History of the Village of Farley

Farley is not mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086 but the evidence of flint flakes and other microliths shows that Man has passed by or dwelt in this remote spot since long before Neolithic times. The variety of undisturbed barrows scattered through the woodlands or buried in the fields, remains of ancient earthworks and the occasional discovery of Celtic, Roman and Saxon artefacts indicate that for over 3,000 years Man has made a living from farming and the surrounding forest and woodland.

From early Saxon times, “Ferleg” or “Fernleah” – a distant or bracken clearing in a wood – was one of several settlements near the Royal Palace in the deer park of Clarendon and set in the forest of Pancet, one of the former great tracts of hunting country on the borders of Wiltshire with Hampshire. These ‘forests’ were strictly preserved for the monarchs’ sport and pleasure as well as for timber and the officials lived in little villages like Farley, which were part of the Royal Manors. This situation remained virtually unchanged until the middle of the 17th century and so it is that the ancient origins of the village are still recalled in dialect and place names.

By the early 12th century Farley warranted a chapel suggesting that the village was growing in size. From the 13th century documentary evidence exists relating to the inhabitants, “Archer” being behind the earliest mentioned name. One Richard the Archer of Farley held the position of ‘Bowbearer’ of the Forest of Clarendon. His position of Game Warden was of some importance as he was entitled to land in Farley and his fees included – 8 cows, 1 bull, 3 horses and various other perks like venison and firewood. His son and grandson seem to have followed him in this position.

Almshouses

There followed a steady stream of court cases dealing with land in the village. Houses were mentioned for the first time about now and the village was obviously growing. During the troublesome years of Edward II, it is recorded that John de Lucy was ejected from 40 acres of wood in Farley because he was unfortunate enough to cross the powerful Earl of Lancaster, who was at this time causing Edward considerable trouble. Fortunately, when the King regained control, John regained his land.

In 1393 the monastery of Ivychurch at Alderbury, which was founded by King Stephen, owned much land in Farley but by 1537 and the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII only a few cottages and a small amount of land in the village were retained.

Farley’s most famous son was Sir Stephen Fox, who rose from humble stock to become loyal companion and confidante to Charles II while in exile during Cromwell’s reign. On return to England, King Charles appointed him paymaster to the army and awarded him a coat of arms. Becoming an extremely rich and powerful financier, he took a long lease of most of the manor from the Cathedral in 1678 besides purchasing a number of freeholds – he also proved a generous benefactor of his native village.

In 1681, Sir Stephen endowed Farley Hospital. He also commissioned the building of the Church, both buildings attributed to Sir Christopher Wren. The Church, Hospital, Wardenry, School building and Reading Room now form the historic core of the village and attract many visitors. Farley Hospital still provides accommodation in 6 almshouses and 2 cottages.