Comment: Sycamore farmhouse

Sycamore Farm, Water Eaton
Sycamore Farm, Water Eaton

A LISTED 18th century building, Sycamore farmhouse, Water Eaton, is today linked to the local activities centre of the Sycamore Club.

However, until the building of the Lakes Estate it had been a working dairy farm to where Mr W.J. Makeham, a native of Fenny Stratford, whose parents farmed at Home Farm, brought his bride, Edith, in 1892.

She was a native of Kytes Hardwick, and their first son, Eric, was baptised in Bletchley on April 12, 1894. Their other children would be Kathleen, Betty and a son, Clarence, who following the outbreak of World War One joined the Beds Yeomanry.

As for Eric, as a farm labourer he had emigrated to Australia and having enlisted at Rockhampton, Queensland, would serve in the Australian Machine Gun Corps.

Meanwhile, at Sycamore Farm in early December 1915 his father had the need for a good all round farm labourer.

The position offered a tied cottage and then in July 1916 a good cowman was required, who could also expect a cottage and good wages.

After the war the Water Eaton peace celebrations took place in July 1919 and in the short time available the elaborate preparations had been made by the Committee of management. This included Mr, Mrs and Miss Makeham but there was a sadder occasion in June 1921, when a tablet bearing the names of men from Water Eaton who had served in the war was unveiled in the Weslyan Chapel.

Five of this number had been killed or died of wounds and with the lesson, from Revelations, read by Mrs Parker and Mrs W.J. Makeham, the rector of Bletchley in addressing the throng said that in Australia one of the soldiers, Eric Makeham, had recently died from war wounds, being buried at Cloncurry Cemetery, Queensland.

In his memory a wreath was attached to the tablet ‘from all at home, and Aunt Gerty’ while as a further tribute his parents presented a solid brass vase to the chapel. During 1929 the acres of Home Farm succumbed to brickwork development but across the road Mr Makeham continued farming, which after his death in 1932 would be carried on by his widow.

Allowing the village fetes to be held in her orchard, she also took an active interest in the community but in later life had to retire from all her involvements due to ill health. In 1939 she died at the age of 72 and during January 1940 her executors instructed the sale by private treaty of the freehold Sycamore Farm and also a cottage, paddock and semi-detached house.

However. it would be by auction on Thursday, April 25, 1940 at the Park Hotel that the sale took place, to include ‘Blue Cottage’, the paddock, and no. 65 Water Eaton Road.

By August 1940 Mr A. Cook, who had been recently registered as a cow keeper, was farming at Sycamore Farm where soon he could offer one hundred tons of swedes for sale.

Later, having begun married life at Eaton Leys Farm, William Gurney moved to Sycamore Farm where in February 1944 to assist in the farm work, and also on a milk round, he had the need for two youths or members of the Women’s Land Army (In fact of the latter a local girl, Lorna Logan, would work on the farm for over three years, until her marriage.)

On Whit Monday, 1944, in aid of the Bletchley NFU Agricultural Red Cross Fund many local riders competed in a gymkhana at the farm by permission of Mr Gurney, whose tender in March 1944 had been accepted to supply the British Restaurant with TB tested milk, at 3s per gallon less 10 per cent.

Having served as a sergeant in the Royal Bucks Yeomanry in Burma, where he would be mentioned in despatches, his son Cyril returned home from the war on Friday, November 15, 1945, and in consequence his father held a celebration at the farm for his safe deliverance and for the delivery of a full harvest.

Around 1961 William moved from Sycamore Farm to a bungalow in Drayton Road and now Cecil with his family took over, duly moving, after many years, from Mill Farm.

However with the coming of the New City he would move elsewhere but that, and the beginnings of the Lakes Estate, is a tale for another day