In the quaint old town of Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, are some reminders of olden times, that, with a little imagination permit you to travel through time to a medieval past and even beyond the Norman Conquest.
In the Barton Grange Country Park, which nestles between the Kennet & Avon Canal and River Avon, is Barton Grange Farm, featuring a medieval tithe barn.
The plaque reads:
Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust
BARTON GRANGE FARM
A grange of the Abbess of Shaftesbury who was given the land in 1001 by King Ethelred. Since the 1530’s it has been in private ownership and was a working farm until 1971. In 2001 the Preservation Trust bought and then restored the yard and the four smaller buildings.
The old tithe barn really is quite impressive.
A pity there were no convenient people for show scale!
One of the lecterns reads:
The Great Barn
This Tithe Barn or Great Barn was built in the early 14th century as part of the manor farm of Bradford-on-Avon which belonged to the nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey.
This barn was used to store the ‘tithe’ – agricultural produce given by local people to support the church.
The manor and the farm belonged to the abbey until it was dissolved in 1539 during Henry VIII’s Suppression of the Monasteries. The barn later passed through the ownership of several families. By the early 20th century it was in poor repair and no longer needed for agricultural use. However, the building’s historical importance was recognised and in 1914 Charles EH Hobhouse gave the barn to the Wiltshire Archaeological Society.
The Wiltshire Archaeological Society carried out urgent repairs to the building in 1914-15 and in 1939 the Society transferred its ownership of the barn to the Ministry of Works (which later became English Heritage).
A second lectern reads:
A Grand Construction
The Bradford-on-Avon Tithe Barn was constructed to a very high standard and built to last. It features finely finished masonry of local limestone and an extraordinary raised ‘cruck’ roof.
The barn is about 51 metres long and 10 metres wide. It is divided into 14 bays by buttresses on the outside and there are two wings formed by four porches which project to the north and south. The great doors would have been kept shut with bars across to keep them closed. An inventory of 1637 shows that of the 21 keys for the farm, two were for the ‘great barn’, probably for the side doors into the north porches.
The barn retains its magnificent original roof which was extensively repaired by the Ministry of Works in the 1950s.
Several of the other medieval farm buildings on the site still survive. The West Barn was rebuilt and is maintained by the Bradford-on-Avon Preservation Trust. Today it houses an exhibition which tells the story of the manor farm.
Entrance is free and it is easy to get to. Well worth a visit.
Further back in time to come …