My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

High Holborn Farm - then and now.

High Holborn Farm is another of those names from the past; 

My dad (Denis William Flitney) and my grandmother (Daisy Clara Flitney nee Stopps) must have discussed the farm, but I don’t remember any of the stories. I just have a strong recollection of the name, and the fact that it was close to a place called Little Kimble in Buckinghamshire. Terry and I visited Little Kimble several times during our holiday but the farm always eluded us. Then on the final day we decided to have one last try. We drove around the area a few times and were on the point of giving up when we happened upon an elderly lady out for a walk.   A quick question to her and we were on our way. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see the name. It’s somewhere I've ‘known’ for more than 60 years without knowing it at all.

William and Mary Stopps (via

Research shows that my great grandfather William Benjamin Stopps (Jan 1866 - Feb 1940) and his wife, Mary Ann Stopps née Walker (1864 - 1935) were living on the farm at the time of the 1901 census. Prior to that William and Mary and four of their children lived at Barge Close Cottages, Main Road, Little Kimble. In the 1891 census, William was recorded as an agricultural labourer but by the time of his move to the farm his title had changed to farmer.   This appears to show a step up the social ladder but much more research needs to be done to find out if William owned the farm or was employed as a tenant farmer.   

According to paperwork kindly passed on to me by my cousin John (Flitney). William was set up on the farm by his father who gave him two cows and his wife’s great Aunt (Hilsden) who gave him a pig. At the time of the 1881 census, Benjamin (William’s father) was living at Lower Farm, Little Kimble employing two men and a boy to work his 137 acres. There will be more about Benjamin in a later post, but for now I want to concentrate on William, Mary and their children.

High Holborn Farm in the 1920s.

The 1901 census records five children living at High Holborn Farm;

Annie Edith aged 16 (1885-1931) mothers’ help.
Albert William aged 15 (1886-1945) farmer's son.
Henry Owen aged 13 (1887- 1947) farmer's son.
Florence Elizabeth aged 12 (1891-1977) scholar.
Daisy Clara aged 9 (1892-1981) scholar.  (Daisy Clare is my grandmother later married to Arthur Denis Flitney)

The 1911 census also records another daughter Violet May (1904-1932)  

William and Mary had one other son - Arthur Ernest born 5th December 1902 - died 13th March 1903.

It’s strange to think I have so many aunts and uncles I know nothing about. I do recall stories about Auntie Flo (Florence Elizabeth), so will be exploring those stories and seeing what else I can discover to share in later posts.

While searching through old newspaper looking for anything concerning the family, I came across this little snippet from the Bucks Herald, 12th March, 1921.

Ermine in Bucks;
On Feb 20th Mr. F. H. Parrott sent to the Bucks County Museum at Aylesbury a stoat killed at Kimble by Mr. Wm. Stopps that had assumed the completely white colour, which is unusual with these animals every winter in very cold climates. In this state their skins are the fur known as ermine. In England, this change of colour is a comparatively rare occurrence, and one would not have expected to find such a fine example after the mild winter that we have experienced this year. It may be noted that the black tip to the tail never changes colour even in the coldest climates.

I contacted the Bucks County museum to see if the stoat was still in their collection and received a very helpful reply from Mike Palmer (Keeper of Natural History).  The following is a précis of that reply.

We do have a record for the stoat in the museum register which reads “Stoat, female killed at Kimble after a long spell of mild weather, 20th Feb 1921 (quite white except for small space round each eye). Obtained from Mr. F. H. Parrott”.  Mr. Parrott and his brother donated a large number of geological specimens to the museum. Both are from a well-known family of Aylesbury solicitors (Parrott and Coales Solicitors still have an office in Aylesbury today).

In 1968, a major audit of the Museum’s collection was undertaken, and this specimen was unfortunately not found. Strangely, there are three more white/yellowish white stoats in the collection, two from Marsh near Kimble collected by a Mr. Franklin in February 1911 and again in 1912 along with another from nearby Aylesbury collected by a Mr. Batson in February 1922.

Mike ends his reply by saying, “it’s a pity we couldn't come up with the stoat or Mr. Stopps”.   

Thanks for trying Mike!

So back to trawling newspapers I came across another cutting this one concerning the death of Mary.

