Woosters of Seeley's Farm

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Woosters of Seeley's Farm Beaconsfield by Roger Mitchell

Seeleys Farm, Beaconsfield - Home to a Wooster family for decades

The ancient town of Bekensfeld, first gets a mention around 1185 in the Papal Rolls. There are a couple of translations of the name; "A clearing in the beech wood" and "beacon on the hill", but the officially accepted translation is from the old english beacnes-feld which means 'open land marked by a beacon'. Happily, we have now settled for, and stuck with, it's current name, Beaconsfield.

The manor of Beaconsfield, originally part of Burnham Abbey, was divided in to 3 estates; Hall Barn, Gregory's and Wiltones, now known as Wilton Park.

In 1624, Anne Waller and her son Edmund acquired the lands of Hall Barn. Edmund became a famous poet and a commonwealth politician, but as a result of his involvement in the Civil War, he was forced into exile. He probably built the estate residence of Hall Barn on his return. The estate was later bought by Sir Edward Levy-Lawson, later Lord Burnham and was still in this family's possession in 1925.

The statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke lived at Gregory's after acquiring it in 1787. Sadly it was burnt down in 1813 and not reconstructed until 1891 on a slightly different site. Gregory's Farm survived however, and in 1870, following her marriage to Charles Foster, Jane Wooster lived there for a while until moving to Upper Bottom House near Amersham.

Wilton Park was the home of the Du Pre family from 1779 until 1950. During the Second World War, it was used as a centre for the interrogation of senior prisoners of war. The house was demolished in 1968.

Not far from Gregory's Farm was Seeley's Farm. There appears to be a number of different spellings for this farm and I haven't been able to establish which is most likely to be correct. OS maps of 1876 indicate 'Sealey's Farm' whereas the local authority has spelt the street name 'Seeleys Road' and the present occupiers know their home as 'Seeleys Farm House'. Built in the 16th century the house was altered in the 17th century and substantially altered in the 19th century. The photograph (top right), shows part of the rear of the house as it stands today as a Listed Building.
The photograph (left) is a broader view of the courtyard showing the house to the right and the converted barns and outbuildings to the left. The house forms one side of the courtyard; the other three being formed by the barns and outbuildings which, although substantially changed, now stand as dwellings.

Although the farmhouse itself still stands, the surrounding area wouldn't be recognisable by those that lived or worked there in it's farming past. However, take a moment to stare at the photographs, allow your imagination to run wild and it only takes a second before you can create an image of the farm in the 1800's. The yard with it's rough cobbled surface, the huge wooden barn doors, the farm implements leaning against the barn walls and exhausted farm workers returning from a hard days toil in the orchard, or in the fields.

These days, the whole area surrounding the farmhouse is a modern housing estate which was developed in the 1960's to accommodate the growth of Beaconsfield as a commuter town. As many of the buildings in Beaconsfield seem to date from around the 17th century, it is probably reasonable to assume that this era was a particularly prosperous one for the town. Located as it is on a major coaching route from London, is probably the reason for this. However things have changed, at least the 'Wooster' name has been remembered! Seeleys Farm House stands just off Seeleys Road, to the end of which is Wooster Road!

The Wooster's of Beaconsfield and District.

Although we can find many Wooster families in the Wycombe and Beaconsfield area all the way back to c.1500, our story really starts with George Wooster who was born around 1816 in Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire. George, a son of Timothy Wooster, an agricultural labourer from Wendover, married Harriet Brown in 1839, a local girl from a nearby village. They settled down on a farm at Wendover where he worked as an agricultural labourer. The following year, 1840, their first son Edwin was born.

It would seem that George was to have a successful career as a farmer ahead of him because, by the time of the 1851 census, he had become a local employer on his own farm, Upper Bottom Farm, near Amersham where he farmed 130 acres and had 7 employees. By now, the family had expanded to include 2 more sons, William and Job and a daughter they called Jane.

