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  The Kitchen Garden of Staick House
(a timber framed building dating to 14th-15th century)

There is a record of an impoverished vicar of Eardisland in 1357 who had very cramped living conditions, no garden in which he could walk in solitude and grow a few herbs, being given rectorial glebe for this purpose. The question which arose was "is the old Kitchen Garden of Staick House the site of an earlier vicarage in Eardisland, perhaps dating to this time?" If it was, it would be the site of one of the oldest properties in the parish.

In order to develop our speculations we requested the opportunity to walk around the site from the owner Francis Greenhough. He kindly permitted us to do so and a small group visited the Kitchen Garden for about an hour on Sunday 16th January 2005. Further documentary research was undertaken.

It is known that the vicarage in Church Lane was built in 1903/04. Before this, the vicar Reverend Joseph Barker, who arrived in Eardisland in 1867 lived in Staick House. He died there in 1901. It may be that this property was thought of as "the vicarage" because a vicar lived in it. But this may not be a technically accurate designation. It is not thought that the land or property was ever owned by the church. There is a suggestion that prior to his purchase of the residence, it was the home of several people (including a tailor in the 1850s when it was named The Stank, describing a place of a dam) and there is no reference to it having been a Vicarage. Revd. Barker's family continued to live there until 1909. It then fell into disrepair until it was purchased in 1912 by Mr Greenhough. He carried out renovations and in about 1914 purchased the plot of land adjacent to it which became a kitchen garden.

A note made from documents found in the church in 1999 with reference to the vicarage and glebe land refers to "Portion No 511 on the tithe map occupying 1a 3r 35p." The item goes on "The original vicarage stood upon a piece of glebe land adjoining Lyme Lane. The date of its destruction is unknown, but according to Littlebury's Directory of Herefordshire 1867, it was probably in the year 1827."
A copy of the Directory shows that at that time "the curate in sole charge was Reverend Bluck". This indicates that it was written prior to the arrival of Revd. Joseph Barker in 1867. The Directory states that "There is no vicarage house, the old one having been taken down about 40 years ago". This is how the date 1827 is arrived at. But naturally, it could be plus or minus at least fifteen years, presumably being recorded on the basis of folk memory.

An examination of the Tithe Map (1840-42) indicates the presence of a building on the Kitchen Garden site, which must have been there in about 1840, and presumably destroyed soon after. As a matter of interest, Littlebury's Directory also states that "The living is a vicarage, annual value £350 with 2 and a half acres of Glebe land". Presumably, the living could describe the income derived from the land on which tithes were paid, and not necessarily a "vicarage" building. The implication which could be derived is that there may have been an "original" vicarage on the site of plot 511. At this stage we were uncertain as to the precise location of portion 511.

Subsequent research has uncovered the fact that portion 511 on the Tithe Map was the Great Orchard on which the present "old" vicarage stands (and surrounding ground now under various ownership). It does not appear to have been Glebe land at that time (1840/42) since it was owned by Elizabeth Taylor. However, Portion 547a (the Kitchen Garden of Staick House, on which we walked) is marked on the map as Glebe, as is portion 549 (Monks Court). There is an additional plot of Glebe (portion 97) north of the road near Crown Farm. The "landowner" of all three portions in 1840/2 was Revd. Frederick Rudge (vicar of Eardisland 1816-1867). Subsidiary questions arise as to when Portion 511 did become Church land. Perhaps in 1903 when the vicarage was erected? Also, did portion 97 have any special purpose?

The fact that portion 547a was Glebe land and was in Lyme lane, does add weight to the conjecture that it was the site of the original vicarage which was demolished in the first half of the nineteenth century. Our examination of the Kitchen Garden plot, which has recently been cleared of vegetation, shows signs of having had a property on it; there are many sherds of china to be seen (probably Victorian) and pieces of glass and clay pipe.

An examination of the Tithe Map shows what appears to be a house-like building on the site at the end closest to the road. There are references to it having become uninhabitable by 1842, which is presumably why it was demolished.
Our conclusions from a short examination of the site and documents

1. There seems to be evidence that a building did stand on the Kitchen Garden site (547a) and that it could well have been "the original vicarage" since it was glebe land under the control of the "landowner" Revd. F. Rudge

2. There is no reference in the documentary evidence which we have inspected, to indicate the size of the plot on which the "original" vicarage stood, unlike the dimensions of the plot referred to as Portion 511. It is apparent that the Kitchen Garden site is much smaller than 1acre; (it is about half an acre, approximately 65yds by 30yards; although it may once have been a much larger plot, and could have extended into Monks Court, with its possible religious connotations). However, it is interesting to note that there is a gap in Glebe ownership between this plot (547a) and Monks Court (549), which is about the area on which Monks Cottage stands. It would be interesting to know when the church disposed of this portion of glebe.

3. Although we are always cautious about assuming the accuracy of references found in Directories, since their authors do not quote sources, it seems that in this case there may be some historical veracity in the references to an "original" vicarage. We are aware that errors can be perpetuated from one Directory to another. Nonetheless, problems remain with the concept of "original" since it is hard to define. There may, for example, have been an even earlier vicarage prior to that probably demolished between 1827-42?

4. Pigot's Directory of about 1855 says of the church, that "the living is a discharged vicarage." It is not clear what implications this may have for the question about the possible existence of a vicarage which may have been demolished after 1827.

5. We would need to complete the following investigations to draw more definite conclusions:
(i) Discover whether there was a vicarage recorded in the village in the 18th century as a place in which vicars regularly lived. It would be wrong to assume that they had always lived where Revd. Rudge had lived.

(ii) The Puritan Survey of 1642 (Reeves p 145) reported , that the "Vicaridge (sic) now vacant. Late vicar, Mr Bird, an old man, noe preacher, nor in his youth of good life". Whether or not Mr Bird lived in the same house as did Reverend Rudge 174 years later will be very hard to determine.

(ii) Establish the significance of the terms "discharged vicarage"; "curate in charge" to be sure that vicars were living in this parish rather than in another and performing their duties here.

(iii) The Reverend Rudge (Vicar 1816-1867) is recorded living in the "vicarage" on the Kitchen Garden site in 1842 and the property seems to have been demolished very soon thereafter. Where did he then live? It seems likely that he moved into Staick House which was then several separate dwellings. However, there are documents which suggest that by the mid 1850s, Revd Rudge was not living in the parish.

Although we seem to have established that there was a building on the Kitchen Garden, that it was very probably a vicarage, the home of Revd. Frederick Rudge in the early part of the nineteenth century, and that it was demolished about 1842, we cannot establish a link between the plot on which it stood (547a) and the land granted to the impoverished vicar by the visiting Bishop in 1357. This could have been the site of the vicarage at that time; but if so, where was the land granted to him from the rectorial glebe to serve as a garden? Perhaps Portion 97 on the Tithe map?

There remain a number of questions to resolve, although we believe that we have clarified the complex issues to some degree. But as always in such research further issues are raised, one of which relates to the Revd Rudge, about whom further information will be provided in a future edition of this magazine.

We are grateful to Francis Greenhough for the opportunity to examine the site; also to the researches of George Alderson and Chris Wolland for helping to resolve questions arising from documentary sources.

Major discovery made of a previously unrecorded cruck framed building.

New light has been shed on three timber framed buildings in Eardisland by Duncan James during a recent visit. Details of these findings will be published in due course. They will also feature in the video Portrait of a Parish which is in production at present.