Front of the house in 1970s
Old dairy - now the kitchen
Courtyard shippons - now our cottages
Conversion in progress c1994
Twitchen farmhouse in 1992 when we arrived!
Stand in the courtyard at Twitchen Farm and you will see interesting buildings with arched windows and stonework that has evolved over many years.
Twitchen Farm originally comprised of two separate farms, North Twitchen and South Twitchen.The former is mentioned in historical documents as far back as 1474 and consisted according to the records of a house and courtyard along with three plots of garden and three meadows. It is not clear when North Twitchen became vacant but it ceased to be mentioned in records after 1836. Most records post 1836 refer simply to Twitchen Farm although for some years it was also known as Twitching Farm.
The remains of North Twitchen are still visible and have been authenticated by the Exmoor National Park archaeological officer Rob Wilson-North. 'For thirteen pounds of good and lawful money and a piece of gold' you could rent Twitchen from the Manor of the Braunton Abbots in 1796. The tithe map of 1841 recognises South Twitchen - the present day property - as a property consisting of a house, a croft, a cows field and a stone field.
From The 15th Century
Since the early 15thC the village has been part of an estate, Twitchen included.The marriage of two important families of the area - the Chichesters and the Raleighs - resulted in the village coming into the hands of John Chichester in 1402. It remained in Chichester hands for the next three centuries before being sold to Hugh Fortescue (Lord Clinton) whose descendant Earl Fortescue in turn owned it until a rum chapter in Challacombe's history opened. With the deaths of Earl Fortescue and his wife within days of each other came crippling death duties and much of their historic holdings on Exmoor went under the hammer. Thus in 1959, Challacombe became a village for sale, Twitchen Farm included. Twitchen Farm is in the original sales catalogue of 1959. Described as an attested dairy, stock and sheep farm with 227 acres 2 roods and 28 perches,the asking price was £7500. As with virtually all the properties in the village they were held by tenant farmers for yearly rents and the asking prices were far beyond their pockets. They did put together a consortium to bid at the auction on the 18th September 1959 but were narrowly outbid by a Crewkerne investment company who secured the village. Three days later the village changed hands again in a private sale. It was bought by a Mr.R.Spieres who had been holidaying in neighbouring Parracombe. He sold most of the farms to the tenants, the remainder he kept and these continued to be farmed by the original tenants.
1959 To Current
At this time the Antells were the resident tenants at Twitchen Farm, Percy Antell has visited since we have been here and kindly lent us the old black and white pictures for us to use.
Twitchen Farm continued to be farmed as a hill farm until 1989 when it was bought by Holland estates. Holland had ambitions to turn it, and four other Challacombe farms, into a shooting estate. But his ambition was bigger than his wallet, he is believed to have suffered badly on the 'Black Tuesday', stock market crash. Before this turn in Holland's fortunes he had begun a considerable amount of work, we hear tales of large teams of workers working both here and at Shoulsbarrow Farm. This building work was carried out to a very high standard, if a little eccentric, and used fine quality materials
When we arrived in 1992 it was to a building that had been empty for three years. The amount of land with the property had been considerably reduced, so farming as a main source of income was no longer feasible. We began work on finishing the main house and then converting the large courtyard barn to accommodate six en-suite guest rooms. Both the building work and our accommodation business have steadily continued since.
We have been lucky enough to meet two owners prior to Holland, the Hodgsons now of Parracombe and Charles Batchelor, both of whom have kindly given us some pictures to use.