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Economic and Social History


The repaired and recently reinstalled gates to the former Duke of Orleans residence, Wood Norton Hall on the then Lenchwick, Norton and Bishampton Estate. 2019.

These gates were fabricated in Great Britain by J. Starke Gardiner and first sited at York House, The Orlean's family home in England, Twickenham, London. In Wood Norton Hall, Near Evesham, Benjamin G. Cox, 1975. pp.4. writes:

Shortly before the royal wedding at Wood Norton in 1907, of which more later, the Due d'Orleans sold the property at Twickenham known as York House, which had been bought by the Due d'Aumale in 1864, and
removed the beautifully wrought iron gates from that property to Wood Norton to grace the entrance to his driveway from the public highway near the new lodge on the Evesham side of the driveway.


Tradition has long asserted that these gates originally came from the royal palace of Versailles but this has been proven incorrect, as an article in the issue of The Connoisseur of November 1924 clearly establishes that they were made in England J. Starke Gardner.


Hovel 2003. Hovel with ivy removed revealing the privy addition and Lean-to building


Please click on first two photos to see an enlarged view. To return to page click on image.

First two photos taken 2002 show the hovel enveloped in ivy, the later addition of the Lean-to building is visible on west side of the building. Photos 3 and 4 with ivy removed. Photo 3 shows the hovel without the privy addition.

The smallholding was originally situated on the Lenchwick, Norton and Bishampton Estate belonging first to the French Duc d' Aumale and then on his death in 1897, being passed on to his great nephew Louise-Phillippe-Robert, Duc d'Orleans. The exiled French Duc d’Aumale first rented the Hunting Lodge at Wood Norton from 1857, then purchased the Hunting Lodge and estate in 1872, Historic England notes he died in 1897 with his claim to the throne of France and estate passing to the Duke's great nephew, the Duc d'Orleans, who came to live at Wood Norton Hall in 1898 and converted the hunting lodge into the Hall that stands today and serves now as the Wood Norton Hotel.

Duc d’Aumale had shown considerable interest in the Evesham Agricultural Society and his steward, Charles Randall living at Chadbury House, was one of the country's leading agriculturalists. The Duke's interest in agriculture and influence of his steward may have persuaded him or later his great nephew the Duc d'Orleans, to arrange the placement of twenty plus six-acre smallholdings on their estate, within an area between Chadbury, Lenchwick, Norton and Greenhill, north of Evesham. The transfer from agriculture to horticulture was helped by the suitable soils and climate, but the reasons for this change of land use is as outlined:

In A short History of Commercial Horticulture in the Vale of Evesham By R. W. Sidwell, N.D.H. The author notes:

As mentioned above, market gardening at Badsey was well established by the middle of the nineteenth century. From about 1860 onwards the speed of change-over from farming increased. The agricultural depression of the 1880's gave impetus to the conversion. Much enmity was aroused among the farmers, as a report of a conference on allotments and smallholdings, held on 5 February 1890 at Evesham, reveals.


Evans, N. (2014) Land Use Change in Post-war Worcestershire. In Maskew, R. (ed.) The Flora of Worcestershire, Chapter 3. Roger Maskew.



Prof. N.J. Evans Professor of Rural Geography Department of Geography Institute of Science and the Environment University of Worcester Henwick Grove WORCESTER

This is explained by the availability of new markets (other than Evesham itself) that accompanied the construction of rail links to London, Birmingham, Oxford and Bristol (see Section 3ii). Effectively, this reduced distance from market but concentrated production around the railheads at Evesham and Pershore (Lodge, 1972). The main period of expansion, somewhat ironically, came during the Great Agricultural Depression of the 1860s. There were three significant events at this time that encouraged cereal farmers to convert to horticulture (Robinson, 1983):

  1. i)  the prices of cereals fell steeply;

  2. ii)  there were a series of poor summers and harvests (1879 was disastrous);

  3. iii)  farm labourers were becoming both more expensive and scarce as new opportunities

    arose in the urban industrial sector.

These events made conditions right for the establishment of five distinctive features which characterised the Vale by the end of the 1940s (Lodge, 1972). First, a large number of smallholdings developed. Many large farms growing wheat were no longer profitable under the conditions of the Great Agricultural Depression, so many were split up. This allowed individuals to buy or rent small plots of land. Small plots were in demand as many people wanted to become independent farmers rather than farm labourers, yet they were unable to afford or manage a large area. About 700 new smallholdings were created between 1875 and 1900.


