The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History
Although it is more usually known as simply "Keyham", the district of the ancient parish of Stoke Damerel to the south of what is now Alexandra Park and the north of Saint Levan Road used to be referred to as "Keyham Barton" because it was built on the land that belonged to the Keyham Barton farmhouse.
If you stand on the Blockhouse at Stoke and look towards Keyham it is impossible to believe that the area was once just fields. But this is what it looked like circa 1860:
At the bottom is Keyham Lake, now Saint Levan Road, and at the top, Weston Mill Lake. Keyham Farm, the original Barton, is shown along with Keyham Quarry and, somewhat surprisingly, the Sportsman's Arms Public House in the middle of nowhere. At the top, on the shore of Weston Mill Lake, is the Keyham Chemical Works.
It will be noted that a track leads up from Keyham Bridge, by the "O" in Stoke, to the railway bridge at what is now Station Road. The main access to Keyham Barton was from the Saltash Road. The Ford area was already laid out at this time.
Keyham Barton, i.e. the farm, was the original manor house of the parish and manor of Stoke Damerel. It was downgraded only when the Wise family built their new dwelling overlooking the entrance to the Hamoaze and named it Mount Wise in order to stick a thumb up at the Mount Edgcumbe's on the other side of the river.
The immediate area of the farmhouse looked like this:
This illustration has been taken from two separate plans and joined together, which has resulted in the top being lighter than the bottom part. It will be seen that the house had access to two wells for fresh water, one to the north, accessible by steps from the rear courtyard; and the other to the south, well away from the house.
It will also be noticed that the house faced east, which is unusual, and possibly this indicates that the main access before Saltash Road was built was from the Keyham Bridge. It would appear that the area shown at bottom left might have been a reservoir, lake or fishpond. Although no water is shown flowing in to it, the line below it is a stream flowing down to Keyham Lake, which might have been an overflow.
So, what of the inhabitants. At the time of the 1851 census there were no fewer than fifteen people in the farmhouse. At the head was Mr Wiliam Bradford, aged 53, farming 100 acres. He came from Saint Budeaux originally and three out of his four daughters and his 15-year-old son, William junior, were born in that parish. Living with them was his 89-year-old widowed mother, Mrs Rebecca Bradford, also from Saint Budeaux.
William's wife was Margaret, also 53, from Bickleigh parish. Their 4-years-old grandson, Edmond Parnell from Newton Ferrers was also with them that night.
There were five farm servants: Mr Nicholas Hallett, aged 41; Mr William B Hall, 22; Mr James Steer, 18; Mr John Gay, 17; Miss Jane Steer, 15; and one general or domestic servant, Miss Jane Bartlett, aged 14 years, from Eggbuckland.
The 1891 census shows Keyham Barton occupied by Mr John G Bowden, his wife, Hannah, both originally from Meavy Parish, and the youngest six of their eleven children. Five had already left home but of those left the two oldest boys, Ernest Bowden and Frank Bowden, were both farm labourers while the oldest daughter, 16-years-old Miss Lillia Bowden, was a shop assistant.
|© Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK|
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