Bucks Herald 8th February, 1935.
Stopps  - on February 3rd, Mary Ann Stopps, of High Holborn Farm, Little Kimble, passed peacefully away, aged 71 years.

A week later, the same newspaper carried this report of the funeral;

The funeral of Mrs. Mary Ann Stopps, wife of Mr. Wm. Stopps of High Holborn Farm, Little Kimble, took place at Princes Risborough Baptist Church on Thursday week. A service was held at Little Kimble Free Church, conducted by the Rev. H. C. Shaddick, prior to the interment.

Mrs. Stopps died on the previous Sunday. She had been in failing health for some time, but was actually confined to bed only a few weeks, ever since her 71st birthday. She was a native of Wendover, and had lived with her husband at High Holborn Farm for 44 years. They celebrated their golden wedding last November.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Stopps were regular attendants at the Kimble Free Church, and a number of fellow members of the congregation were present at the funeral.  

I'm curious to find out more about the family and what happened to the farm. William died in 1940 so presumably his tenancy (if that was what it was) ended with his death but what of his sons and daughters, did none of them want to work on the land? Had they all married and moved away by then? How did two World Wars touch their lives?

High Holborn Farm July, 2014.

The idea for this blog came about in July 2014 after a visit to Buckinghamshire. At that time, I had no intention of finding out more, and was certainly not interested in researching back through the generations. Initially, the blog was a way to share the photographs from the holiday. Since then it's become an all-consuming habit! I knew nothing of genealogy or family history research three months ago so this is a very steep learning curve. I hope you will bear with me as I stumble around looking for clues.  

Until next time, Barbara.


  1. I know that feeling of "knowing" a place without ever having been there.

    1. Hi Wendy, it’s the strangest feeling isn’t it? The farm felt so familiar to me and yet I know I’ve never been there before.

  2. Hi there Barbara
    I remember dad talking about the farm, he always said that his grandfather was going to leave him his farm. Dad used to work there every holiday and weekend as a lad. I always believed that they lost all their money when they started to put money into stocks and shares. I think it more likely they were tenant farmers in those days and dad was a willing worker and not aware of the situation. Be very interested in what else you dig up xx

    1. Hi Sue, I don’t think it was ever discussed in front of me. I do have hazy memories of dad and granny talking in hushed tones, but I always felt it was some kind of scandal. I remember dad talking about a milk round (by horse and cart) in London and him saying that was how he met mum. I’m sure dad said his uncle owned the milk round, but I don't know any more than that. I wish I had asked them about it when I had the chance.

  3. Hi Barbara
    A very interesting read thank you, so good of you to do all this research.

    Take care,

    1. Hi John, I'm glad you enjoyed it - just wish I knew more. Lots of digging to be done me thinks.
      I didn't expect to hear from you so it was a nice surprise.
      I hope the cats are being kind to Flo & that you and Liz are having a good time, Barbara.

  4. Well researched, Barbara. Isn’t it just too easy to become a genea-addict? There should be warnings issued!

    1. Hello Dara, I can’t believe how it’s got under my skin! I don’t want to do anything else now, just wish there were more hours in the day. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Barbara.

  5. Great post so interesting, let me ask what does the train mean on the house sign

    1. Hello Terrance, I wondered that too! I’m not sure if there is any significance or if someone living at the farm just likes steam trains. I will have to try to find out. Thanks for calling in. I hope you are keeping well?

    2. Hello again Terence, I’ve been having a pootle around the internet to see if I could find any connection to the train on the house sign. Google maps are wonderful! It turns out there is a railway line running not far from High Holborn Farm. According to Wikipedia The Wycombe Railway opened a line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury on 1 October 1863. The Great Western Railway took over the Wycombe Railway in 1867 and opened Little Kimble station in 1872.

  6. It's great that you were able to find the farm. The home in the photo is just beautiful. I hope you can find out more about what happened after 1940 - who inherited the farm, etc.

    You know what they say: "Genealogy begins as an interest, becomes a hobby, continues as an avocation, takes over as an obsession, and in its last stages is an incurable disease."

    1. Hi Nancy, I’ve never heard that expression before, but I can see how true it is. I hope I can find out more too. It's intriguing. Thanks for calling in, Barbara.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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