It is unclear to the author, exactly when these smallholdings, together with the building of its accompanying shelters came into being, since there is yet evidence for the author to find to support a definitive date. It was thought these shelters were built circa early 1880's, when the author's antecedent took tenure of the smallholding. In particular this is supported by the Ordnance Survey Map, as viewed on the Francis Frith website, Ref: HOSM51090 from the Ordnance Survey County Series Series, having a scale of : 1:10,560. (six inch to the mile) and noted as drawn 1884, but may not refer to the date of the actual survey. The map features later revisions and the date of 1884 may indicate when the map was earlier first drawn only. For example this map notes the existence of the smallholder shelters and access tracks serving the six-acre smallholdings, but more problematic however, is seen on land adjacent to the north of the smallholding, the existence of a building, where Lenchwick House, which was built in 1919, now stands. The outline of the building does share a similarity in footprint layout to that of Lenchwick House built in 1919. Interestingly other maps note the existence of possibly an earlier building at the location at where now stands Lenchwick House, see Sheet 200 - Stratford on Avon (Outline), revised 1897 with a publication date of 1899. Interestingly we see from Ordnance Survey six-inch maps, 1842-1952 held on the website hosted by the National Library of Scotland, the series Worcestershire XLII.SE, having a scale of six-inch to the mile, the smallholder shelters appeared between the Ordnance Survey first survey of 1881-1884 (The National Library of Scotland on its website notes the survey for the map below as 1885), and published in 1885 and the following second survey of 1903 and then published in 1905.

These smallholder shelters may have a connection to the architect responsible for the remodelling of the Hunting lodge in 1898, into the present Hall, for Louise-Phillippe-Robert, Duc d'Orleans and built resembling the Jacobean Revival style as designed by the architect, G.H.Hunt (1851-1915). G.H.Hunt whose architectural practice was based at Evesham, may have designed these smallholder shelters, and it may of been entirely practical as regards the employment of craftsmen working on the estate, that in unison, a number of brick built dwellings for workers to the Lenchwick, Norton and Bishampton Estate be erected.The use of Evesham/Pershore brick and the brickwork pattern known as Flemish garden wall bond, as seen in the brickwork to the hovels, was a common enough sight as seen utilized in local buildings. A number of earlier buildings to the smallholder shelters and seen at Lenchwick and in the locality are an example, such as the house, number 78, Main Street, Lenchwick and built in the 1840's as an extension to number 77, a 17th century dwelling. Number 77 was later demolished in 1968.

These aforementioned maps are not to be judged as the absolute source of evidence for ascertaining when these six-acre smallholding and shelters appeared. Anomalies as regards dates and recorded features are explained by the National Library of Scotland:

Following the initial survey of counties in the 1840s-1880s period, many sheets were reprinted with updated information on them, but with no change to the original marginal date information. This is particularly true of sheets showing towns that were changing rapidly, or those sheets that show new railways. Very often new features (eg. buildings or railways) were added to the map, but without any revision of surrounding features, and with no changes to the original dates in the sheet margins. The flat sheets that NLS has scanned for this website are often later printings of these first edition maps, and we also hold bound volumes with sheets that show the earlier states. We hope to make available online these bound volume sheets in the future when we have the technical means to scan them at an appropriate resolution, but in the meantime, users would be advised to consult copies in other libraries or collections for variant states of first edition maps. This problem affects some areas more than others, especially the north of England where the original surveying was earlier.

For reference, the National Library of Scotland refers to Richard Oliver's Ordnance Survey maps: a concise guide for historians (3rd ed, 2013, pp, 230-81). This reference table notes the survey for the first edition of the Ordnance Survey Maps of Worcestershire and shown here was 1881-4, and with publication during 1884-5. Map revisions were approximately every twenty years, being 1898-1903; 1913-26 and 1937-38.



Ordnance Survey map: Worcestershire XLII.SE, having a scale of six-inch to the mile, Ordnance Survey survey of 1885 (Published 1885).

The land is illustrated as being for arable crops or pasture, of which horticultural market gardening is included. The Six-inch scale maps correspond with the larger scale twenty-five inch to the mile maps of the same time. Whilst orchards are not seen about Lenchwick and Norton, the full size six-inch map shows Greenhill, north of Evesham, Offenham and Aldington with a coverage of orchards. Greenhill is seen with a considerable coverage of orchards. If we accept the land layout as correct with the omission of the smallholdings and given that the survey before publication may have been as early as 1881, then the earliest when these smallholdings might have appeared is from 1881. This would have been when the exiled French Duc d’Aumale held the estate before the Duc d'Orleans took possession in 1898.

Apart from bad harvests, intervening years of inclement weather for growing corn and cheaper corn imports, there was also livestock disease affecting farms in the locality.

