The Cloister at Todmorden Farm began its life nearly 150 years ago, and even farther back to the beginnings of Delaware County!
The original land grant from William Penn for this portion of Pennsylvania was given to Randal Vernon. What is now known as Rose Valley (and significantly more acreage) was owned & farmed by the Vernon family. A descendant of the Vernon family that owned the land at the time of the Revolutionary War was a Tory and all the land was confiscated.
Ten years after the war, the land was leased to Jacob Benninghove, a Philadelphia tobacconist. He was the first to build a dam across Ridley Creek and constructed the first (of many) mills to produce snuff. It was this gentleman that constructed the first residence on “Spy Hill”, however the barns came later.
In 1822 the Bancrofts, who were devout Quakers, emigrated from England to the United States. They came first to Delaware because of its association with the Society of Friends. John Bancroft (1771-1852) and his sons John (1802- 1882) and Samuel (1804-1891) began a woolen mill in Wilmington, Delaware. After he apprenticed at his uncle John Bright’s cotton mill in Rochdale, England, Joseph (1803- 1874), who was the third son, came to Delaware in 1824. The Bancrofts moved their family-owned business to Delaware County, Pennsylvania, in 1827.
In 1831 the family established John Bancroft & Son on Ridley Creek in Providence, Nether Providence Township, Pennsylvania. (Providence became Nether Providence, Rose Valley, Media, and Upper Providence. Media became a separate entity in 1850.) At this site, which originally was a snuff mill dating from the early 1790s, they built woolen mills, where they used several thousand spindles and about thirty blanket looms to produce their textiles. In 1842 an economic downturn forced the Bancrofts to sell their business. Samuel Bancroft repurchased the mills in 1854 and reclaimed his family’s business. At that time, the site was named the Todmorden Mills, and in the 1870s it was one of the largest woolen mills in the United States.
It was Samuel Bancroft that named the property Todmorden and expanded the farm (including the two barns that were originally located where my listing currently sits).
On a massive Chestnut beam in the stone bridge barn, one can find the initials J.R. and the date July 13, 1872. Someone was quite proud of their construction skills, for this barn is so overly sized that it’s not going anywhere!
After Samuel Bancroft’s death in 1891, Todmorden Farm was acquired by Henry Lewis and he owned the property until 1920.
In 1920, the entire farm (not the mills) was purchased by Arthur Hoyt Scott and his wife, Edith Wilder Scott. Arthur was the Son of the founder of the Scott Paper Company. The original paper manufacturing facility was located in Chester, PA along the Delaware River. Arthur Scott became President of the Scott Paper Company until his untimely death in 1927.
Edith Scott remained at Todmorden Farm until her death in 1960. Mrs. Scott was an avid horticulturalist and known nationally for her expansive gardens, including a very early version of a Japanese garden that she designed after a tour of Japan. She created the Arthur Hoyt Scott Foundation for the teaching of horticulture at Swarthmore College, and the Arboretum on that campus bears her name.
Upon Mrs. Scott’s death, Todmorden Farm was purchased for development, yet three of the original estate properties still remain.
The Cloister at Todmorden Farm artfully incorporated the 1872 4-story stone bridge barn with a modern residence designed by the Architect, Ann Ledger and constructed by Michael Nyquist in 2003 within the ruins of a 2nd barn.
This created a remarkably private & beautiful sanctuary that, to this day, most locals don’t even know exists! Completely invisible from the road, one accesses the property via a private road and turns down a gravel driveway that begins to reveal the magical setting.
The residence is tucked at the rear corner of the property. The attached 2-car garage is located in the lower level. Entering from the garage, one finds the large laundry room (with Samsung washer & dryer) that also has a walk-in cedar closet. The staircase to the main living area above is immediately to your left, while the lower level family room is flooded with light from the western facing French doors that provide direct access to a lovely little patio. There is a beverage station with a fridge tucked into one corner. The 2 guest bedrooms are on this level as well as a full bathroom. It’s a great lay-out to provide privacy for your guests.
Up a half-level is the main front entry, then another half-level to the main living floor. One will begin to appreciate the distinct spaces yet the open plan living that so many people prefer these days. The living room overlooks the front gardens and has one of the two fireplaces. Large arch-topped windows facing southwest provide tons of light and allows for great views of the sunsets over the cloistered gardens. The dining room overlooks the ruins of the 2nd barn out back. Through a full wall of windows and a set of French doors, there’s a lovely little Juliet balcony with just enough space for a café table and two chairs.
Both the living and dining rooms can be closed off from the kitchen & family room via two separate pocket doors.
The spacious gourmet kitchen is open to the dining & family rooms. A large island anchors the room while the sink overlooks the rear grounds & ruins. The sink is flanked by two Bosch dishwashers and glass display cabinets above. A new French-door Bosch refrigerator is along the rear wall. An oversized 36” GE Monogram professional gas range and exhaust are located on the north wall while the built-in microwave/convection oven and a warming drawer occupy a floor to ceiling cabinet just next to the stove. Along one wall is an entire bank of cabinets and a work station/desk in the kitchen.
