The History of The Foster Family at Field House and High Barn
The Fosters have occupied Field House since 1887, having lived and farmed in the wider area for several hundred years. It seems likely that the Vosters, as they were then named, came over to Filey from The Low countries in the 1600’s.
Field House was part of the Sewerby Hall Estate, owned by the Lloyd Graeme family when John’s great- grandfather, Francis, became one of his tenants in the latter part of the 19th century. Subsequently, in 1919, this tenancy was passed to John’s grandfather, William upon his return from The First World War.
Following the war, farming experienced hard times in the 1920’s/1930’s and many estates were broken up. At this time, Lloyd Graeme, offered John’s granddad, William the opportunity to buy, and this he did, thus becoming the freeholder of Field House, which included High Barn and about 250 acres of land.In the early days the farming was mixed i.e. a bit of everything – sheep, pigs, beef, milk, chickens, ducks geese, cereals and, of course heavy horses to do the farm work.
John’s father, Thomas, followed on and continued to farm until he was joined by John, who returned in 1975, after university and working elsewhere. By this time the farm had streamlined its operations, becoming a dairying and arable enterprise, letting all the other enterprises go. Additional land near RSPB Bempton Cliffs was purchased in 1985, and the farm continued to grow cereals and to maintain a milking herd, but on a larger scale.
John and I moved here in 1983 with our children James and Lucy and made our first foray into the holiday cottage trade in 1984, realising that our lovely setting and close proximity to the stunning Yorkshire Coast made us an ideal spot for a holiday destination. We configured some simple alterations to one end of the farmhouse and got going. Initially, and for the following few years, we only opened during the 6 weeks summer holiday period to make a little ‘pin’ money.Very gradually we started to look at the wider picture.
In 2000, we upgraded a tied cottage and created Hind’s. Soon after this, another cottage, The Byre, was opened to holiday visitors. Slowly we began to realise that we had created a viable alternative enterprise, which was growing each year.
With the collapse of the dairy industry at the turn of the 21st century, and after 30 years of milking cows, John decided to sell his herd. With the help of a grant for the encouragement of rural tourism we developed most of our Victorian farm buildings at Field House and added Ostler’s, The Roost, The Old Dairy and The Turnip House. Following this development, we created five more luxury cottages at High Barn, powered by environmentally friendly technology, which opened in 2012- The Cake House, The Hayloft, The Granary, The Owl House and The Spinney. We have added another branch to the business by acquiring three super holiday apartments in a converted old brewery, very close to York Minster. They are named the Hop Store, The Malt House and The Brew House.
James joined us in 2015 and is fully part of the business. His partner, Sarah-Jane and their two young boys, Harry and Jack spend a lot of their free time here. Lucy also, retains her interest in all that is going on, but lives in Buckinghamshire, so sadly, we see less of her, Jonny her husband and their little ones, Blake and Evie.
They all give us confidence that they’ll continue to add to our family story here at Field House in future years.
Three generations of Foster men – Francis, William and Thomas as a young boy. A similar photo has been taken of John, James and his eldest son, Harry, but this archive needs updating. This latest generation has two boys – Jack is the youngest.
Thomas Francis Foster (shown on left) came from Gristhorpe to take over the tenancy at Field House, part of Sewerby Hall Estate, in 1887. William, his only son ( on the right) was born in 1890 and lived in Field House until volunteering for active war service in 1915. On his return from France, William took on the tenancy of Field House and his father moved to another Estate farm, Sewerby Fields ( now demolished.)
Groom and horse, Dunsmore Monarch at the top of the drive at Field House. The horses at Field House were frequent prize winners and we still retain the certificates, pinned to the beams of an old stable.
Thomas, his sister Margaret and an unidentified friend/relative leading water from Sewerby in the dry summer of 1933. This bowser provided much needed water for all the livestock. At that time Field House was a mixed farm, rearing, cattle, sheep and pigs.
The first rubber tyred tractor purchased in 1946 for £180.00. Four horses were traded in at £40.00 each to make this buy - old methods giving way to the new. Harvesting was a much slower job then, even with the help of motorised machinery.
This is a photo taken in the late 1970’s. It shows our farm staff of the day standing outside the buildings at High Barn. The gable end of The Spinney is in clear view. Chris Shipley, still milking in Northumberland, Alison, left to work for DEFRA and Fritz (Fred) Steinhofel. Fred was a POW who ended the 2nd World War as part of the Jersey Garrison. He settled in East Yorkshire and worked for us as a tractor driver until his retirement.
Tom Foster, in the 1980’s, grandson of Francis, with Blossom and Rowan, the last shires to live at Field House. These horses were “loaned” to us by a friend of the family, Dennis Wilson , a resident of Bridlington Old Town. Dennis inherited them from a farming uncle and, rather than see them sold, asked if they could “stay” at Field House, where he would visit them.
John Foster, son of Tom. John continues to live and farm at Field house and now shares the farm side of the work with son James. Seen here around 2010, with the last of our own combine harvesters, close to Hind’s cottage. This combine had a 4 ton grain tank and 25ft cutting width. Quite capable of doing 30/40 acres a day compared with 6/7 acres a day when corn was harvested with a binder.