This has been a working farm for generations and with pre-Medieval roots it's certainly seen some changes over the centuries. The site may even have Bronze Age origins, although the later Medieval moat round the house now obscures any direct evidence. On the estate we do have recorded evidence of strip farming activities leading down to the stream (the Beck) crossing our land, as well as sub-surface evidence of a small Roman marching camp. There is a Roman road to the north east (still very much in evidence today) that ran from Peasenhall to Harleston (and beyond), and the camp would have been roughly the half-way point.
Jump forward to the late 1500s and the Sancroft family who lived in Ufford Hall over the road and owned this land, probably built the farmhouse and Threshing Barn here. Their descendant Dr William Sancroft (1617 – 1693) became Archbishop of Canterbury under two Kings; he was born and died in Fressingfield and his tomb is in Fressingfield Church. He was a great promoter of the re-build of St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire, and as well as designing the Jamaican Coat of Arms, gives his name to many local establishments (the Church Benefice, schools, roads etc) and of course to our venue. Centuries ago the Barn had a truly magnificent steeply pitched thatched roof, and with its attached granary porch, sat proudly adjacent to the thatched farmhouse. The Barn had a full-height cart entrance to the south west, which allowed carts full of wheat sheaths and stooks onto the threshing floor. Once the cart was unloaded it exited through the north east entrance, where a granary loft and floor was installed to dry and store the wheat. We have tried to re-create the feel of the main entrance with magnificent new glass doors and upper window.
Farming along these lines went on for centuries, until in the Victorian era the owners (still Sancroft descendants) decided to add to the Tudor Barn by putting on a two-story brick ‘extension’ on each end of the Barn. While the house end was set aside for a coach house and stable, the other end was for the carts and loose boxes. Both are now used for stores, offices, plant rooms, a small prep kitchen with a large bat loft above. The smaller complete Granary Barn and brick shelter shed extension had also been added in the mid 19th century which also remain. When Jeremy’s grandfather farmed here after the second World War it was with the aid of two Suffolk Punch horses ‘Dolly and Duchess’, whose many huge discarded horseshoes we have uncovered during our work, which you will notice is a bit of a theme throughout the venue. But times and farming practices changed down the years, with entrances and interiors becoming too small to house the large machinery and storage needed for modern farming practices. So we decided to improve and repurpose the whole Barn and immediate surrounds to what you see today, a layout largely mirrored from the old maps of the 1800s. The farm itself is still active, and we have daily farming operations in the fields surrounding the venue – but Dolly and Duchess have long since replaced with John Deere tractors!
All our essential repairs, re-roofing, ‘light-touch’ renovation works and landscaping to create the Sancroft Barns venue in these gorgeous heritage buildings has ensured they are now fit for the 21st century and beyond.