The family room has yet another way to access the terraced gardens through another set of French doors and the 2nd gas fireplace. Just off this living area, one finds the spacious 3-season sunroom with windows on three sides (either storms or screens are an option for all the windows) and a ceiling fan. A door to the rear provides access to an exceptionally private patio and stairs to the rear grounds within the ruins of the 2nd barn. Another door provides access to the front terraced gardens and the historic barn.
Back inside on the other side of the staircase, the powder room is placed discretely behind the stairs with a coat closet just outside, then, one finds the Owner’s suite. The main bedroom has windows facing south and west. There are two equally sized walk-in closets as well as two full bathrooms! The one bathroom has a stall shower, sink & toilet while the 2nd full bathroom has a large tub, sink, toilet and a vanity closet. There is also a linen closet.
The house has 3 zones for heating & air conditioning. The house’s HVA/C system was just replaced in 2019 while both of the hot water heaters were replaced in 2018.
Now let’s take a few moments to talk about the historic Todmorden Bridge Barn! This massive 4-story structure provides lots of options for future use, or just plenty of storage! There are four “bays” within the barn.
The ground floor is accessed through a series of arched entry doors. This space remains completely original to its intended use with the horse & cattle stalls still in place.
The next level is accessed via a side door nearest to the residence. It is on this level that one can find the inscription mentioned earlier on one of the massive chestnut beams. This entire level remains unfinished and provides great potential should someone desire to get creative. The first three bays on this level are used for storage, while the 4th bay is the biggest surprise! A full 3 stories in height, the last bay goes all the way to the roof line! A 2-story staircase provides access to the 4th floor that has been insulated in the floor for the apartment below.
If we go back outside and around to the original front of the bridge barn, there is direct access to the spacious 2-bedroom apartment. There are two living areas, two bedrooms, a full bathroom, a fully renovated kitchen and a separate laundry room. The apartment has central A/C as well. While the property is not zoned multi-family, this space provides significant options to the future Owners to use for extended family to visit for longer periods of time or possibly for in-laws or kids. One could also use this space for a very comprehensive “non-impact” home office space.
Rose Valley zoning does allow as a Special Exception (with Zoning Board approval) the possibility for professional offices or studios for the personal use of a physician, attorney, dentist, accountant, architect, engineer, musician, psychologist or similar profession. Please check the Rose Valley Borough Zoning Code for all permitted uses and restrictions.
Now, let me take a few more moments to talk about the amazing gardens!
A terraced garden is artfully designed in front of the lowest level of the antique bridge barn and is accessible from the main floor of the residence. The mature hardscaping provides surprises around every turn. The basket weave brick pathway meanders through the perennial garden off the family room to a hidden staircase that takes one down to the lower lawn and more gardens. Another hidden stone staircase meanders up to the front of the bridge barn past a wonderful shade garden filled with multiple varieties of rhododendrons, azaleas, shade perennials as well as two mature Southern Magnolias. Two more mature American Hollies flank the entrance to the barn. A third stone pathway meanders through a dwarf conifer garden past a 100+ year old Sycamore to the rear yard.
Across the front of the 1872 barn, one finds climbing hydrangea laced with clematis on one corner while the arched doors are surrounded by Cotoneaster.
The stone retaining wall for the upper terrace has a huge winter Jasmine that flows over the wall and provides abundant blooms in January. Perennial Morning Glories climb another section of that wall. On the ruins of the old 2nd barn, more climbing hydrangeas cover one entire wall on the upper terrace, while red & yellow trumpet vines cover the long wall. When in bloom, these vines are filled with hummingbirds that are visible from the kitchen or dining room windows.
There are so many interesting and unique plants that surround the various buildings. Every month of the year has something in bloom! Here are just a few of the rarer varieties!
Japanese Pagoda Tree (nearly 100’ tall)
Japanese Ribbon Grasses
Sweet Bay Magnolia
Nellie Stevens Hollies
Chinese Bitter Orange
Cut-leaf Japanese Maple
Weeping Cherry Tree
Caryopteris – Longwood Blue
And way too many perennials to mention!!!!
Now let me take a few moments to talk about the magical place called Rose Valley!
After the various mills around the area were abandoned in the late 19th century, a group of like-minded “folk” set out to create a new Arts & Crafts community, founded on the ideals of John Ruskin and William Morris. That group was led by the Architect, William Lightfoot Price.
“To the Arts & Crafts philosopher, art and utility would give meaning to life if they could be wedded in a process that required imagination, creativity and personal responsibility. They thought mass production lowered the standards of design, workmanship and working conditions for the craftsmen and minimized their contribution to the finished product. Industry polluted and defaced the natural landscape thus reducing the quality of life for all, yet profits from the factory system went only to improve the quality of life of the factory owner.”
The original ideals of a community built around “The Art that is Life” remain even today. The community spirit is alive & strong through its civic and non-profit organizations.
Rose Valley Museum & Historical Society
The Rose Valley Folk
Hedgerow Theatre Company
Rose Valley Pool & Tennis Club
Rose Valley Centennial Foundation
With a commitment to the pride of place, this community is a magical place to call home!
Updated on August 31, 2020 at 4:27 pm