Greenlands Farm near Studland on the East Dorset coast near Poole, is one of my ancestral places – but more of that later. It’s also a wonderful landscape, whatever your connections. Here’s the map reference on the Geograph grid.
I visited and took these pictures on a damp day in August 2009.
Greenlands is now a site where the National Trust is undertaking one of the largest heathland restoration projects in the country. It took over the site in 1999.
This place reminds me of the land of a Thomas Hardy novel – although his Wessex stories were based at the other end of Dorset, in the west. Here nature is still bountiful and walking along the lanes between the fruit-laden hedgerows I feel I am in the footsteps of many a Victorian rural heroine. Or maybe just my 3-great grandmother Ann Read, a fisherman/farmer’s daughter who grew up in these acres.
Until the 1950s the area had been heathland for 2,000 years, but its “unique tapestry of wildlife” was lost when the land was ploughed up for agriculture. The soil was fertilised and grass replaced the heather.
Now sheep and cattle are allowed to graze to ensure trees do not establish and it is hoped the fertiliser will eventually wash away and heather will recolonise – it likes only thin, sandy soils.
One heathland bird I did spot on my visit was the stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) – I did not get a very good picture as it was such a grey, damp day, but its stone-on-stone chatter made its identification obvious even though I had never seen one before.
Much of the ancestral information below is from from Ruth Churchill Lancaster, a descendant of my 4-great-grandfather, John Read (born 1778 in Studland) via Harriot Read and Henry Churchill. I am descended from Harriot’s sister Ann, who married Richard Hayes, a fisherman from Poole.
On the 1841 census John Read (Fisherman) is shown as widowed, as his wife Sarah had died (age 63, on 16 June 1836, Studland). He spent that night on Brownsea Island with the newly wedded Henry and Harriot, although he is recorded as a “Fisherman of Greenland”.
The National Trust confirms that back in 1810 John Read was the tenant of the land known as Greenland, being four enclosures of about 10 acres… this prior to his marriage to Sarah on 10 December 1811.
An 1840 tithe map shows that John Read’s holding was a house with a garden and a five-acre arable plot together with some meadow land acreage, he is recorded on the map as landowner and occupier. The remains of this stone house/cottage are now sadly overgrown with woodland.
Greenland is also known as Greenlands and that is what Ruth Churchill Lancaster’s great-grandparents called it. The smaller tenement was later amalgamated with Greenlands Farm itself (according to information from the National Trust archives) and this is confirmed later by the 1861 census which states that Henry Churchill is a farmer of 32 acres, increasing to 35 acres by 1871.
Henry and Harriot brought up all of their seven children at Greenlands Farm, but sadly the oldest daughter, also a Harriot, died aged 14 in 1856 and then his wife Harriot died aged 45 when the youngest child George was just eight years old.
Three years later Henry re-married Hester Squires and went on to have two more children. They all lived at Greenlands Farm.
At this time usually the eldest son would inherit, but oldest son Isaac Churchill was not interested in farming; he was a shipbuilder and metal worker in Southampton, never married and died aged 46 in 1893, leaving Job as the eldest son.
Job had worked alongside his father all his life, earliest occupation as a dairyman, and in 1891 he is recorded as a farmer (rather than a farm worker) as he had now taken over Greenlands Farm from his retired father Henry, who died a few years later in 1897.
Greenlands Farm remained in the family until around 1905, almost a century occupied by the same family. Meanwhile my ancestor Ann was firmly a fisherman’s wife in Poole.