Spotlight on Springton Manor Farm
By Stone Lieberman
History of Springton Manor Farm
Springton Manor Farm, one of Chester County’s six regional parks, traces its origin to land granted to William Penn in 1681 by King Charles II of England. A Royal Charter granting this land permitted Penn to reserve 10,000 of every 100,000 acres as a Manor for his own use. One of eight Manors reserved in Chester County, Springton Manor was named for Penn’s wife, Gulielma Springett. Penn originally authorized it to be located around what is now Downingtown, but heavy settlement in that area led the Penn family to re-establish Springton Manor further northwest, on land that is now in Wallace Township. Encompassing more than 8,300 acres, Springton was, at the time, the largest Manor in Chester County.
When William Penn began selling the land, he often stipulated that one in every five acres of forest must not be felled. This early conservation practice precipitated many long-loved trees, and in 1932, as part of the 250th anniversary of Penn’s arrival in Pennsylvania, oak trees at Springton Manor dating back to 1682 were documented and recognized as Penn Charter Oaks.
In 1818, James McIlvaine of Delaware County purchased Springton Manor Farm to raise Merino sheep. At times, more than 700 sheep grazed Springton Manor’s pastures before being driven to markets as far away as Ohio. James’ son, Abraham R. McIlvaine, built the Manor House in 1833 and turned his father’s sheep farm into a diverse operation that produced grains, vegetables, wine and dairy products.
George Bartol, a Philadelphia businessman, later developed Springton Manor as a gentleman’s country home, reflecting his interests in architecture and agriculture. He was responsible for building Springton’s Great Barn, and its architecture reflects many of the construction styles of earlier Chester County barns. It was here that George Bartol’s daughters, Eleanor and Mary, lived out their lives and “Miss Eleanor’s” last will and testament included a provision to devise Springton Manor Farm to Chester County for use as a public park.
As mechanical and electrical power became increasingly available in the 20th century, farms gained the ability to move water when and where needed. Farmers built farm ponds as a water conservation practice to capture and store the water. Built in 1952, Springton Manor Farm’s half-acre pond has a depth of approximately 7.5 feet, and like many warm-water ponds, its main fishery includes Bluegill and Largemouth Bass.
In 1979, Springton Manor Farm was designated as a National Historic Register District. It was formally dedicated to the public by the County of Chester in 1988 and is now managed by the Chester County Facilities & Parks Department.
Springton Manor Farm Today
Within the 300 acres of woodlands and fenced fields that makes up Springton Manor Farm today, visitors can experience a pastoral landscape, a real working farm, multi-use trails and a small catch-and-release pond.
The Great Barn houses the Family Farm Museum, which displays original tools used on Chester County farms from the 1700s to the 1900s. Throughout the year, the barn complex also houses sheep, goats, horses, cattle, pigs, chickens, rabbits, barn cats, barn swallow, and even miniature donkeys and a peacock. Farm Passports invite younger visitors to earn “passport stamps” as they learn about the farm equipment and animals.
Beautiful misty morning vistas at Springton Manor can be enjoyed by visitors while hiking the park’s seven miles of multi-purpose trails. Dogs are welcome on six-foot leashes (apart from in the Great Barn), and trail markers distinguish where horseback riding is permitted. The popular 2.5-mile Indian Run Trail circles the entire park, meandering through forested canopy and along banks of the Indian Run Creek. A brochure of Heritage Trail introduces hikers to Springton’s original owners and structures.
Two fishing opportunities exist within an easy walk of each other. Indian Run is a small, fast-moving, pristine, cold water resource inhabited by a naturally-reproducing Brown Trout population. Although many anglers head for the bigger, more popular East Branch of the Brandywine Creek, Indian Run can provide a challenging and enjoyable waterway. The stream averages only 10 to 15 feet in width, but produces good hatches of Mayfly, Stonefly and Caddis Fly species. Legal-size fish reside in the stream, but most average below the minimum seven-inch state regulation. There is approximately one mile of public access to Indian Run.
Springton Manor’s “catch and release” pond is a popular family fishing area, and a great place to introduce children to the sport.
Park visitors flock to Springton Manor in the spring as the baby animals begin to arrive -- piglets, lambs and kids usually begin gamboling around the farm in late March. The birth of livestock can become grand events, as word traditionally spreads quickly. The community has become so engaged in anticipating the new arrivals that one neighbor even brought a birthday cake to celebrate the newborns. These frolicking little ones, along with their siblings and parents, are showcased each April at Springton Manor Farm’s annual Sheep & Wool Day. At this event, the shearer removes the sheep herd’s woolen fleeces and the park features family activities and entertainment including hayrides, animal shows, craft vendors, food and 4-H exhibits.
Springton Manor Farm’s partnership with the Chester County Food Bank not only results in fresh produce for eligible Chester County residents, but also doubles as a fantastic outdoor classroom. This open-air demonstration garden features a greenhouse for seedling production; a “hoop house” for harvesting vegetables year-round, and raised bed gardens for hands-on learning. As well as the Food Bank’s practical learning opportunities and summer Veggie Tours, Springton Manor Farm park staff offer educational programs throughout the year – from family fishing instruction to bluebirds to summer hikes and autumn wagon rides. Guided group farm tours may be scheduled in the spring, or visitors can plan their own self-guided field trip any time of the year.
Brochures and park maps are available in the Springton Manor Farm park office located within the Carriage House.
As with all Chester County parks, Springton Manor Farm is open daily from 8 a.m. to dusk. The Great Barn
complex buildings are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, but when the barn is closed, visitors may still see animals in the pastures and can familiarize themselves with their whereabouts via the new kiosk near the barn entrance. Visitors can park near the main entrance and enjoy a healthy stroll down Maple Lane (part of the original Springton Road) to the barn complex. A lower parking lot with paved access is available closer to the animal fields and pastures. Picnic tables are located near the barn complex and restroom facilities are available near the park office and Great Barn.
There is no fee to visit Springton Manor Farm, nor do you need to be a part of a group to tour the facilities.
Springton Manor Farm is at 860 Springton Road, Glenmoore, five miles west of Downingtown off Route 322. To learn more about all of Chester County’s Parks & Trails, visit www.chesco.org/parks or pick up a copy of the seasonal program brochure, Nature of Things, at any park office or the Chester County Library in Exton.
The Manor House at Springton Manor Farm
The Manor House at Springton Manor Farm is not open to the public as part of the overall park, but it is a stunning venue that offers both indoor and beautifully tented outdoor spaces for weddings and other special events. To find out more about special event opportunities at the Manor House at Springton Manor Farm, visit www.springtonmanorfarm.com.