Leicester sheep,once the all-prevailing breed, could not resist the invasion of the now pre-eminent Shropshire. Many kept pure-bred flocks though few were registered. Charles Randall, who specialised in breeding and grew thousand-headed kale, cabbages, mustard, rape and trifolium, in addition to swedes and manglods, to carry his flock of 350 ewes and progeny, sold the whole of his stock in 1886, in conseqence of so much land being let for market gardening. Similarly, in 1888, the Duc d'Aumale disposed of his flock of 784 pure-bred Shropshire and 106 cross-breds at Lenchwick from his three farms.

A History of Worcestershire Agriculture and Rural Evolution. pp. 395, R.C. Gaut, published 1939.

Charles Randall speaking to the Royal Commission on the Agricultural Depression of 1881noted.

Where soil and situation enable us to to do so with advantage, the old routine or course of cropping should be given up, growing anyting that will pay. On this farm (Chadbury) the production of fruit and vegtables has been increasing.

A History of Worcestershire Agriculture and Rural Evolution. pp. 432, R.C. Gaut, published 1939.

Fundamental to the smallholder in establishing his business and enable his produce to arrive fresh at distance locations within the country, was the placing of Evesham railway Station in 1852, with connection to Wolverhampton, then the following year the laying of the line from Worcester to Oxford. There was also the earlier repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, thus allowing cheaper foreign imports, but landowners without the security of a fixed high price for corn had over the subsequent decades to find alternative uses for their land. This led to the use of farmland steadily changing from agriculture to horticulture and in particular to the leasing of allotments to the tenant smallholder.

Apart from the economic benefit for the landowner in transferring land use from agriculture and farming to horticulture and tenant smallholders, the smallholder now having the assurance of the gradually adopted Evesham Custom by Landlords from the 1860's, gained the security their improvement to the Smallholding, whether it be the planting of fruit trees or erection of shelters could raise the smallholder value of the land. The Landlord therefore did not have to fund these improvements, but the tenant could nominate a successor to receive the smallholder tenancy. The nominated tenant once accepted by the Landlord, an agreement between the current tenant and the nominated tenant regarding the financial value of the improvements to the smallholding during the current tenant's tenure was then concluded. The tenant was then compensated financially by the new tenant to be.





Sheet 200 - Stratford on Avon (Outline), Revised 1897, Publication date: 1899. Whilst orchards and access tracks are seen south of Lenchwick, the map does not illustrate the existence of the hovels. However these shelters may have been regarded as of little importance to warrant inclusion. The fact that orchards and access tracks are present, one may assume at this time, the existence of the smallholdings each with their shelter-hovel. Also note the approximate location of a building where Lenchwick House now stands.


Ordnance Survey map: Worcestershire XLII.SE, having a scale of six-inch to the mile, Ordnance Survey survey of 1903 (Published 1905). The smallholder shelters are noted, along with orchards and access tracks to the smallholdings.


The Abstract of title, dated 25 November 1872 detailing the purchase of the Manors of Lenchwick, Norton and Bishampton by the Duc d’Aumale from Edward Holland, in extracts notes William Walker, great grandfather of the present owners as in 1872 living at number 77 Lenchwick and then later number 72 Lenchwick and as renting six parcels of land in the area of Lenchwick and Chadbury. William Walker was the first tenant to the smallholding; the family then became owners in 1920,



Extract from The Abstract of title, dated 25 November 1872 regarding the purchase of the Manors of Lenchwick, Norton and Bishampton by Duc d’Aumale, notes William Walker living at number 77, Lenchwick. Later noted as living at number 72, Lenchwick.


These purpose built shelters and work places for the smallholder, have a ground floor partitioned with a stable and general area either side. The shelter served for a stabled horse with a hayloft above and a separate larger ground floor area for the tenant, open from floor to the apex of the pitched roof. The communal room had a chimney in the brick gable end with acces to water from the well outside the shelter. For location of these shelters: see aerial location photo January 1945. The smallholding with its shelter is found, as noted on the location map as Hovel No1. as situated south of Lenchwick alongside and to the west of Lenchwick Lane. The smallholding is in an area which may have already been used for market gardening, however prior to market gardening, this area of approximately 20 acres possibly served as pasture for livestock, hence its name: Cow Ground.


The smallholding is within plot 219 and in the area is known as Cow Ground. This modern Ordnance Survey map does not show the hovels. Cow Ground is an area of approximately 20 acres and may have served in its history as pasture for livestock, hence its name.


