History of The Felix Thornley Cobbold Agricultural Trust
A century of supporting agricultural improvement and development in Suffolk and East Anglia
Felix Thornley Cobbold was a far-sighted benefactor of agricultural improvement and development. On his death in 1909, he bequeathed his agricultural estates at Hadleigh and Sproughton, totaling 852 acres (344.8ha), to the East Suffolk County Council to be administered as private smallholdings and allotments. Accordingly, on 20 October 1910, a scheme was made by the Charity Commission establishing the Felix Thornley Cobbold’s Small Holdings and Allotments Trust. The objectives were to offer opportunities to farm independently, and provide the means for householders to grow their own food.
Between the First and Second World Wars, the Trust expanded its estates by purchasing additional land at Great Blakenham and Witnesham.
By 1966 the estates comprised 410ha (1013 acres), providing 15 holdings, 5 cottages and other lettings. However, the viability of smallholdings had declined by then, and the Trust obtained approval from the Charity Commission for new objectives on 31 May 1966. The Deed stated:
The object of the Charity shall be by establishing and maintaining a farm or farms as centres for demonstrating and apprenticing and by other means to advance and improve agriculture and, in particular, to educate farmers and young persons in agricultural methods, development and techniques.
To achieve these new objectives, Stanaway and Charity Farms at Otley were purchased to establish a demonstration farm, and the existing Estates were to be sold as and when opportune. Close co-operation was maintained between the demonstration farm and the East Suffolk County Council Education Centre at Witnesham, which eventually moved to the site in 1970, and is now Otley College.
The Trust continued to farm the new estate, and apply any profits to the charitable purposes until September 2006, when the farm was let to a tenant, and certain of the farm buildings and houses, not required for the farming enterprise, were either let, or converted for other uses. The farm machinery and small parcels of land were sold and proceeds invested to produce additional income. Proceeds of sales were invested to produce additional income. All surplus income is now used to further the Trust’s revised objectives, approved by the Charity Commission on 5 December 2007. The new Deed states:
The Trust’s overall objective is to advance and improve agriculture, in particular to educate and inform farmers and young persons in agricultural methods, developments and techniques.
The Trust’s estate now totals 318ha (783 acres ) of land, and includes two farms at Otley and Sproughton, the site of Otley College, a farmhouse and three commercial properties at Otley, allotments and a farmhouse with a caravan storage business and equestrian facilities at Sproughton.