providing for the family. A 7-year lease of Croft to Samuel in 1904 survives; at that point he was paying an annual rent of £45, and the property is recorded as consisting of 52 acres. As the farms on either side, Falkedon and Rugroad, also belonged to the Lambert Gorwyns and had been treated as a single enterprise since the late 1700s, it seems likely that the boundaries between them had become blurred, and that some of the original fields belonging to Croft ended up as part of Falkedon or Rugroad, accounting for the reduced acreage compared to that of 1765.
1911: Samuel found it hard to make a go of the farm, and gave up the lease in 1911. In 1912, George Lambert MP gave a 7-year lease of both Croft and the larger neighbouring farm of Spreytonwood to Charles Webber of Easthayes Farm, Ottery St Mary (the total rent for the two farms, amounting to some 300 acres, was £150 a year).
1925: From 1925 Croft was let to Charles Keen of the Green, Colebrooke, for an annual rent of £70.
1960: From 1960 it was let to Ernest John Lott for a rent of £155. In 1962 this was raised by £60.10s to take account of the fact that the landlord had installed mains water and a milking parlour.
1972:The last of the Lamberts to own the property was the grandson of the George Lambert MP who inherited it in 1885. This grandson died in an accident in 1970 and Croft was then sold along with the rest of the Lambert family estates in Spreyton. Croft’s land at that time consisted of 53.5 acres (21.7 hectares), in a rough rectangle north of Croft Lane, starting about a third of the way along and running east as far as the river Troney. To the north it is bordered by Rugroad and Spreytonwood; and to the south by Falkedon.
Map of Croft farm from 1972 sale catalogue
©Sophia Lambert, January 2006
FIELDS BELONGING TO CROFT
When Croft was sold by the Lambert family in 1972 as a working farm, it had the following fields. The names (and acreages in brackets) are those recorded at the time of the tithe apportionment in 1842. An exact reconciliation of acreages has not been possible as some fields have been combined with others; and some of the field boundaries, especially north of Croft lane, have been altered
|Tithe No.||OS No.||Name in 1842||Acreage in 1972 (acres, rods, perches in 1842)|
|431||(no tithe number – part of 732, formerly a lane)||0.131|
|772, 761, 762||437||Higher Ley, Middle Ley, garden in the corner of Middle Ley (now one field)||4.681 (3.1.27, 1.3.29, 0.1.36)|
|760||449||Lower Ley||4.145 (3.0.21, 1.3.29, 0.1.36)|
|758 759||450||Meadow and Coarse Meadow (now one field; it seems that part of a green lane may also have been incorporated)||3.607 (1.2.0, 1.0.9)|
|742||452||Great Churchwood||7.624 (7.0.8)|
|732, 731, 730||453454475||Bottoms; boundaries unclear||0.570 1.3860.644|
|736||455||Croft Meadow||3.458 3.1.34|
|740||456||Houses and courts||0.764 (0.1.20)|
|763||457||Thorn Hills||4.399 (3.3.13)|
|770,771||458||Moory, Garden (now one field)||3.894 (2.1.22, 1.1.22)|
|Part of 771||468||Part of Garden – see 458||0.826|
|Part of 763 ||469||Part of Thorn Hills – see 457||0.860|
|Part of 763||470||Part of Thorn Hills – see 457||0.795|
|735||473||Little Churchwood||2.772 2.3.7|
|731||475||Bottom – see 453|
|730||476||Bottom – see 453||0.640|
|728||484||Bottom Field||3.906 (4.0.18)|
|Part of 728||485||Part of Bottom Field||0.977|
Conveyance of 7.6.1726 (12 Geo I) whereby John Pyke of Newport (Isle of Wight), gent., conveys to his son and heir apparent Thomas Pyke of Combe St Nicholas in Somerset, gent., The Croft in Spreyton, now in the tenure of John Longford or his assignees, and consisting of a messuage and tenement, 30 acres of land, 6 acres of meadow, 30 acres of pasture, 2 acres of woodland and 40 acres of furze and heath. The transfer is for the love of Thomas and to help him to advance himself in marriage. Thomas pays 5s. Also transferred to Thomas is a yearly rent of 10s. and other services payable out of Treble alias Trefable in Cheriton Bishop. John Pyke had given Thomas a 1-year lease of the premises on the previous day [this does not survive].
Counterpart signed John Pyke; witnesses ?G. Clarke; George Pyke; and Mary Swain It is annotated to the effect that it was shown to Mr George Pyke and Miss Mary Swain who were examined as witnesses on 27.1.1791 [possibly a mistake for 1731 – see below] .
Agreement of 7.6.1726 to levy a fine, between (1) John Pyke of Newport (Isle of Wight) and his wife Jane; (2) Thomas Pyke of Combe St Nicholas in Somerset, eldest son of John and Jane; and (3) Robert Chute of Exeter, gent. and Joseph Greenway of Bridgewater in Somerset, gent. The document notes that Thomas owns the reversion and inheritance of Croft, expectant on an estate in the same premises determinable on the deaths of John and Jane; and that John and Jane, for the love of their son and to advance him in marriage, have agreed to divest themselves of their estate for life and to join with Thomas in levying a fine of the premises (messuage, garden, orchard, 30 acres of land, 6 acres of meadow, 30 acres of pasture, 2 acres of woodland and 40 acres of furze and heath), limiting their use to Thomas. John, Jane and Thomas promise to Chute and Greenway that they will levy a fine to Chute and Greenway, before the Court of Common Pleas by the end of the next Trinity or Michaelmas term, both of Croft and certain rents issuing out of certain lands and tenements in Cheriton Bishop, the said fine to be for the use of Thomas forever.
