Ivy House Farm

Map Location c21

Home of the Baker family since 1889, and farmstead of Ivy House Farm. It was renovated and extended by Harry Baker in 1947, but shuttered concrete was used, hardly appropriate to this beautiful old house. So his grandson Robert removed this in the 1990s and extended the house by incorporating erstwhile outbuildings at the rear, as seen in Photo No.1.


Back in the 1930s and 1940s Harry Baker ran this small farm in addition to Home Mill and Crown Mill. When Jim Baker took over in 1954 it was a mixed farm of about 65 acres, worked by himself and 4 employees, including Dick Burch and his two brothers. The farm buildings and about 25 acres, rented from The Grange, were over the road from the farmhouse, on land now occupied by the village green and Crown Mill development, Grange Meadows, and Bennett Avenue. The other 40 acres were to the south of the Wetherden Road, where Jim's great-grandfather had farmed from Warren Mill. The 30-acre Bunkers Hill Farm was added in 1965, the 54-acre Crossways Farm in 1968, the 89-acre Kiln Farm in 1973, and in about 2002 some 31 acres of Street Farm along Wetherden Road beyond Jubilee Terrace. From 1977 JD Baker also farmed rented land in Tostock and Drinkstone.

Pressure for housing led to the sale of the land in the middle of the village in the '80s and '90s. So in 2004 the two Bakers, with 3 employees, were farming 244 acres in Elmswell and 1,556 acres elsewhere.

1. Ivy House, 2005 .. Full size

2. Ivy House, 2005

3. Early 20th cent.

3. Early 20th cent.


In 1954 there were a few beef cattle and one dairy cow, 25 sheep, 20 to 30 sow pigs and over 3,000 chickens. These were phased out as the farm concentrated on crop-growing, and by the end of the century only sheep remained. Over the years there was more and more bureaucracy associated with livestock farming, and in 1992 a computer was purchased to cope with the paperwork. [Approximate grazing areas: on one acre one could graze one dairy cow, or 6 sheep, or 2 horses.]


In the 1960s and 1970s there were some 3,000 laying hens in poultry sheds, nourished by feed from Crown Mill (of course); around 2,500 eggs per day were sold to John Rannoch at Haughley Park or to SAPPA in Bury St Edmunds. Arriving at one day old, the chicks would take several weeks to reach maturity and would lay eggs for a year or more, after which they would be sold to Rannochs or Diapers.


About 250 pigs of the large white and Landrace breed were kept in the farmyard by Crown Mill. They were fed pelleted feed from Crown Mill - the big cobs were particularly good when the pigs were outside in the summer, as rooks were unable to steal them and they were not so readily crushed as the pigs moved around. When they were 23-24 weeks old they would be herded, 8 to 15 a week, up the road to the bacon factory, where they fetched about £60 each [at the time a farm workers' weekly wages were only about £9.00].


Robert Baker was keen to make use of his training in sheep breeding, so Ivy House Farm expanded into sheep farming. Dick Stennett, a cousin of Jim Baker, had kept sheep in Haughley Park for 40 years, so in 1986 Robert took over these sheep runs and kept some 500 sheep over there. More sheep were kept at Crossways Farm in the early 1990s, for which a large shed was transferred from Ivy House Farm, and also at Tostock. The sheep breeding operations were badly affected by the Foot and Mouth crisis of early 2001 - the movement of livestock was banned just in the middle of the lambing season, sheep could not be moved from Haughley Park to the Crossways' barns for sheltered lambing, and the two-year-old shearing sheep at Tostock could not be sent off to market. Huge numbers of straw bales had to be taken out to the stranded flocks, as well as all their feed and water; it was a hard time for the sheep giving birth just then, in a makeshift covered yard and pens on Haughley Park.

Horses to Tractors

Before the war Harry Baker had an Austin tractor; just after the war he bought two MM (Minneapolis Molins) tractors from Frank Nunn, the local distributor at the Blackbourne Works on Ashfield Road;horses ceased to be used for ploughing in about 1949 and for other jobs in about 1953. In 1954 Jim Baker was so impressed by the Massey Ferguson ('little grey Fergie') that he sold the two MMs to buy one. This was lighter and different from the other tractors because of its rear mechanism, which could hydraulically raise or lower the plough or other cultivating machinery. Its adjustable ploughs could go deeper into the soil than the old tractors' ploughs, 8 to 12 inches deep or even 16" in light soil.

Jim purchased a second-hand Massey combine harvester in 1955, and George Ling restored it for him. He undertook work for neighbouring farmers - Mr Kirkwood at Elmswell Hall and Jim Borley at Manor Farm, Nacton.