Orneage Farm

The farmhouse was the eastern part of the office building on Church Lane the western part being built c1930 as offices for the Brewery.

Extracts referencing Orneage Farm, from “A History of Brewing in Rode” (Bryan Foyston, September 2006):

“As the expansion of the Brewing side of the business continued, more and more buildings were raised on the site, which took in more land to the east. Major expansion to the south was unfortunately constricted by the boundary with Orneage Farm. However, when Henry Sidney Fussell bought Orneage Farm on 24th June 1920 the importance of its acquisition to Sidney Fussell & Sons Ltd. must be stressed. Although the farm remained in his ownership until he conveyed it to the Company on 30th June 1934, from 1920 onwards he had provided the Company with access to land on which greatly needed developments could and did take place….

Henry Sidney Fussell (our ‘Old Henry’), the Company’s Head Brewer and Joint Managing Director, married Ada Hillier on 29th December 1920 and became a family man. We assumed that during the First World War and its immediate aftermath the Company needed land only for its use for horses. But this situation changed dramatically on 24th June 1920, just before Henry Sidney’s marriage, when he bought the 37-acre Orneage Farm from the Batten Pooll family, with its farmhouse, farm buildings, and yard, much of which was directly adjacent to the Company’s existing boundaries. What is not known is why the purchase was by Henry Sidney Fussell and not the Company; it is difficult to believe the need for expansion was not then foreseen, nor the desirability of safeguarding adjacent land against development by a third party, or the possible need to prospect for further sources of good water. For whatever reason the Company effectively became Henry Sidney’s tenant until he conveyed it to Sidney Fussell & Sons Ltd. on 30th June 1934. These were shrewd moves on both his and the Company’s parts for, with trade increasing, there was a vital need for more space for both production and processing facilities, and the Orneage Farm land gave the potential for this. The northern part of Orneage Farm would be where the new buildings of the 1920s and 1930s would arise and the rest was already an operating farm; not only that but the farm entrance to the west of Orneage Farmhouse fronting Church Lane provided a good access to the rear (south) of the existing buildings. Over the following years further land acquisitions increased the acreage significantly, resulting in the expansion of the Company’s farming activities, always however keeping the land as far as possible within a ‘ringed fence’. Indeed some exchanges of lands with the Batten Pooll Estate were made solely to that end. Mr. Maurice Franks (who went on to be the village Postmaster and run a Stationer’s shop in the High Street) conveyed Church Farm and other lands to the Company on 17th September 1935 for £1,500; Church Farm was a valuable agricultural enterprise; new buildings were put up there and its yard was extended. Before World War II both Orneage and Church Farms were Dairy Farms, though during the war land had also to be used for growing cereals, kale, and other crops. Most of Fussells’ milk from the 1920s onwards was sold to and collected by a local milk factory, save for small quantities kept for sale to the family and employees.

After Henry’s purchase of Orneage he and brother Percy needed a Farm Manager and chose their first cousin John Cray (Edward John Noad Cray, to give his full style); he was living at Langham Farm with his widowed mother. His father, Edward Cray, had died in 1920, aged 61, and though John was only 23 (and still a bachelor) when his father died, his experience working with his father at Langham stood him in good stead and he remained Fussells’ farm bailiff until 1934, when he moved to Shawford Farm and took over from his wife’s father. He received a wage from Fussells and rent-free accommodation in the farmhouse (and probably commission too). Mr. H.T. Kealey, who was with the Company c1934 to c1939 followed, and his successor in turn was E.F. Taylor, whilst the last, who was A.E. Ingram, followed him as Bailiff. The buildings of Orneage Farm, such as remained after the major brewery extensions of the 1930s, gradually fell into disuse, and became variously storage areas for repair of cases, and a Carpenters’ Shop. In early 1952 the Directors decided that it was no longer economic for the Company to farm: on 1st April 1952 Henry Sidney became the Company’s tenant in partnership with his son Philip. Philip, who had been trained in farming away from Rode, was employed by the Company to work under Ingram, the Bailiff; he was then paid £3 or so a week but received no overtime and had only one weekend a month off. At the end of this saga one is left with the interesting question as to whether farming by the Company had been merely accidental, or had been planned from quite early days, or had it simply developed by process of evolution. We leave the reader to decide.


