Homefield Park, the estate behind it and The Dole stand on what was once described as Little Dole and Great Dole fields which were separated by the old boundary between the Histon and Impington parishes.
The Dole is an unusual name, which has come to mean a footpath following a boundary. Our Dole starts where the civil (parish and hundred) and ecclesiastical boundaries meet. In Saxon times such a point would be marked with a dole post, which continued to be used for centuries. Many a ‘parish problem’ would be transferred beyond these posts under the cover of darkness; for instance, the body of a vagrant requiring burial at parish expense!
In 1806, a thatched farmhouse belonging to the Impington Hall estate stood on the Little and Great Dole site. By 1841, it was occupied by Morley Muncey, his wife Elizabeth and nine children. In the late 1870s, the Muncey family agreed with Stephen Chivers to exchange their farmhouse and surrounding land for property elsewhere in the village. Stephen demolished the farmhouse and went on to build Victoria House, together with two pairs of brick cottages on The Dole and later, around1900, three pairs of brick cottages on Water Lane. Over the next thirty years, he transformed Little Dole field into a fine Victorian garden with lawns, beech hedges, stands of sweet chestnuts, conifers from North America and oriental planes, reputed to be the second oldest plantings in the county. Even before the Chivers’ time, the garden contained mature trees. Large roots would trip the unwary, as they made their way home after dark.
In 1898 a visitor wrote:
“… At the back of my host’s house is a grand old garden adown which you can wander and wander and never seem to be coming to an end.”
The Dole cottages were built around1880 by Stephen Chivers for valued employees. Here lived George Mansfield, Jelly Department foreman. Back in the 1860s, he was working with his cousin Charles Wolfe for Stephen Chivers during the harvest.
The Last Century
Shortly after Stephen’s death in 1907, the family demolished Victoria House and built Homefield. This is remembered as a beautiful property by those who attended Baptist Church picnics and factory events in the large grounds. The house was home to several members of the Chivers family, with a break during World War Two, when it became a training annexe for Addenbrookes Hospital and a spell acting as a hostel for nursing sisters and visitors.
Great Dole became part of a six-acre vegetable garden, which in the 1950s satisfied all the vegetable requirements of the Chivers factory canteen. Weekly orders for cabbages were in terms of tons. So fertile was the land that some specimens could be barely circled by a man’s arms! The fertility was not surprising, given that the garden backed on to Home Farm Dairy.
In 1959, the house was sold to Schweppes, together with the factory and farms. The Chivers family later bought back the farms, but Homefield and the garden were sold to a developer, who dismantled the house and sold off the valuable materials. Eventually, the site was purchased by South Cambridgeshire District Council. Home Farm was developed as an area of private housing. The modern Hereward Close estate won an award in 1979 for mixed, attractive, low-maintenance housing with vehicle-free areas.
In 1978, the present Homefield Park was bought jointly by the two parish councils and has been maintained by them ever since as a public open space.
As a result of a new local housing development, funds for public art were made available to Histon & Impington Parish Council. This provided an opportunity to commission artist Tim Ward (Circling the Square ) to create a prominent landmark feature entrance to the Park, to draw people to it, welcome them into the open space, and to reflect on the local history of the area.
Ideas for the artwork came from:
• Histon & Impington Project Team
• Year 3 pupils of Histon & Impington Junior School
• Year 9 and 12 and the International Baccalaureate students of Impington Village College (IVC)
• Community involvement at the public ‘Workshop in the Park’
Inspiration for the design came from the trees, London plane, beech & oak, with imagery of birds, animals and insects found there and the vegetables from the kitchen garden that was once located in the park.