Counterpart signed by John Pyke, Jane Pyke and Tho. Pyke. Witnesses: ?G Clarke; George Pyke; Mary Swain. Annotated to the effect that it was shown to the last two witnesses as part of their examination on 27.12.1731.
Conveyance of 6.3.1758. Arthur Kelly of Kelly conveys to John Cann the younger for £30 all his quarter share of the Manor and Lordship of Spreyton and all the high and chief rents:
Lambert Estate papers
Lease of 5.8.1761 (1 Geo III) whereby Ann Pyke, widow of Newport, Isle of Wight, and one of the executors of her husband George’s will, leased Croft (described as about 60 acres and then in the occupation of Christopher Copplestone) to Christopher Copplestone, yeoman of Spreyton, for 7 years from 10.10.1761, at an annual rent of £18. There were various requirements on the tenant as to keeping the premises (including the glass windows of the house) repaired; and as to the cultivation of the land (using the hay, halm, straw, fodder, dung and soil that is produced on the premises to better them, although he could carry away the production of the last year of the tenancy unless the landlord opted to buy it at a price decided by two men, one chosen by each side; and dressing any meadow land that was ploughed up with eight score seams or horseloads of dung or 40 bushels of lime or lime ashes). The tenant also had to pay £3 extra rent for each acre of meadow that he ploughed up. Timber rights were reserved.
Signed Christopher Coplestone.Witnesses: S. King; Jno. Minshaw junior.
Lease and Release of 19/20.4.1765. The lease is granted by Ann Pyke, John Trattle and Samuel King to George Cann. Quadripartite indenture between (1) William Duckitt of Gosport in Southamptonshire, wine merchant; (2) Ann Pyke of Newport in the Isle of Wight, widow, John Trattle, late of Newport, grocer, but now of Cowes in the IoW, victualler, and Samuel King of Newport, mercer, who are devisees of all the land of the late George Pyke of Newport, brewer; (3) George Cann of Spreyton, gentleman; and (4) John Cann of Spreyton, a friend nominated by and in trust for George Cann. Parties (1) and (2) convey to George Cann (with John Cann as a trustee) the Croft, formerly in the possession of Andrew Battishill and now in the possession of Christopher Copplestone as tenant to Ann Pyke, Trattle and King, for the remainder of a term of 1000 years, in trust for George Cann. The yearly high or quit rent of 10s. payable out of Trebble in Cheriton Bishop, now in the possession of Joseph Pitts, is also conveyed. George Cann pays £450 and John Cann 5s. to William Duckitt.
Croft had been mortgaged by George Pyke, the deceased husband of Ann, and the mortgage had passed through various hands to William Duckitt. Duckitt and Geo. Pyke’s widow sold Croft to pay the mortgage and other debts left by Geo. Pyke. The conveyance notes that Croft consists of some 70 acres, contrary to the larger acreage described in one of the mortgage documents. The conveyance refers to a number of other documents:
Signed Wm. Duckitt, Anne Pyke, John Trattle, S. King and John Cann junior.
Lease and release of 6/7.11.1772 whereby John Newcombe of Exeter St David Esq. Conveys to George Cann of Spreyton, gent. For £16.10s the high and chief rent of 5s.6d payable yearly out of Rugrow als Rugrode in Spreyton now in the possession of William Cann; and the high and chief rent of 5s1d payable yearly out of Croft in Spreyton, now in the possession of George Cann. The token rent in the lease is a barley corn.
Lease of 28.1.1904 granted by George Lambert Esq. MP to William Powlesland, farmer, both of Spreyton, of Croft Farm containing 51.8 acres (the fields are listed in a schedule). The lease is for 7 years at a yearly rent of £45. Mineral, timber and game rights are reserved to George Lambert. Counterpart signed by William Powlesland, witnessed by John Hill, grocer of Spreyton.
Declaration of 8 June 1911 whereby William Powlesland agrees to give up Croft, being in arrears on the rent.
Lease of 21.10.1925 whereby George Lambert Esq. leases Croft (52 acres), lately in the possession of Mrs Webber, to Charles Keen of The Green, Colebrooke, by the year at an annual rent of £70. Includes schedule of fields with names.
Copy of a schedule (listing fields) to a lease of 18.8.1960 whereby 2nd Viscount Lambert leases Croft (53 acres) to Ernest John Lott for £155 a year, plus a memorandum of 8.10.1962 on raising the rent to take account of the installation of mains water and a milking parlour.
Letter of 16.6.1965 from North Devon Water Board to 2nd Viscount Lambert with an agreement for the supply of water to Croft (refers to Mr Lott, the then tenant).