The Poor Rate Books for Freshwater parish can be used to identify a building date for Farringford. There are a set of Poor Rate books, kept by Overseers of the Poor, which span the dates 1767-1844 [see Poor Rate Books]. Until 1803, there is no mention of Farringford. The holding, on which Farringford would be built, was called “Walls”, after John Wall, a tenant, who held it in the 17th century. This holding was most probably based on what became Home Farm. It is also clear that no building existed on the site until the present house was built, as both the John Andrews map  and the Ordnance Survey map  show nothing on this site and therefore the commentators, who claim Farringford was built in the 18th century, are clearly wrong.
In 1803, Edward Rushworth, whose main abode was Freshwater Farm, built (and therefore had to pay a poor rate on) “Faringford Lodge”. In 1804 it is still called “Farringford Lodge”, and in 1805 it is “Farringfords.” During these years, Rushworth was living at Freshwater Farm, also known as Freshwater House, but in 1806, he made Farringford his main place of abode; the house becomes known as “Farringfords Hill” and this remained its name till mid 19th century. This is confirmed by the place of birth of Rushworth’s children: the first seven were all born at ‘Afton House’; the rest of his children were born at ‘Freshwater House’, the last birth of which was 2 May 1804. Furthermore, leases and legal documents of the time consistently refer to Rushworth as “of Freshwater House” until 1806; even in 1805, Rushworth is still described as living at Freshwater House [Rushworth Papers; lease 1 & 2 June 1804, JER/HBY/19/2; lease 26 & 27 September 1804, JER/HBY/46/1; release 27 January 1806, JER/HBY/117/7]
However, adverts in newspapers in 1818, announcing the sale of the house, clearly state that the house was built in 1802, in which case it must have been started in late 1802.
Why did Rushworth not live at Farringford straight away? There is evidence to suggest that he provided the land for his daughter, Elizabeth, and her new husband, James Patrick Murray, to build a home in 1803. It was on 31st January 1803 that they were married in Freshwater. However, in March 1804, James was posted to Ireland. While in Ireland they had three children, who were privately baptised there, but who had public baptisms at Freshwater church: it is clear that they moved fairly often between Ireland and England and had presumably kept on Farringford, until Edward Rushworth took over the running of the house and came to live there in 1806. James and Elizabeth Murray moved to Athlone, in Ireland about 1810, as the next four children were all born there. Murray died at his home, Killenure House, in 1834.
“It seems that when Elizabeth Rushworth married JPM [James Patrick Murray] they were given land on which to build a house by her father Edward Rushworth. This house was called Farringford Hill. When JPM went to Ireland with his regiment they clearly left some bills behind, possibly for completing the house. Edward Rushworth wrote to Thomas Sewell of Newport, Isle of Wight, as follows: "I am greatly hurt by receipt of your letter respecting the taxation of costs. I have repeatedly written to Murray on the subject and his answers were not at all satisfactory. I shall again write to Col. Murray and press the subject very warmly, adding that if he does not think proper to pay the costs, I shall make the satisfaction from my own purse, which has already undergone privations". The story is confirmed by Lizzie Harvey (JPM's granddaughter) who stated in a letter that her grandfather began building Farringford "which was considered very foolish of him owing to his financial circumstances". She maintained that Elizabeth's father took the building off his hands and finished it. She also believed they had a lawsuit. ”
[ Major General James MURRAY (1782-1834): ]
The above-mentioned letter was written by Rushworth to his solicitors, Sewell, in Newport in 1815. The full text is as follows:
“Farringford Hill - 17th Decr. 1815
I was greatly hurt at the receipt of your letter yesterday respecting the taxation of the Costs, I have repeatedly wrote (sic) to Murray on the subject and his answers have not been at all satisfactory, he says, that Mr Carr saw the agreement before it was executed & that he did not object (sic) to the Taxation mentioned therein - that Mr. Davidon could not with consistency tax Thawells' Bill without taxing the Bill of Messrs Carr &c - I totally disagree with him, thinking it was necessary to scrutinize the Bill of an Adversary but not that of Friends who have fully shewn themselves to be such - I shall write again to Colonel Murray & press this subject very warmly, adding that if he does not think proper to pay the whole costs, that I shall make the satisfaction from my own purse which has already undergone great privations.” [Rushworth Papers Box 4]
It would seem then that Rushworth had been pressing Murray to pay some outstanding costs and that Murray had been prevaricating to such an extent that Rushworth was having to pay out certain sums of his own money instead. It also shows that Rushworth was becoming increasingly exasperated with his son-in-law. By 1815, Rushworth had been living at Farringford for about ten years, but it does suggest that he may have taken it over due to Murray’s laxity.
The building at this stage may have taken the form of a square Georgian style building, for use as a summer house or lodge by Rushworth and his family or by Murray. A typical Georgian window, complete with a flat arch
, can be seen on the west side of the original house, partly obscured by the roof line of the southern wing, which abuts up against it: the edge of this window can still clearly be seen under the roof at the east end of the loft space of the south domestic wing
. The window has been in-filled with brick and was the window for a first floor back bedroom. This raises the interesting supposition that the original house was built in the classical Georgian manner and was a square block with flat arched sash windows in the rear, similar to certain designs provided in architectural pattern books of the time [see Regency Georgian Architecture
] Charles Tennyson hints at this when he writes about Hambrough “ adding arched tops to fine rectangular windows and filling them with woodwork in the form of Gothic stone traceries
.” It would also suggest that the two service wings (or at least the south wing) were originally only one storey high. There is also evidence in building join lines that both these wings were about a half as short as they eventually became [see paragraph 13.53]
Although the date of construction is wrong, a letter of 1875 to Alfred Tennyson mentions the builder of Farringford as a Mr. Stephens of Yarmouth: “
I think you may depend upon the [date of] 1806 because I saw yesterday, quite by chance, the carpenter who was apprenticed to “Stephens of Yarmouth” who built Farringford
[Letter from Julia Crozier to Alfred Tennyson, 18 th May 1875, in possession of owners.]
This was John Stephens of Yarmouth, a “carpenter and builder”, who died in 1847 and was buried in Yarmouth. He also built Plumbley’s hotel (now the Freshwater Bay House) for Charles Plumbley of Freshwater, grocer, shortly after 1824.
[ The Vectis directory, 1839: FRESHWATER. HOTEL – Plumbly ]