John Farrer

John Farrer was one of Oulton’s leading citizens for over 60 years up until his death at Bournemouth just after Christmas 1921. He was 81 years old and had gone south for some sea air because of failing health. 

Like his father before him he was the land agent for the Calverley family of Oulton Hall, a job which entailed being the intermediary between them and their tenant farmers and, more importantly, the colliery owners who exploited the coal seams under their land. He would have had to negotiate leases with them and agree the amount of royalties they would pay per ton of coal mined.

Using Oulton as his base John Farrer spread his surveying and valuing business throughout Yorkshire and his name appears regularly in the county’s newspapers as the agent for all sorts of properties being sold or leased from large country estates to new houses and villas. He was an expert on “the rates” and acted for railway companies in disputes with local authorities over how much they should pay.

In 1894 he became president of the Yorkshire and North of England Land Agents’ Association, and the following year took over the presidency of the Yorkshire Land and Tenant-right Valuers’ Association. Nationally he was a member of the Surveyors’ Institution becoming a Senior Vice President in 1912. For a time he was also an Inspector of the Board of Agriculture.

An advertisment placed by John Farrer in the Leeds Mercury in June 1877.

For many years John Farrer was the agent for Emily Meynell-Ingram, the owner of Temple Newsam, looking after her properties in Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Lincolnshire. In 1909 he negotiated the sale of a substantial portion of the Temple Newsam estate to Leeds Corporation for the construction of the Knostrop sewage works.

Closer to home, as the first chairman of the Hunslet Rural District Council from 1894 to 1898, he had reponsibility for the Lemon Royd sewage works which was a joint enterprise with the Rothwell Urban District Council.

As a founding member of the Oulton Institute he was well known locally, and for those from the community who had their collars felt by the long arm of the law for minor misdemeanours, such as being drunk and disorderly, they could probably expect a sympathetic judgement when he sat as a magistrate at the West Riding Court in Leeds!

Another 1877 advertisement for the letting of the former paper mill at Woodlesford.

John Farrer was born in Oulton in 1840 where his father was a maltster. It’s believed his maltkiln was on what was then called Lily Lane, now Farrer Lane, near the New Masons’ Arms. He was also called John and had married Betsy Stead at St. Stephen’s church in Bramley in April 1839. Her father, Jabez Stead, was a cloth manufacturer and for a period in the 1820s operated a factory at Springhead in Rothwell. The families were also linked through the marriage of John’s brother, Oulton corn miller and farmer Robert Farrer, to Betsy’s sister Mary.

John Farrer’s grandfather, another John, was a farmer and had the distinction of being the first person to be buried in the newly consecrated churchyard at St. John’s, Oulton, in March 1830.

The young John Farrer probably received his first schooling from Charity Armitage, Oulton’s school mistress in the 1840s, but by the time he was 10 years old he had been sent away for a more formal education at Braham College.

When he was about 15 years old he was articled for five years to Joseph Thompson, a land surveyor in Leeds who had offices on Albion Street. After that he worked in an architect’s office and then joined his father who in 1859 was appointed land agent for John Calverley at Oulton Hall taking over from William and George Morley from Garforth who between them had been stewards for the previous 30 years. John Farrer’s father died in 1863 so he was just 23 when he took full responsibility for the family business.

Three years later he married Sarah Ann Laverack who had been born at Reedness Hall near Whitgift on the southern bank of the River Ouse in the East Riding. Her father was a well-to-do farmer employing several men who later moved to a larger farm at Keadby near Scunthorpe.

John and Sarah lived at “The Woodlands” on Farrer Lane but had no children. She died in 1905, after which John’s niece, Eleanor Maude Laverack, moved in to help look after her uncle assisted by housemaid Mary Moore from Oulton, junior cook Bertha Hutchinson from Methley, and senior cook and housekeeper Mary Weightman who was born at Bassingham in Linclonshire.

On his death John Farrer left £8942 12s 2d, worth nearly £200,000 today. His executors were corn miller Henry John Haslegrove and solicitor John Cecil Atkinson. Tragically his niece, who never married, died within a month of her uncle after a short illness. She was only 40 years old.

DEATH OF MR. JOHN FARRER OF OULTON. Wakefield Express, Saturday 31 December 1921.

The death took place on Wednesday, at Bournemouth, where he had gone for reasons of health, of Mr. John Farrer, of Oulton. Mr. Farrer, who was in his 82nd year, was one of the best known land agents and valuers in Yorkshire.

He was the officer appointed one of the Wakefield Inclosure Act and was present at the last meeting, which was held at the Rolls Office, Wakefield, in October last. He said then that he did not find it necessary to lay a rate last year, but he facetiously observed that he might have to pay the owners a visit during the coming year, adding that he was going away the following day, so would not bother them for 3 to 6 months. For over 40 years Mr. Farrer had tried without success to get the Inclosure Act done away with.

For a long time he acted as the agent of the Calverley family of Oulton Hall, and in the early eighties he became associated with that Temple Newsam estate, then owned by the late Mrs. Meynell-Ingram. It is no secret that that lady had the highest opinion of him and placed the entire management of her vast landed possessions in his hands. 

When the estate passed on her death to the Hon. Edward Wood, Mr. Farrer continued in the same position, and had no small part in the negotiations under which part of the domain was sold to the Leeds Corporation for the works of sewage disposal. His connection with the estate continued to the last, and he was one of the prime agents in the recent negotiations for the purchase of Temple Newsam by the corporation.

Mr. Farrer had held several important offices in connection with the Surveyors’ Institution, and his services in great arbitrations in London and elsewhere were in great request. Living at Oulton, and knowing the district so well, it was not surprising that he should take great interest in local affairs. 

For close on a dozen years he sat on the Hunslet Rural District Council as the representative of Oulton-with-Woodlesford, and for the greater part of that time he was its chairman. He was also a guardian of the poor, and in 1903 filled the office of chairman of the Hunslet Board of Guardians.