Charity Farm at Shotley

In 1982 the records of the Blue Coat Foundation (GA400) were deposited at Ipswich Record Office.  The records of the foundation contain a veritable goldmine of information on a farm and its estate in Shotley and Chelmondiston. The collection’s minute books reveal that the estate was purchased in 1734 and for many years Charity Farm, as it is now known, was leased to the Berners family of Woolverstone Hall.

Ipswich Journal 28 October 1848 advertising the sale of Shotley Farm

The Foundation’s records show that Charles Berners and his son appointed under-tenants to work the Charity Farm. Timber from the estate, mainly ash, alder and oak, was used to repair the house.  In 1808 the Trustees of the Blue Coat Foundation ordered that the backhouse and the dairy be pulled down and rebuilt at the end of the house, and that a cow-house and cart lodge be erected.
In 1830 the under-tenant was Samuel Gardiner and the estate was valued at £154 1s 16d.  At the same time observations were made as to the upkeep of the farmhouse and estate with the information being recorded in the quarterly minute books.  The minutes also reveal that relations between the Berners and the Trust were sometimes strained.  In 1841 some ash trees were felled and the timber was sold but ‘…no request was made in writing pursuant to the terms of the lease.’

1904 map of Charity Farm

Without the minutes of the Blue Coat Foundation there would only be limited information available as to how the farmhouse at Shotley and surrounding land developed in the 18th and 19th centuries.  They provide us with knowledge far beyond what the historian can usually expect, making Charity Farm a truly remarkable property history case.