The Quilters of Manor Farm

James Quilter senior was farming in Noak Hill as a tenant prior to 1919. When the opportunity to purchase land arose he was enthusiastic to buy. On the 5th June 1919 he purchased Manor Farm (Lot 8) and three further fields opposite on the north side of the Noak Hill Rd (Lot 13) for £2,650 with a further payment for timber of £210. Below is a copy a letter from the auctioneers confirming Quilters payment of £265 deposit. Some time after the sale Little Manor was built on the land to the north of the Noak Hill Rd and James Jnr lived there with his family. His parents lived in the main farmhouse at Manor Farm.

In 1946 Manor Farm was included in the compulsary purchase pursuant to the building of Harold Hill. The Quilters then leased back the farm buildings and the land that wasn't built upon. In addition they also rented from the LCC extra land between the Cow Pond and the Priory as well as Fields 165 and 166 which are two fields between Priory Rd and Hatters Wood. It seems this arrangement was made to make up for farmland lost under Harold Hill. Following James Quilter Jnr's death in the 1990's the Manor Farm tenancy was revoked and the land is now within Dagnam Park. The buildings have been sold off to private purchasers.

"James Quilter Jnr had a fierce reputation amongst the local kids, as a child I remember the punishment that he dished out if he happened to catch any of us trespassing. His favourite trick would be to roll us in the stinging nettles. He was the most fearsome of local farmers. If we saw him coming we would run like hell, every boy for himself. On one occasion whilst bird's nesting he captured me and Ray, my younger brother. I hid behind the little lad. Quilter grabbed him and gave him the nettle treatment, whilst that was going on I saw my chance and legged it. Later on when we both arrived home I berated him for not "running for it". I think he said he couldn't because I was holding his shoulders and hiding behind him, such is the loyalty of brothers, I have never forgiven him for this slander.

Later on in 1964 I met both Quilters when they travelled over to Wrightsbridge Farm, where I worked, to recover an escaped bull. Needless to say I was somewhat nervous of helping to capture the huge beast but it was quite passive. It was the only time I saw James Snr and he seemed pretty ancient to me, but then I was only sixteen. Some years after that I crept up to the farmhouse to ask James Jnr for permission to bird watch on his land. Looking back I was a bit stupid to think he might recognise me but of course with the number of young trespassers from Harold Hill that he had dealt with over the years he had no hope.

Anyway he never gave it a second thought before giving me permission. Somewhat surprised I realised I may just have had him wrong for the whole of my life up till then .....Del Smith