All significant organisations need a place from which they can be administered and Fussells were no exception. When Henry Fussell bought the Cross Keys and Brewhouse in 1857, adding that business to the one he already owned as a Baker, bookkeeping needs would no doubt have been dealt with in either the bake house and shop or his domestic quarters: this was probably so until his death in 1875. It is unlikely that there was a greater need for office accommodation during the early years of Sidney’s active management of the business, until the volume of Private Trade warranted more clerical assistance and office space towards the end of the 1800s. By 1885, when Sidney had become the sole owner, it is likely trade was then increasing and his growing family would have put pressure on his domestic spaces. Although we have not found any reference to offices at that time our best guess is that some suitable space was found within the brewhouse buildings, which had been enlarged in stages since 1857. By 1900 Sidney’s trade was increasing (as evidenced by his early advertising), and he was employing his three eldest sons. Our Fig. 2, taken around the turn of the century, shows a small lean-to building just inside the High Street gates, against the west wall of the baker’s shop: this might have been used as a small office. We now believe that some time after 1904, when Rosa Perrott’s cottage had been pulled down and her land became available, and before 1911, when it in turn was demolished, there might have been a building of some sort to the north of the new boiler house of 1904 and to the immediate south of the Pedimented Façade: this might have been some sort of office space. Where this work was next done is not sure, but the Company bought Southfield House in 1915 and we know from an insurance policy for it that it was used as both a hop store and as offices for a while. It is thought that the adjacent house, now called The Chimes, was variously used for offices, before it became a Saddler’s Shop and later a Barber’s Shop. These were indeed the recollections of Mr. Bill Goulter, who remembered seeing the late Mr. Bill Butler (the Chief Clerk) and the late Miss May Woolley working there, but had no recollection of the buildings opposite the Cross Keys being so used.

After Henry Sidney Fussell bought Orneage Farm in 1920, the Farm Manager lived in Orneage Farmhouse, which was the eastern part of what was to become the larger whole Office building; the cheese-room of the farmhouse was converted to office space, and as we learned from Mrs. Doris Gifford (who started work in the Offices in 1928, when she was only 15 years old) some of the staff worked in the spare bedrooms of the farmhouse, access being through the front door in Church Lane. She believes it was some 2 or 3 years later (i.e. 1930/31) when the additional offices were built for the Company by Mr. H. Derham, attached to the farmhouse on its western side. These extra spaces were becoming essential as the Private Trade expanded. Meantime, within the brewery premises there had been a need from the earliest time for some modest amount of office space, probably no more than a desk for the brewer and the Excise Officer. Later there was also a need for offices for the Transport and loading purposes (hence the small suite of spaces “on the bridge”). After the cessation of the Private Trade during World War II some of the rooms of the main offices became redundant for daily use and were only occupied by the Company’s auditors at the time of the annual audit; otherwise the rooms were occasionally used for formal or informal meetings of the directors from the late 1940s. During these many years the office buildings were altered more than once both internally and externally. A former junior member of the Bass staff recalled being instructed to clear out the rooms on the 3rd floor of the Office building and to throw out the Fussell ledgers, files and other records stored there to a lorry waiting below in preparation for the 3rd floor to be dismantled and lowered. The ledgers, files, etc. were then taken to one of the Brewery yards and destroyed on a bonfire. Bass also used Southfield House as Offices from 1962 until its sale to Mr. Richard Oatley in 1973, in addition to Orneage until the office work was transferred to Yeovil in the late 1960s, after which the buildings were unused until the final closure in 1992.”

19 March 2024
Last Updated
19 March 2024