Barn Elms was recorded in 1540 and was formerly the manor house of Barnes. The land and manor belonged to St.Paul’s Cathedral and in 15th century was the home of Sir John Saye, Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The manor house was later the home of Elizabethan spymaster Sir Frances Walsingham. The house was rebuilt by Thomas Cartwright in 1694. The farm was just to the north of the house.
Barn Elms Farm was variously the residence of William Cobbett (a political writer), Abraham Cowley (a poet) and of Heidegger (Master of the Revels to George II). Jacob Tonson lived in the old house called “Queen Elizabeth’s Dairy”. He placed here a gallery for the Kit-Cat Club.
William Cobbett was an innovator of cultivation – experimenting with the growing of maize and the practice of self-supporting husbandry.
He saw himself as a champion of traditional rural society against the transformation due to the Industrial Revolution.
The Lobjoit family, Huguenot refugees, had settled in Kent. In the 1820s, W.J. Lobjoit became head gardener to the Rothchilds family and founded the market gardening firm of W.J. Lobjoit and Son Ltd. In 1840, W.J. Lobjoit bought the first of a series of Barnes farms – Gypsy Lane Farm on Upper Richmond Road. At the beginning of the Crimean War, Bell Farm in Putney (now the site of a church) became the home of his son W.J. Lobjoit junior. In 1856, Putney Park Farm (also known as Dulleys), which adjoined Gypsy Lane Farm, was taken over.
In 1843, the new South-Western Railway was built through Lobjoit’s land. After Lobjoit senior died in 1868, the market garden business was extended by his son to other farms including Barns Elms Farm in 1886.
A series of misfortunes affected the Lobjoit family in 1894 and the Government selected Barns Elms Farm during the Fashoda crisis of 1898 as a site for waterworks to supply London in case of war with France. In 1902 the first balloon meeting of the Aero Club of Great Britain was held here.
The final farmer was Francis Trowell.
Eventually the Barn Elms estate was sold to the Hammersmith Bridge Company. The Ranelagh Club, an upper class social and sporting club with a strong interest in polo, was based at Barn Elms house from 1884 until 1939. From 1946 the grounds were used for sports by the local authority.
Eventually the land, which belonged to the Church Commissioners, was bought by developers and there were plans for housing. The house was badly damaged in a fire and finally demolished in 1954. Meanwhile, the development plans came to nothing.