HISTORY OF BUTTON COURT FARM

(Formerly the ancestral home of the famous agricultural Tull family)

Button Court farmhouse 2003

 Button Court farmhouse is one of the few buildings in Midgham to have actually been listed as a building of architectural interest.  The origin of the name ‘Button Court’ is not known exactly, but may be derived from Thomas Buton who was said to have owned land in Midgham during the middle of the 13th century.  Not only was the farm named Button’s, but there was also a small village green with the name of Button’s Green.  Although there is no longer any sign of this old village green, it probably referred to a small triangular area of land now hidden in the corner of a wood adjacent to the old lane (Chapel Lane) which once crossed the field opposite today’s farm entrance and which continuedpast the old Early Manor House in Midgham Park and down towards the Bath Road. This last part of the lane between the Manor House and the Bath Road, now the main drive to Midgham House was known as Bell Lane.   

During the 16th century the Tull family of Midgham certainly owned the freehold of the farm and continued to own it until the middle of the 18th century. Button Court is mentioned on the will of Richard Tull {Yeoman} dated 1591 where it states that he owned the tenement in Midgham known as Button Green, as well as another tenement in Northbrook Street Newbury.  There is also a possibility that this same Richard Tull may also have owned Button in 1547 as Colthrop Court Rolls record that at that a Richard Tull held a meadow on Midgham Marsh and being on the east side of Aldershot Water.  This meadow was again mentioned on the Midgham enclosure map of 1812, when it stated that it belonged to the Button Court Estate.  

The historic meadow adjacent to the Kennet and Avon Canal and Aldershot Water,
parts of which were held by a Richard Tull in 1547. 

Although there is a long time gap between the two dates, it does indicate that it had always been part of the Tull’s estate, eventually being sold to Mr. Poyntz of Midgham House around 1776.  When Richard made his will in 1591 he also stated that the house at Button Green was in the occupation of John Tull, but after Richard’s death John would have to quit the farm in favour of Richard’s son Giles.  Richard’s actual burial was entered in the Thatcham Church records of 26th October 1594 and referred to him as ‘Richard Tull the Elder of the Hill’.  {This reference refers to the hill on which the house stands}.  From that date although Giles owned the farm it seems he may not have actually lived in the house himself.  It appears his elder brother Richard had the tenancy with his wife Sibell until his death in 1620.  Sibell was born at Peasmore in 1549, daughter of Henry and Joan Head.  She had married Richard Tull at Winterborne on the 21st of November 1574 before they settled here.  Button's farm then passed to their son also named Richard.  This Richard Tull had married Christian, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Lyford from the nearby village of Stanford Dingley on 17th November 1600.  The year after his father’s death, Richard then aged thirty-eight also died and was buried at Thatcham on the 16th January 1621.  In his will which had been written ten day’s earlier, he left all his “lands and tenements in Midgham, Thatcham, Woolhampton, Beenham and Reading to his wife Christian, except the dwelling house called ‘Button Green’ at Midgham with the grounds and garden there unto belonging and occupied by his mother Sibell”.  It was also at about this time 1620-21 that possibly the rear half of today’s farmhouse was built.  Richard’s inventory mentions several new rooms that had just been added, including one room, which seems to have been Richard and Christian’s bedroom.    

Side view of Button Court showing the 17th century section of the house.  

Sibell, Richard’s mother later moved to Bucklebury where she probably lived with one of her three daughters.  She was buried at Bucklebury Church on 19th July 1643, aged ninety-four and recorded in their Church records as a very old lady.  Christian, her son Richard’s widow, was buried at Midgham aged seventy-seven on the 13th March 1660 and recorded in the Chapel Register as being the ‘widow of Buttons’.  Over the following years Button Green or Button Court Farm as it is now known was occupied by various other Tull families, but was always owned by descendants of Giles who lived at Bradfield and Bucklebury. The last known Tull to live at Buttons was Jethro Tull who was born here in 1725, the only son of Richard a surgeon and his wife Elizabeth, nee Hutchins of Chieveley.  In November 1739 at the age of fourteen young Jethro was apprenticed to the famous clock maker of Holborn London, by the name of John Jefferys. (He is connected with a longitude clock of 1753.  Although it has not yet been proven, this John Jefferys may also be connected with John Jeffreys a Quaker, who lived in a house called Darbies in Midgham at the beginning of the 1700s.  This John Jeffreys and Jethro’s father Richard, were both freeholders in Midgham).  After his apprenticeship Jethro returned to Midgham and started his own clock and watch making business in Newbury.  Following his father’s death in 1747 and a High Court decision at Westminster in 1750, ownership of Button Court was transferred to Mr. Elisha Biscoe in settlement of an outstanding agreement made by Jethro’s father in 1729.  Jethro remained at Button Court with his wife Lucy who died there aged 30 following the birth of their only daughter, also named Lucy in 1763.  Jethro died in 1774 and was buried with his wife on 22nd August at the graveyard in Midgham Park.  

Jethro and Lucy Tull’s headstone.

After the death of Jethro, Elisha Biscoe sold the former Tull property in 1775 to William Poyntz of Midgham House for a sum of around 300.  It seems William Poyntz then used it as a dowry when his daughter Charlotte Louisa became the second wife of Rev. Hon. George Bridgman, brother of the Earl of Bradford.  From the end of the 18th century a friend of Mr. Poyntz by the name of Phillip Gill, formerly of Pitt House Ashampstead lived there with his wife Mary and their six children.  One of their sons, Charles, was killed on board H.M.S. Topaze while he was in action as a midshipman at the battle for the North Fort of Mocha in December 1820 and is remembered on their family memorial in the Park, while their other son Dugald was later a curate at Woolhampton and Tadley.  Their father Phillip Gill died in 1825 leaving Mary and the remaining children at Button Court.  During the 1850s Mary left Button Court and moved to Midgham Green where she lived with her two remaining children in the house now called Midgham Croft.  

The Gill family memorial.

Button Court stayed within the Midgham Park Estate until 1946 when it was sold in the Midgham Park Estate sale.  The farm was purchased by Mr. D. B. MacDonald of Bucklebury Place who again sold it in 1951. From then until the mid nineteen seventies it was owned by Mr. Lovell who had also bought the Bucklebury Place Estate from Mr MacDonald.  The farm was eventually purchased by George and Elizabeth Inwood who had lived and farmed it since 1938, becoming its first owner-occupiers since Jethro Tull in 1750. George Inwood died in 1979 leaving his wife Elizabeth and son Michael to carry on farming.  Mrs Inwood senior continued to live in the farmhouse until her death aged 88 in 2003, 65 years after moving into the house.  In October 2003 the old Tull family farmhouse was again sold, and for the first time in its recorded history became completely separated from the farm. Although Button Court Farm is still owned by the Inwood family, it is now mainly used for the rearing of beef cattle.  After over seven hundred years of recorded history, Button Court was probably the last mixed dairy farm in the village, and as such, is possibly the last chapter in a long line of small farms that have helped support and create the village of Midgham as we know it today.

Although Richard Tull ‘The Elder of the Hill’ of 1594 would probably still recognise the position and maybe parts of his old farmhouse, he would hardly recognize the methods of modern farming.  This is partly due to one of his own great-great grandsons, Jethro Tull the well-known 18th century agriculturalist of Basildon and Shalbourne.  One thing is certain, Richard would definitely be surprised that four hundred years later the farm has become a place of pilgrimage where descendants from around his unknown world would come and stand on the Hill overlooking his farm to retrace their own Tull family roots. 

D. J. Collier 2004

Copyright 2003 Built and maintained by West Berkshire PC Doctors on behalf of the people of Midgham Village