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November 19, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Apley model farm – 100 years ahead of its time in 1875

2014-11-19, Matthew Knight's photos - 3 Apley shire horses ploughing 2014-11-19, Matthew Knight's photos - WO FosterI was recently unable to attend a talk by Matthew Knight on Apley Home Farm. He spoke about the background to the building and described their architecture and use, but also explained how, what looks be a rather ordinary looking large Victorian farm building from the outside, captures the essence of ideas surrounding farming practises formed during the previous 100 years. The ideas encapsulated in its architecture formed a key part of the development of the ideas of Architectural Modernism which would come to the forefront in the 100 years after it was built [in 1875]. He came across Apley Home Farm by accident and whilst it was known to academics interested in farm buildings & many other local people, exploring the building was a revelation to him.

Matthew’s talk included these photos I’d never seen before – the one of WO Foster being especially interesting – his larger than life portrait & that of his wife hang on our staircase at home, so he’s a familiar face:

James Foster’s portrait now hangs in Apley Farm Shop. He started the Stourbridge ironworks, one of the largest in the UK at the time and the source of several firsts, including the first steam locomotive in the USA. WO Foster (whose larger than life portrait hangs on our stairs) took over his father’s business and it was he who bought Apley in 1875, for a record sum and with cash, extremely unusual at the time. He was MP for South Staffordshire & married Isabella Grazebrook of Liverpool.

Shire horses were still in use in the early 20th century. Norman Sharpe, the Gamekeeper for Apley Park c1950 writes in his memoires (published by his son Ted Sharpe) about the workers at Home Farm taking enormous pride in their shire horses, going to visit them after work and treating them almost like pets.

This is just Matthew’s hobby – he’s an architect with, mainly working on Churches and Cathedrals but also unusually shipping container conversions & work for the National Trust.

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