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Helmdon Historical Documents

Jenners Piece

Letter from Miss J.M. Spendlove to Peterborough District Land Registry:

    7 Field Way
NN13 5QN
    April 10th 1989
Peterborough District Land Registry
Touthill Close
City Road

Dear Sir,

Triangular grass bank, Wappenham Road, Helmdon (Jenners Piece)

Thank you for your enclosed letter of March 29th.

Since the land has not been registered before, I have marked it clearly on an enlarged plan and named the adjacent properties so that you can readily identify it.

The Piece is a grass bank sloping from the stone wall of the Hill Farm orchard to a level strip along the edge of Mrs Wilson's yard and cottages. At present there is an irregular back strip along the Hill Farm wall containing elder, wild rose, small hawthorn, and a young silver birch, and a wide range of wild flowers. A footpath (not made up) winds along the front of this from the road to the field gate. Below this is a sloping area, steep at both the road and bottom path. Most of this part we are arranging to have regularly mown, but on the steep parts flowers are preserved. In the upper part of this slope is a copper beech planted there some ten or more years ago and surrounded by paling, and near the road is a telegraph pole. Along the lowest edge by Mrs Wilson's is a wider path kept closely mown, from the road to the field path. I have marked some of these features on the plan. You will judge the size from the grid; it was enlarged from the 25" O.S. map.

In view of what you told us of an application to register this land, I should like to explain the Parish Council's interest in it.

It has beyond living memory been regarded as in some sort public land, though not registered as common. In the early years of the century the Baptists held a large service on it because their chapel across the road would not contain all who came for that special occasion. The right of way crosses it from the road to the field path to the allotments and the church.

In the mid-1970s the tree-planting work here, continuous since the Dutch Elm disease struck the county, included a desire for some striking tree on this bank which is prominent from a length of Wappenham Road. A blue cedar was tried without success. Then a copper collection was made in the Post Office, and the copper beech planted which is still there. It was surrounded by palings to protect it from the young people then attending a youth club at the chapel. It has thrived well.

In the early 1980s the Parish Council was concerned about the untidiness of the long grass, which the Highways Department would not undertake to mow. The Gullivers and Mrs Wilson as the adjacent landowners were asked if they had any property or other interest in the land. On investigation both found they had no title to it. The Parish Council then tried to plan for its care as a whole. The Trees committee proposed to add to the shrubs along the back and to plant wild flowers, to produce a "relatively wild but attractive and colourful'' effect (P.C. Minutes). This was begun that autumn, 1983, and work on the patch, especially the removal of nettles and excessive hedge parsley has continued ever since, spreading forward from the back strip. Over a year ago I counted more than fifty species, besides grasses, growing in this small conservation area. I have myself put in as much work as anyone.

In the spring of 1984 a seat was put on the lower part of the triangle, and has been much used and enjoyed especially by the elderly in the parish.

Mowing the tough grass on the sloping area has long been a main problem, and we are in course of entering into an agreement with County Contracting to do this for us.

However, two years ago, the Gullivers of Hill Farm decided to sell their farmyard for development, and fears were aroused of some attempt to take a drive across Jenners Piece or even to claim a property right to it and build there. The developer (Juniper Country Homes) has current plans to demolish and rebuild the big barn as a house. (The minor stone buildings along the road, and modern ones adjacent to them, have already gone.) The stone wall along Jenners Piece, which the developer owns, we fear may be sold and replaced by something less suited to house wildlife. Our concern about that is also to retain the increasingly rare and therefore valuable Helmdon stone in situ. This has been the situation in which last autumn we consulted the Northants. Association of Local Councils about a late registration of the Piece as common land.

This, as you will know, we are too late to do, but we are following their advice to claim and establish possession of Jenners Piece by the Parish Council in the interests of Helmdon's inhabitants. As the acting Clerk has told you, we took possession by resolution of the Parish Council on January 5th 1989, put up a sign to declare it, and advertised our decision in a local paper.

Now, however, you tell us about an application being made to register the land. What can the applicant offer to support a claim of ownership? When the farm was put up for sale, I searched at the County Record Office for evidence of former ownership of the triangle. The Enclosure map (1759), and the 19th-century tithe map, and some estate maps of 1886-7 when Magdalen College, Oxford, was still the owner, all placed the property boundaries round the outside of the triangle, leaving it belonging to neither of its neighbours; and I could trace no verbal documentary evidence to any contrary effect or to suggest that anyone had ever owned it.

If any other party is now making a claim to ownership of Jenners Piece, Helmdon Parish Council contest their right.

The Parish Council have committed this correspondence to me. I should be grateful if you would reply to me direct and not through the acting clerk, who will soon be giving up that office.

Yours faithfully,

Miss J.M. Spendlove, Vice-chairman

To Miss J.M. Spendlove, from Peterborough District Land Registry:

Dear Madam,


Thank you for your note received on 5 May 1989.

I apologise for the previous confusion in this matter but I can now confirm that there has been no application made for the registration of the triangular piece of land you refer to as Jenners Piece. This land remains not registered under the Land Registration Act 1925.

The application under NN113791 referred to in the Departments Memorandum of 26 January 1989 is the application to register the Developers land to the East of Jenners Piece.

I hope this information assists you.

Yours faithfully

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