The Morel Farm Project
The Morel Farm Project
The Trust was recently awarded a Fiscal Stimulus grant, which will enable it to invest in Morel Farm – a beautiful 18th century farmstead. Despite its beauty, Morel Farm has no heating or any other ‘mod cons’ associated with modern day life and requires extensive renovation to breathe new life into its historic fabric whilst retaining the architectural heritage of the buildings.
Today, the buildings at Morel Farm evoke a sense of timelessness, but the farm has undergone many changes over the years, reflecting corresponding changes in the residents of the farm and the highs and lows of Jersey’s agricultural industry. Morel Farm was the first property to be gifted to the National Trust when Mr. Arthur Morel gave the house to the Trust in 1939. This was followed in 2004, by the donation of the surrounding fields by his daughter, Mary Le Marquand Morel.
The farmstead is made up of a farmhouse and a range of outbuildings arranged around a courtyard lined with large beach pebbles. For visitors to Morel Farm, the pressoir is a step back in time where you will find a circular Chausey granite apple crusher as well as a traditional cider press.
Although the pretty building opposite the farmhouse is called “The Chapel”, it’s never been used as such. There is a belfry on the roof of the building, which may be why it became known as The Chapel. The ship’s bell in the belfry is inscribed “John Morel 1837” – a branch of the Morel family were mariners in Cardiff, originally owning sailing ships and then moving onto steam ships. It is possible that the bell came from one of the family ships.
The Bakehouse or “boulangerie” is now a store but it has an unusual past when part of the building was used to house pigs. The pigsties are incorporated within the building, with shelter inside the bakehouse and the enclosed runs, where the pigs were fed and where they could sun themselves, being additions beyond the gable wall of the building. Above the sties, the south-facing gable is made up of a dummy chimney, as it doesn’t serve a hearth in the bakehouse, and has small openings in which doves and pigeons have been known to roost.
No building is ever completely finished - buildings are continually altered throughout their lives, even if this is simply through repairs and maintenance. From its original thatched roof to the re-roofing in 1960, not forgetting the replacement wooden doors to the arched entrances in 2017, Morel Farm is no exception. Now the Trust is delighted and enormously grateful to have been given one of the Government’s Fiscal Stimulus grants for the renovation and refurbishment of the farmstead. Planning permission for repairs to the farmhouse and the conversion of the Bakehouse to self-catering accommodation was granted in 2012 (and extended in 2017 with initial works having commenced), although funds did not permit completion of the works at that time.
The Trust will use its usual light touch to create bed-and-breakfast accommodation in the farmhouse, while ensuring that the farm’s internal historic fabric and external appearance remains unaltered. The Bakehouse will be repaired and converted to a one-bedroom, self-catering house, respecting the historic integrity and nature of the building, including the preservation of the bread oven on the ground floor. In both cases, it will be an opportunity for the Trust to bring into use some of the items of furniture that have been donated over the years, from mahogany Jersey presses to bedsteads.
We will also be working with local companies to design the layout of the Walled Garden, the garden for the farmhouse and to look at the existing hedges of beech, hawthorn and elder. Ideally, we will have some chickens in the walled garden where guests will be able to collect fresh eggs for breakfast, pick soft fruits for lunch and gather salads and herbs for supper. Facilities around the outside of the farmstead buildings will be simple – using torches and lamps for lighting – a chance to enjoy going back to nature.
The renovation process will be focused on sustainability for the future and, as we have done elsewhere, will be seeking to include grey water recycling, solar power and air source heat pumps, providing a template for how one of the island’s oldest properties can be adapted to meet our goals of reaching carbon neutrality by 2030.
Since 1939, The Trust, islanders and visitors have owed a great deal to the generosity of the Morel family and as the project develops it is our intention to have a number of public open days so that everyone has the opportunity to learn about the project, see conservation work at first hand and discover more about our future vision for Morel Farm. When finished, the farmstead will provide a characterful and peaceful place for locals and visitors alike.
Many historic buildings are packed full of unique features, designs and styles and Morel Farm is no exception. From the quirky charm of the cobbled courtyard to the rare double-entrance gates, there is something to admire and treasure in this celebration of Jersey’s rural heritage. We hope to welcome you back to Morel Farm soon to see this exciting project for yourself and, perhaps, be one of our future staycation guests.