British farming has had a rich and diverse history since farming techniques were first introduced to us around 5000 BC. However we bet you didn’t know that one of our very own products is grown on land that has been used for farming for over 2000 years ! Read all about them below.
Sharpham Park is a 300 acre historic park near Glastonbury on the edge of the Somerset Levels, dating back to the Bronze Age. The first known reference to Sharpham (Scerpham) is a grant by King Edwig to the Thegn (lord or squire) Aethelwold in 957. Sharpham then passed in and out of the hands of the Abbots of Glastonbury for the next 200 years. In 1191 King John bequeathed the park to the Abbots of Glastonbury by placing his bejewelled gauntlet upon the Abbey alter.
By 1300 the Abbot enclosed Sharpham as a deer park with an oak and chestnut paling fence of some 4 miles circumference with red deer. The park would also have had a rich variety of farming and husbandry with tenants keeping cattle and sheep, whilst the monks would have farmed rabbits, hawked and produced a variety of crops which would no doubt, have included spelt, providing food for the guests of the Abbot of Glastonbury’s table.
In November 1539 Henry VIII’s commissioners visited the Abbey in the final stages of the dissolution of the monasteries. They proceeded to Abbot Whiting’s favourite manor, Sharpham Park, where they found him in his kitchen. From there they took him to be tried for treason and thence to be hung, drawn and quartered upon Glastonbury Tor.
Since those troubled times there have been a number of notable owners, amongst whom are the judge Sir Henry Gould, the novelist Henry Fielding and the palaeontologist Thomas Hawkins. As a farm it was known as the finest in Somerset in the 1880’s and employed 27 men and boys with shire horses.
Nearby in the early 1900’s Glastonbury lake village was discovered dating back to the Iron Age and here carbonised spelt grains were found, which would have been used in a leavened bread, as this was on a Lake, the nearest farming land would have been Sharpham, speculating that spelt has been grown here for well over 2000 years.
In 2003 Roger Saul, founder of Mulberry, bought the land around the family home and embarked on restoring what was a run-down dairy farm into an organic mixed economy farm. He created the Sharpham Park brand and set out to bring spelt back into the British diet. He restored red deer to the park, brought back rare breeds, planted 300 walnut trees and created an organic rotation scheme to protect the environment and the soil, whilst being as productive as possible.
Sharpham Park has led the way in the UK as the main grower of British spelt as there was no British spelt being grown at that time and all spelt found in the UK was largely imported from Europe. Sharpham Park, and particularly the founder Roger Saul, were one of the early pioneers of this ancient grain, and thanks to his friend and chef Mark Hix, Sharpham Park became known as the “Champions of British Spelt”.
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