Woodgate House and the immediate grounds including the Nursery, is owned by Peter Purdy, but the family name associated with this land goes back to 1840 when the land was used for farming, as it had been since the late medieval period.
In the late 16th/17th century, there were three farming sites within the Woodgate settlement – Woodgate House, Sankence Farm Lodge and Woodgate Farm. Peter’s great grandfather, Robert John Woods Purdy was left the estate in the 19th century by his godfather Robert Woods. During 1870/71, major improvements were carried out to Woodgate house, gardens and grounds, turning Woodgate into a gentleman’s residence.
Earlier maps, around 1850, show a pond in the farmyard, and a small pond in Bath Meadow, very little having changed since around 1839. Photography was beginning to be use and some reveal the changes, such as to Woodgate house itself being changed from a farmhouse to a gentleman’s home. During the period 1870 – 1883, old casement windows were replaced with sash windows, farm buildings were removed, the pond extended to what we now know as The Lake, ha-has were added and ornamental trees planted to complement new pathways.
The walled garden, now known as The Kitchen Garden, was built, using salvaged material from farm buildings and garden walls. There are also old Roman tile fragments found in the grounds or while digging foundations for the wall.
The evidence of earlier occupation is there for all to see, and the reason is the natural springs which bubble up towards the west end of The Lake. Over the past four years, further evidence of this occupation has been uncovered. Indeed, there is now evidence to show the land has been occupied for the past 5-10 000years.
There is a considerable amount to do before we have the full picture of life here at Woodgate.
With thanks to Hearths and Heaths: Dispersed Settlements in Aylsham’s Early Modern Landscape by William and Maggie Vaughan-Lewis