Land Tenacy agreements of 1892, as held in the Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service (WASS) Library, regarding arable land on the Lenchwick, Norton, Bishampton Estate, in extracts notes William Walker, as renting six parcels of land in the area of Lenchwick. These are found on plots: 231, New Lower Gound; Part of 173; Part of 177 and Crabtree Piece consisting of 3 acres, the latter as of 20th December 1892. Crabtree Piece is seen on the map above as being plot 212 and found lower middle right on the map. Other than Crabtree Piece these plots are located outside of the map section seen above.

After the departure of the D’Orleans’ family in 1912.Wood Norton Hall and the estate was then sold to Sir Charles Swinfen Eady on 4th May 1912. Sir Charles Eady was a British lawyer and judge based in London. After his death in 1919 the estate was sold to Mr. George Swift, businessman of Evesham. Mr Swift did not live at the Hall and sold off the majority of the estate land, retaining the Hall and 600 acres of land. In 1920 the author's antecedent and other tenants if they chose, purchased the freehold to their smallholding. The remaining Estate and Hall at this date was then sold to the Hon. Algernon Mills of the banking concern Glynn Mills & Co. Mills died at Wood Norton Hall in 1922. In 1925 the lodge became a preparatory boarding school. In 1936 the school was offered for auction but remained unsold, eventually the Hall was acquired by the B.B.C. in 1939. Information sourced from Wood Norton Hall, Near Evesham, Benjamin G. Cox, 1975. pp.6.

The advanced horticultural thinking in the layout of these six-acre smallholdings and the equally impressive accommodation of it's smallholder tenants in the provision of these well designed shelters, in the 1880's was at a time when agriculture was in decline and the emerging market gardening industry in the Vale took hold. These smallholdings and brick and timber built shelters must have extended an influence to this new industry and may have provided an impetus, to other land owners and smallholder market gardeners within the Vale of Evesham as to the layout of a smallholding and construction to the ad hoc market gardener's shelter.

During the history of this shelter persons have subsequently lived in this shelter for extended periods, and so falls into the general category of what may be termed a Hovel. It is suggested a shelter for a market gardener in the Vale of Evesham, often built by the market gardener, irrespective of size, structural appearance and build quality, whose purpose is to offer a weather proof shelter and an area for the preparation of produce for market, is locally often referred to as a Hovel. So a market gardener's Hovel in the Vale of Evesham, as such is defined by its use, being a shelter for the smallholder market gardener, however the author for reasons outlined, in reference to the shelter here, uses the descriptive term: Hovel, in the generic not the suggested local descriptive sense, clearly however it can referred to a Hovel in either case. Care has to be taken not attribute what is a shed, likely originally built by a market gardener, specifically for the storage of tools and packing boxes only, as a structure locally known as Hovel.

In the mid 1930’s Alfred Bryd and son, market gardeners and living in Lenchwick, became tenants to the smallholding, owning the smallholding alongside and others in the immediate vicinity. The tenancy was later relinquished in 2004. In the latter part of WW2, two German P.O.W.s serving as agricultural labourers, being from a Prisoner Camp nearby, were allocated to Alfred Bryd and Son, and used the hovel as living accommodation and continued living there until repatriation (1947-48). From time to time the author's antecedents have lived in the hovel, as have horticultural workers. It is likely the hovel was built originally as a shelter only, not living accommodation for the tenant to the smallholding.

The aforementioned two German prisoners, who were assumed as no danger to anyone or fear they might abscond, were able to live and sleep in the hovel and help the market gardeners Alfred Byrd and Son with work on their land. Assistance was given to the propagation of market gardening produce and even repair to the shelters nearby. They were originally based at a German POW camp, number 277, in South Littleton, a village several miles to the south-east.The camp consisted of 24 huts situated about the northern and eastern boundaries of the recreation ground. The picture postcard below dated 6th March 1948, was sent from Berlin and addressed to Harry Scholz, and as noted by the address on the postcard was first sent to the prison camp. The author understood from Bob Bryd now deceased, whose family once were tenants to the smallholding, one married an English girl, likely Harry - and remained in this country and the other returned to Germany, when his repatriation took place.

Unfortunately the postcard was behind a wooden mantelpiece fixed to the brick gable end of the hovel near to the chimney place. During rebuilding of this wall, the wall was initially pushed over away from the timber structure. Unaware of the postcard until some days later when the bricks were being cleared for cleaning and reuse, the postcard was found. It had been raining in the preceding days and regrettably, is why the ink writing is faded.

The translated text reads: Dear Mr. Harry, I wish you a happy and Healthy Easter. I hope we will meet again soon in your home country. Presumably you will spend Easter with your loved one. Greetings from Berlin. Yours Ruth Beyer


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