. . . . . . . . Hough Mill open 2-5pm Sundays to end of September . . . . . . . . . .

Willow Farm


Main Street between Centre Farm and the Robin Hood.

The site of the former Willow Farm was acquired by Colin Draycott owned Charlesland Properties Ltd in 1983.  Several houses and bungalows were built, the first being occupied in October 1985.

Houses and bungalows on site of Willow Farm

Farmers at Willow Farm

1861-1872 John Chester

Shepshed born John Chester was an agricultural labourer / farmer in Swannington from at least 1841.   As the census returns did not name farms it is difficult to be certain when he moved to Willow Farm, but the balance of possibilities is that he was there by 1861.


1872-1908 George Chester

Shepshed born George Chester followed his father at Willow Farm where he died in 1908 and was buried at Griffydam Methodist.  His children were:

  • Emma Chester born Swannington 1854, married Coalville railway engine driver Alfred Smith in 1882 and moved to Lincolnshire.  Daughter Emma Gertrude Smith 1883-1974 was a school teacher living with her Chester aunts in Westfields, Station Hill in 1939.
  • Walter Henry Chester 1859-1933 helped his father on the farm before marrying Jane Maria (Taylor) Hough in 1893.   They lived in Mill House in 1899,  from 1901-1925 Walter was a farmer and publican at the Railway Inn.
  • Ellen Chester 1861-1935 became a school teacher at Thringstone before moving to Swannington school where she became Headmistress of the Infants School until her 1928 retirement.
  • Mary Ann Chester 1863-1953 worked in the dairy at Willow Farm until at least 1911.  Mary Ann was in Westlands, Station Hill from at least 1939 until her death.
  • Joseph Chester 1864-1929 assisted his father at Willow Farm until his 1907 marriage when he moved to the Stone House near the junction of Main Street and Burtons Lane.  He married Mary Ann Rowse or Rouse (nee Henson) the widow of blacksmith Thomas.
  • Georgina Chester 1871-1949 helped on Willow Farm, after her father’s death she married Rhodes Blake.  Georgina remained at Willow Farm until at least 1929.  In 1939 Georgina was living in Westfields on Station Hill and was resident there in 1949 when she died at Carlton Hayes Hospital, Narborough.
  • John George Chester born 1872 became a schoolmaster then in 1911 superintendent of Monkton Hall in Durham run by the North Eastern Association for the After Care of the Feeble Minded.


1908-1929 Rhodes Blake

Prosperous farmer James Blake died in Thelbridge Devon in 1882 leaving his wife with four young children – Edmund 1878, Wallace George 1879, Mary 1880 and Rhodes 1882.  His widow married in 1887 and Rhodes was still with them in 1891.  By 1901 Rhodes was working on a farm in Malmsbury, Wilshire.  Rhodes was described as a farm bailiff when he married Georgina Chester in November 1908 at St George’s Church.

The Nottingham Journal 26th September 1929 reported that Rhodes Blake attended the funeral of his wife Georgina’s brother Joseph Chester on the 23rd September.  Returning to the widow’s house he participated in ham sandwiches, tinned fruit and cake.   When Rhodes and Georgina went to bed at about 1.30am  he made a gurgling noise, Georgina’s sister and mother came to help and he died in his mother’s arms.  The Derby Daily Telegraph 15th October 1929 reported the cause of death as “death from syncope, the result of dilation of the stomach, which impeded the heart’s action”.


1930-1955 John Edwin Roy Dalby

John Edwin Roy Dalby was born 20th May 1895 into a farming family at Seagrave, Leicestershire.   John married Ethel Annie Sismey in 1916 in Hinckley.  John and Ethel had six children, the last of whom was born at Willow Farm.  The Dalbys had been at Willow Farm since about 1930.

The Leicester Evening Mail 25th October 1933 reported Miss Ethel Dalby daughter of Mr and Mrs J E R Dalby, formerly of Breech Farm Earl Shilton, and now of Willow Farm, Swannington, has been awarded the L.L.C.M. degree as a result of an examination in Leicester at which Dr Cooper was the examiner.  Miss Dalby won the A.L.C.M. diploma in March last.

The Leicester Chronicle 25th July 1954 contained an advertisement by  Wyggeston Hospital offering the tenancy of the 118 acres Willow Farm (currently occupied by J E R Dalby) from the 25th March 1955.


1965-1975 George Harold Leawood Taylor

George Harold Leawood was born in Blaby to parents Alfred Albert Taylor and Nellie Leawood.  In 1939 he was a farm labourer at Valley Farm, Willesley (south of Ashby de la Zouch) where his father was Farm Bailiff.

George Harold Leawood may have directly succeeded the Dalbys.  When his father retired, his parents came to live at Willow Farm and his mother was resident there when she died at Vicarage Bungalow, Shirley, Derbyshire in March 1965.

George Harold Leawood Taylor died on the 10th November 1975.  The Burton Observer and Chronicle of the 19th February 1976 advertised an auction at the farm on the 11th March 1976 including:

  • 56 cattle (7 Ayrshire and Friesian cows, 6 Friesian bulling heifers, 43 Friesian and cross Hereford store cattle)
  • M registered Massey Fergusson 168 tractor
  • H registered Massey Ferguson 135 tractor
  • Weekes 4 ton tipping trailer
  • McConnel bale slave
  • Vicon wuffler
  • Massey Fergusson mowing machine
  • Massey Fergusson disc harrows
  • Ransome two-furrow reversible plough
  • Massey Ferguson 20 baler

The equipment was a huge change from that used during the horse era of the Second World War.

Was George Harold Leawood Taylor the last farmer at Willow Farm?  Does anyone have photographs of Willow Farm?

Local builder Colin Draycott built houses and bungalows on the Main Street frontage in 1985.

A Holstein Friesian heifer, the breed of cows at Willow Farm in 1975 - loaded to Wikipedia by Tractorboy60

World War Two Farm Survey

John Edwin Roy Dalby paid £135 a year in rent for the farm.  He had a 20 horse power Fordson tractor.

Farm size = 102 acres

  • Grain – 35 acres
  • Roots – 2.5 acres
  • Fodder – 3.5 acres
  • Grass for mowing – 16 acres
  • Grass for grazing – 45 acres


Farm animals

  • Cattle – 27
  • Fowls – 30
  • Horses – 3