By 1861, George and his family had moved to Penn where they occupied Knotty Green Farm, a farm of some 160 acres where he was once again a local employer. By this time, another daughter, Harriet, had been born. George remained a farmer in Penn for the rest of his life. He passed away in the autumn of 1886 at the age of 70 years. George's eldest son Edwin took over the farm and following his marriage to Kate Hitchcock in 1870 they had 2 daughters, Kate and Alice. Sadly, Edwin's wife Kate, passed away at or around the time of daughter Kate's birth at the young age of only 31 years. For the next 10 years, Edwin continued to manage the farm and brought up his 2 daughters before, in 1884, marrying his second wife, Emma Halt. The whole family including Kate and Alice are still at the farm for the 1901 census, some 27 years after Kate's death.

George and Harriet's daughter Jane, married Charles Deere Foster and had 2 sons, William and John. They lived together at Gregory's Farm until Charles' premature death in 1874 at the age of 28. The two widows, Harriet and Jane, along with Jane's son William are found living together in Knotty Green, Penn, at the time of the 1891 census.

Seeley's Farm, Beaconsfield.

Clearly, George and Harriet's son Job was going to carry on in his father's footsteps. By the time Job was 20 he was already living at, and managing, Seeley's Farm. At this time, the farm, which was 190 acres, employed 8 men. Job married Mary Hitchcock in the winter of 1873. Mary, was a local girl from Beaconsfield being a daughter of John Hitchcock, a Glazier and Painter. Mary and Kate Hitchcock (Edwin Wooster's deceased first wife), were sisters. Job and Mary's younger son, Job jnr, was born in 1881 on Seeley's Farm. Job was to become yet another Wooster son to follow in his father's footsteps, In 1901, we find him at the age of 19, described as a Farmer 'working at home' at Holtspur Bottom Farm at Penn, being ably supported by his 24 year old sister, Polly Wooster, described as the 'housekeeper'.

Between 1873 and 1891, Job and Mary had 9 children; 2 boys and 7 girls. The first born son was George Albert, born in 1873 and the first born daughter was Polly, born in 1875. By the 1901 census, the two firstborn's were the only 2 children not still living and working at Seeley's Farm. Both Job and Mary were to remain at Seeley's Farm for the rest of their lives. Mary died on the farm in 1911 and Job died on the farm in 1927.

Job and Mary's eldest son George Albert (b.1873), got married in 1899 to Nellie Butcher from Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire. George left Seeleys Farm when he married, and In the 1901 census, we find George and Nellie with their daughter Cissie, aged 2, living at Pennbury Farm, back in Penn where George carries on the tradition of being a Farmer and local employer.

George and Nellie led an incredibly busy life. From the early days of their marriage, both were heavily committed to their Christian beliefs. As well as running Penn Farm - which doubled up as a Mission Hall - George and Nellie were often away undertaking their Mission work, particularly to Leicester, leaving their eldest son George Job, to run the farm. Daughter Cissie, joined in wholeheartedly with the Mission's work and was often seen to be playing the concertina, organising young people, and cooking hams and salt-beef in the barn which had been converted into a large dining room. In fact, for the Conventions held at that time, in a paddock in Penn, Cissie was Nellie's right hand person!

Cissie stayed for a short while in Leicester where she went to school. However, she returned to Penn and continued with her vocational qualifications and started a successful business career. In 1927, Cissie married her cousin, George James Pitcher. With the hard work of both of them, the now derelict Seeley's Farm was restored to a home again.

In 1938, Cissie's parents, George and Nellie, gave up the farm at Penn and moved to a small village, Great Glen, just outside Leicester. They even took their herd of prize winning pedigree Shorthorn Cattle with them. George Job also led a busy life for it was his job in father George's absence, to take the herd to shows and collect the prizes! George Job married Mary Jefkins in Leicester in 1943. Mary - and her sister Louie - were family friends of long standing and were also committed to the work of the Mission.

Earlier Photographs of Seeleys Farm.

The courtyard and barns at Seeleys Farm c.1945 before conversion to individual houses.

The front of Seeleys Farm House, c.1945

An earlier print of Seeleys Farm (Unknown origin)

Acknowledgements and thanks.

Colour photographs courtesy of Linda Mitchell. 1945 B&W photographs reproduced by kind permission of English Heritage, National Monuments Records. Early B&W print of front of Seeleys Farm House is of unknown origin. Some facts are extracted from a letter penned by David Wooster, son of George Albert Wooster.

  Page last updated

  05 March 2017