Extract from The Bomfords of Worcestershireby Dr Bruce Bomford FRCS, Salford Priors, 1983. The work was published privately and only a few copies were made. Re-published here with permission from Dr Bomford's sons.
Benjamin Bomford, 1828-1880, was according to R.C. Gaut the greatest arable farmer that Worcestershire had ever produced. He was the only son of Benjamin Bomford of Atch Lench, born 1784 and his second wife Mary [we now (2010) think he was the son of Benjamin's first wife, Mary James]. His grandfather was Heming Bomford, born 1739, who married Elizabeth Chellingworth of Sambourne in 1769.
Benjamin married Mary Smith of Rushford and there was, so it is said, great rejoicing at the union of these two well established farming families. Benjamin and Mary of Pitchill had ten children, and this family forms the basis for many of the family relationships outlined in the following short history. Their children were:-
1.Mary, 1847-1923, “Aunt Mary” Spinster, lived at Pitchill all her life.
2.Ernest, 1849-1901, married Janet Ferguson, lived at Springhill, Fladbury.
3.Benjamin, 1850-1929, married Gertrude Kendrick, lived at Harvington Lodge.
4.Fanny, 1851-1859, died in infancy, is buried at Atch Lench.
5.Agnes, 1853-1870, died aged 17 years, buried with Fanny at Atch Lench.
6.Raymond, 1854-1920, married Eveline Perkins, lived at Bevington Hall.
7.Edith, 1858-1922, married Richard Jephcott, lived at Alcester and Great Alne.
8.Lucy, 1860-1935, married William Green, lived in Essex.
9.Helen, 1862-1911, “Auntie Nellie”, married Harold Kendrick, lived at Moat Farm, Abbots Salford. Harold went to New Zealand with his brother Ernest “and never came back”. Auntie Nellie returned to live at Pitchill.
10.Alfred, 1867-1924, married Caroline Miller, lived at Netherton Hall, Elmley Castleand other residences, including The Orchards, and West Villa, Harvington, and finally The Laurels, Harvington, where he died.
At the time of his death in 1880 Benjamin Bomford was working 6,000 acres. He took Bevington Waste on a long lease from the Marquis of Hertford and grubbed up the trees and bushes and reclaimed the land for arable farming. In this he was helped by the passage through Parliament between 1847 and 1864 of a series of Land Drainage and Improvement Acts. In "Other Days, Other Ways" we read that from Irons Cross to Rous Lench on Ragley Estate stretched the Great Wood of Bevington Waste occupying 500 acres and extending from the Atch Lench Woods and the boundary of Church Lench on the one side to Weethley on the other, and no doubt in earlier times it was linked with the Forest of Arden. In the '60s and '70s Atch Lench Woods were grubbed up or "stocked" to use the local term.
After Benjamin and Mary died their daughter, Aunt Mary, lived on at Pitchill until she died in 1923. Raymond and Benjamin had carried on the business and together had supervised the farming and the works as R. and B. Bomford. But on the death of Raymond the partnership was dissolved and Raymond's sons Leslie, Douglas and Ernest took over the business and from time to time each lived at Pitchill. The house had belonged to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners but was subsequently bought by Douglas, as from it he carried on the works as Bomford Bros. Aunt Daisy Hughes remembers working as a clerk at Pitchill in the days of R. and B. Bomford while she lived with her parents at Harvington Lodge. She kept records in neatly written hand in big ledgers which she kept safely in the office. She recounts that these records were unaccountably burned by Douglas Bomford when Pitchill was sold, and thus some potentially interesting and valuable records were lost for ever.
When Douglasmarried his cousin Betty in 1923 she refused to live at Pitchill and they set up house at Bevington Hall, which was owned by Leslie. Leslie and Ernest then moved into Pitchill and lived there. Dick also came to Pitchill during the school holidays. Later on Leslie moved to Kenya for Sentinel Engines and Ernest returned to Bevington where he had a sitting room of his own. Ernest remained at Bevington until he married Patricia in 1937. They then moved into Pitchill where they lived for five years until they set up their permanent home at Rushford.
Before Ernest and Pat occupied the house Mr. King, the foreman at Bomford Bros. had lived there and acted as caretaker. Pat remembers the house as being somewhat cold and stark with long passages. Life was, however, made somewhat easier by the presence of three servants who cleaned the house and attended to the fires. Two of Pat and Ernest's children, Nicholas and Jane were born at Pitchill (Anthony was born at Rushford).
During the Second World War the house was occupied at various times by groups of Borstal Boys and also the Womens Land Army. Bomford Bros. works became a repair and maintenance shop repairing crawler tracks and rebuilding engines and gearboxes. The works was virtually burnt out one night and had to be rebuilt by Bomford's own labour using materials from scrapyards. (From, The Bomford Story, by Theo Sherwen). Percy Lester was appointed Contracts Manager and lived in Pitchill House until he died suddenly in the early 1960s.
Bernard and Betty Hodgkinson next occupied the house and lived there with their family for 19 years. Bernard moved from Bomford Bros. to Bomford and Evershed Ltd., and became Manager of the Service Department until he retired in 1980.
Some time after the Pitchill land and business was acquired by Bomford and Evershed Ltd., it was decided to sell the property and the House and Works were purchased by Mr. Ron Lambon of Espley Tyas Ltd., whose headquarters are at Park Hall. The land was also sold and part was purchased by Mrs. Pat Bomford of Rushford, and part by Mr. John Hughes farming the adjacent land at Salford Lodge.
In 1980 Bernard Hodgkinson retired and moved to the Marsh Farm, and the house was put up for sale by tender. It was bought for about £56,000, but the old coachouse used as a garage was not included, nor was the small meadow in the front.
Thus the house occupied by Benjamin and Mary Bomford passed out of the family almost one hundred years after his death.