Upton Wood Farm

Upton Wood Farm, Upton Wood, Shepherdswell

The earliest mention of this farm found to date was when it was put up for auction on 23rd May 1874. It consisted of 31 acres, 3 rods and 36 perches of arable and pasture land, with 3 cottages, a barn, stables and outbuildings. Thomas Friend had been the owner for some years.

Whoever bought it did not stay long as it was once again for sale in 1877, with the same particulars as before, with the exception that one of the cottages was now called a farmhouse. Wiiliam Streeter was the farm bailiff here in 1881, employing 3 men and 1 boy, although the owner is not known.

By 1886, the farm was again for sale or let but now consisted of 8 acres of hops, 5 acres of fruit “plantation”, a 7-acre orchard, and 12 acres of pasture and arable. The buildings consisted of a house, cottage and oast house, with outbuildings. It is likely that this is when John Carey took this opportunity to try his hand at farming, having had several previous occupations. He can be found on the 1891 census with his wife and son, living at the farm.

No record of the farm by name was found on the 1901 census but a newspaper article in August 1910 showed that CF Collard of Upton Wood Farm was going abroad and was selling a half-bred Arab chestnut cob and a bay cob, both of which were used to harness and could be used for riding.

The next records found for Upton Wood Farm come from 1919, when PJ Tipler was selling about 90 poultry, 2 pigs, fowl houses and other implements. The following year, 1920, the farm was advertised for sale at a cost of £1,750 and sold. Livestock and implements were sold at auction a couple of months later and included 15 pigs, 25 poultry, 8 rabbits and a sheepdog, although there were no sheep on the farm!

In 1921, Harry Ransley and his family were living at the farm. It is around this time that the current bungalow was converted from a barn and cowshed. Harry was a bricklayer and small holder, although it’s not known what he did with the land or if he had any animals. He died in 1940, at the age of 63. He had seen his daughter married the previous year and the family had been very involved with the Methodist Chapel in the village.

There is another gap in the research after this.

Dover Express 21 May 1920

In 1947, the farm, then 25 acres, was bought by the Rolfe family. Frank Wallace Rolfe had been born in Kew and worked for many years as a botanist and a curator of the exhibition gardens at Kew, employed by the Imperial Institute. He had married his wife, Inez, in 1929 and they had only been at the farm for a few weeks when Frank died in Canterbury Hospital, at the age of only 59. The farm was very overgrown and would have been very hard work for the newly widowed Inez. There was a 5-acre orchard with apples and damsons and everything required attention. She sold some hens, bantam cockerels and ducks in 1948 and a Triumph 142, 350cc motorbike. The orchard was grubbed up and the trunks and cordwood sold in 1949. Geese and a gander were sold in 1950, as was a Raleigh gentleman’s roadster for £4 and 10 shillings. Sweetcorn, a relatively new crop, was grown and sold at Covent Garden Market by train, fetching a good price and there was a large shed for the free-range laying hens. 

The farmhouse in 1947

below is freshly picked sweetcorn for Covent Garden Market in 1950 (photos courtesy of JR)



Freshly picked sweetcorn for Covent Garden Market in 1950 (photos courtesy of JR)
Free-range chickens in 1954 (photo courtesy of JR)

Frank and Inez’s son, Don, had worked as a spitfire engineer from before WW2 and following his experiences during the war, was keen to get out of London. He had married in 1956 and he and his wife moved to the farm. In the 1970s, she has memories of being snowed in every winter, with no through road cleared for access to and from the farm (photo courtesy of JR).

In 1973, they started up a herd of Saanen dairy goats, a Swiss breed, with around 30 milkers. From these they sold milk, soft cheese and yoghurt to health food shops and some villagers still remember this. They retired in 1985, with Don passing away in 2013. 

Goats from the dairy herd 1973 – 1985 (photo courtesy of JR)

The farm is now home to a metal fabrications and engineering business, with their son being a major part of the company. Don’s wife continues to live at the farmhouse .

Tractor at Upton Wood 1950, photo courtesy of JR