Potential heirs and beneficiaries to the Yorkley Court Farm estate were contacted last month and informed of their potential claim. Lineal descendants of the last known owners of Yorkley Court Farm – Samuel and Elizabeth Cholditch, have been found by a local genealogist employed by Yorkley Court Community Farm.
The sustainable farmers were delighted to be able to meet two of the descendants on Sunday 23rd November when they came for a visit and were shown around by members of YCCF. They were pleased with what they saw and seemed impressed with the work carried out by the Community Farm project. The descendants have since begun seeking legal advice as to how to proceed.
For many years there has been ongoing controversy over the ownership of the farm. Records show that in 1967 the solicitors firm Cooke Painter and Co. advertised for descendants of Samuel and Elizabeth Cholditch to come forward, presumably to no avail. The question of ownership was again raised in the mid nineties when the then tenant farmers tried to purchase the farm. It was at this time that the current trustees / executors of the farm confirmed that beneficiaries had been found. This was supported by the Crown Treasury Solicitor in 1997 who provided names of some of those who would have entitlement. However for reasons unknown the beneficiaries were never contacted and the sale could not take place.
The plot thickened in 2010 when the trustee /executor Michael Barnard was investigated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and declared himself bankrupt.
Today it appears that the deeds and trust documents no longer exist having been lost whilst in the care of the solicitors firm Barnard and Co.
Members of Yorkley Court Community Farm hope that they may have been able to establish the true owners of Yorkley Court Farm and end the mystery. However, sadly, new fears have mounted that despite notifying the trustee Richard Tolson over a month ago of the existence of the beneficiaries he appears to be continuing his attempt to sell the farm, both without consultation with the potential beneficiaries and without advertising it on the open market, to multimillionaire property developer Brian Bennett. Mr. Bennett has plans to cover more than half the farm with solar panels.
YCCF believes this farm deserves more and continues to work towards it’s goal of creating a community land trust. They hope now to be able to work with the beneficiaries and find an outcome which honours the true ownership of the farm whilst creating an inspiring sustainable farm project for the people of the Forest of Dean.