Farming family to be evicted from Upminster land they worked for a century
- Credit: Daniel Gayne
An Upminster family of farmers are being evicted after more than a century working the land.
The Chapman family have been Essex County Council tenants at Lodge Farm in Park Farm Road since around 1910, and in recent times have become known for their popular pick-a-pumpkin service.
However, in September 2020, they were served notice to leave because the council decided to sell the site.
“We’ve been here so long we felt we sort of owned it,” said Ray Chapman, a fifth-generation farmer who works the site with his nephew Christopher.
In 2014, after the death of Ray’s father, the council refused to grant Ray the same lifetime lease, offering him a five-year lease.
The family found a mortgage adviser and offered to buy it for £1.8m, but were told it was not enough.
He said local MPs and the National Farmers’ Union had been unable to help.
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He said the council has already filed court papers to evict him.
Ray said he had no intention to resist the sale, but needed time to auction his farm equipment.
“As soon as my stuff is sold, tractors and everything, we’ll be gone,” he said.
He said the “worst part" is they had previously been offered to purchase the farm three times - in the early 1990s, mid-1990s and early 2000s.
An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “We understand this is a worrying time for the current tenants of Lodge Farm, Upminster, and we are sympathetic to their concerns.
“It was over a year ago that notice was served on the farm and officers from the dispute resolution team continue to speak with the Chapman family to reach an amicable resolution to this matter.”
For the past seven years, Chapman’s Lodge Farm has been known for offering pick-a-pumpkin in the autumn.
Ray said he didn’t realise how much pick-a-pumpkin meant to customers until news of the eviction went on Facebook and they were flooded with photographs from local families.
Without knowing what he is going to do next, Ray said he is worried about his 97-year-old mother who also lives on the farm.
“I was born here, spent all my life here, I don’t really want to go anywhere else,” he said. “I’ve got my head around it at the moment, but as I see stuff going out of the gate, that’s what’s going to be hard, because you know it's finished then."