Old Cooky’s Farm in Upper Holt Street

The Cooky’s farm house was for many years known as Holt Street Cottage, but has now returned to it original appellation. It stands  just above the Holt Street cross-roads, and the accompanying land seems to have originally been some 14 or so acres to the rear of the house,  and some 14 or more acres of the large field across the Snowdown Road, which is still called Cooks Hill. The Cooks Hill acreage was enclosed by a ditched bank and hedge, which was grubbed out in the 1950’s but the ditch is still visible, and the land to the rear of the house also had banks and hedges, some of which are still visible from Nightingale Lane, the remainder are buried underneath the old colliery tip. In the early 1600’s a brick house was built, which probably replaced an earlier medieval timber and lathe house, and as a farmhouse for a small-holding until the end of the 19th or early in the 20th. In 1940 the old thatched Holt Street Cottage along with three other houses in nearby Johnston’s Terrace on Nightingale Lane and a cottage in the field opposite, were demolished after being severely damaged by a German parachute mine. A new house was built on the foundations of the old one and some of the  original 17th century brickwork is still visible in the foundations.

The Upper Holt Street area around Holt Street Farm, 1859 Poor Law Commissioners Map of Nonington

There are references to the transfer of ownership of land in “Nonyngton” in the early 1400’s which may refer to Cookys, but the earliest mention of Cookys by name so far found is in a grant of 1448, which refers to “a tenement called Cookysplace in Nonyngton”. At this time the owner of Cookys also held “Achholte” (Ackholt) manor and half of a manor in “Chelyndene” (Chillenden) and “Nonygtone”.

An hand drawn annotated copy of Upper Holt Street taken from the 1859 map

By 1516 Cookys, consisting of a messuage and 28 acres,  had come into the possession of  Robert Austen of Nonnington, one of the chief parishioners at the 1511 visitation of Archbishop William Warham, and he sold it for £.10.00 to Richard Mockett of Nonnington, his step-son, who owned and rented land scattered throughout Nonington and the neighbouring parishes.
A messuage was a portion of land intended to be occupied or actually occupied as a site for a dwelling house and its appurtainences.  In modern legal language, a dwelling house, its out-buildings, curtilages and assigned adjacent land.

Holt Street cross-roads in 1909. In the mid-centre background is the roof and chimney of the original Cooky’s farmhouse, largely rebuilt after being damaged in WW2. On the left is a now long demolished cottage which occupied what is now the garden of the first house in Johnson’s Terrace on Nightingale Lane. The entrance to Butter Street is on the right.

Cookys was bought by the Boys family of Fredville from Richard Mockett’s heirs in the mid or late 1500’s and became part of the Holt Street estate which remained in their possession until the late 1600’s. Cookys was included when  the Holt Street estate was let to Jeremy Gay and Robert Kingsford in 1670. In this lease Cookys was recorded as being:
And all that messuage with the appurtenences and all the land meadows and pasture thereunto belonging containing 14 acres lying in or near Holt Street now or late in the occupation of ? late in occupation of  George Cork/Cock or his assigns”.  The above refers to Cookys house, adjacent gardens &  land, and to land to the west across the road on Cook’s Hill.
Cookys remained a part of the  Holt Street estate through subsequent changes of ownership after the sale of the Holt Street estate by the Boys’ of Fredville and eventually came into the possession of the Brydges family of Goodnestone Park in the mid-1700’s. When the  Holt Street estate was bought by the Plumptre family of Fredville in the early 1800’s the Cookys house and some adjacent land remained with the Brydges of Goodnestone whilst the bulk of the estate formed the nucleus of the present Holt Street Farm. The Cookys house was eventually sold by the Goodnestone estate in the 1970’s.