Helmes (often recorded as Helms) was a large estate, farm and common land between Hungerford and Ham.
It is interesting to note that the property which is now 12 Bridge Street and 13 Bridge Street was owned by a Thomas Helmes at the time of the Duchy of Lancaster Survey of c1470. Any connection between Thomas Helme and the Helme estate is so far conjectural.
However, in 1487 (Min Accts 2/3 HenVII) records a "rent of 8s received from John Evenys (?Evans) for the licence to dig clay at Helmes Heath for tiles thereof to be made".
In 1543-44 a Duchy of Lancaster survey (Duchy of Lancaster Depositions, Henry VIII Vol 44, R. No. 5) stated there was a "common belonging to the town called Portsdown, containing 60 acres, upon which groweth 50 timber oak, which oak the town claimeth to have for their necessary building". The same survey listed "a common called Sandon [now spelt Sanden], containing 12 acres, which the tenants of the Dean of Windsor and certain individuals claimed", and also "a common called Helmesheath, containing 100 acres, of thorn and home thin set with oaks, which two individuals with their tenants claimed common".
Norman Hidden recounts (in The Currs - a Roman Catholic family) that the Curr family and its branches were established in the town and parish of Hungerford in times preceding the parish register (1558), William Curr for example holding land at Sandon in the c1470 Hungerford rental. They held land in Kintbury and Shalborne, also in Charnham Street, and their standing became that of yeoman/minor gentry. Three main branches appeared - the country Currs, one branch in Sanham Green, another in Stubwood and Helmes, and the town Currs. All went well with the Currs until the Reformation, when the country Currs remained Catholic and the town Currs became Anglican.
The 1573 Survey of the Manors of Hungerford and Sanden Fee (T/S p5) include the following: ...the Tile house is mentioned as part of the boundary of Sanden Fee, just north of Hanfield's House and garden "and so leadeth unto a pale or hedge and homes hethe on the south to the Tile house and then leadeth a hedge bounding in Helmes Heath unto ... Helmes Copse" etc. On page 24 it adds: ..."John Coote, tenant of William Butler pays the Queen yearly for digging of the clay in the pits at Helmes Heath, 8d."
A Survey of the Manors of Hungerford and Sanden Fee on 25 May 1591, para 21 of the route around the bounds of Hungerford includes "which leadeth to a hedge of John Currs that boundeth on Helmes Heath" (There are several further references to Helmes in the Survey of Hungerford 1591). Also in 1591 it is recorded that John Hunte (tenant of Richard Stafferton) paid 8d for digging clay on Helmes Heath, and in 1609 Richard Stafferton esq..."for digging of clay upon Helmes Heath for the Tyle House", qr 8d (This went with Purrs and Popinjays at this date).
At the time of the Feoffment of the Town and Manor of Hungerford in 1612-1617, it is recorded that that though Helmesheath was common only for the tenants of Sanden Fee and though Freeman's Marsh, still the property of the Feoffees, was parcel of the Manor of Sanden Fee and common to both Manors, both Helmesheath and Freeman's Marsh were claimed by the inhabitants of Hungerford in 1572, as though they were equally part of the Borough (see Sanden Fee).
Those owners with Common Rights over Sanden Fee lands were also able to enjoy rights on Helmes Heath.
In the 17th century the land was owned by the local Roman Catholic Thomas Curr, but in 1638 his adherence to his faith had caused him to lose much of his landholding in Sandon, Helmes and Anvilles (see The Currs - a Roman Catholic family and Hungerford during the Commonwealth).
In 1674 Bulstrode Whitelocke's diary refers to the "breaking" or financial collapse and bankruptcy of Jethro Tull, the famous farmer at Prosperous. By August Richard Hawkins was busily engaged in various transactions connected with the transfer of Jethro Tull's estate, and of the estate of the Hussey family with which Tull was bound up, in particular Anvilles Farm, Old Anvilles and Helmes Farm which were acquired by Sir William Jones, the Attorney General. (For more on this see Hawkins family).
In the late 18th century, Mrs Fanny Duke (formerly Fanny Field), widow and relict of Edward Duke of Hungerford, Surgeon, leased Helmes Farm to Mr Thomas Ward. for a year for a peppercorn rent. (The lease also mentions Sanden Farm, 3 acres of land known as Youngs in Westfield Kintbury, messuage in Sanham Green known as Stockwell (in tenure of John Coatley), a 3 acre field called Little Coppice, 3 acre meadow called Green Mead. All part of Helms Farm and Helms Place, late occupied by Thomas Winkworth. Starveall’s in a field called Tyngmans, formerly in the tenure of Thomas Kingston now Thomas Winkworth.)
At different times, some of the common fields of Hungerford were divided or linked, and names therefore varied. Part of Sanham Down and Helmes Heath is labelled "Old Inclosure" on the 1819 Enclosure map.
Town & Manor documents (lodged 2018 with the BRO) include several relating to Helmes:
- an Extract dated 16 Jun 1820 (by Mr H. Astley, Solicitor) from the Inclosure Award 16 Jun 1820 describing nine properties relating to Fanny Duke including Helmes.
- another document in the same bundle is an Attested Copy Will and Codicil of Mrs Fanny Duke (dated 2 Aug 1819 and 25 Feb 1826) mentioning Helmes Farm and other properties).
- Release dated 15 Feb 1827 of Sannum Green and Helme Farms and other hereditaments in Hungerford and Kintbury from The Revd’ Edward Duke and others to John Willes Esquire. John Willes died in 1837, passing his entire estate to his sone George Willes (see Hungerford Park).
Helmes Farmhouse was demolished, probably after A G Turner bought Hungerford Park Estate in 1928.
The site of Hemes Farm is situated at OS map ref 334657 and is approached by going south up the Salisbury Road, turning left towards Sanham Green Farm, and then taking the first track on the right (on the bad bend). The property was standing on the edge of the wood which is a little over 1/4 mile down the track.
Helmes Farm still holds notional Sanden Fee Common Rights for 2 horses or 4 cows.
1902 (T&M Register) George Wills (owner)
Undated (T&M Register) John Brown (occupier)
Undated (T&M Register) John Robert Brown (owner & occupier))
Undated (T&M Register) Ann (or Amy) Swithinbank (owner)
Undated (T&M Register) Lady Juliet Wills (owner)