Tag Archives: Barn

Littlebourne – Queen of the Kent Barns

At last I’ve been able to get into the Littlebourne Barn and it was worth the wait.  It is a fabulous space dating from 1340.  I was given a little booklet by Betty which is so concise and well written, there seems little point in trying to rehash it here, so instead (with permission) I have reproduced parts of it.  It was written by Peter Bell, Lead conservator at Canterbury City Council.

(from the Peter Bell and CCC booklet:)

INTRODUCTION

In Kent’s rich tradition of timber-framed buildings, the aisled barns represent the best of the carpenter’s art.  It was their scale and status in the hierarchy of farm buildings which presented such a challenge to the carpenters of the Middle Ages.  Littlebourne Barn is one of the finest and the best preserved of this most imposing of building types.

EXTERIOR

Littlebourne Barn has all the characteristics of the Kentish aisled Barn: the steeply pitched roof; the long roof slope which sweeps down from the ridge to the low eaves; the oak-boarded walls and the close relationship to the farmhouse and other farm buildings which have long since disappeared.  The timber framed walls stand on brick bearer walls which keep the frame and its wooden cladding away from the damp earth.  They are clad in riven vertical oak boards which are tarred to keep out the weather. The gaps between each board allowed ventilation to the crops within.  The two hipped porches were added in 1961.  The original entrances would have been below the aisle plate.

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

INTERIOR

The barn is 172ft long, divided into 7 1/2 bays.  According to carpenters marks found in the architectural survey, it originally had nine bays. t is aisled on all four sides, ie it has an aisle or outshot on each of the main body of the building.  This was the usual way of achieving greater width that the length of the standard tie beam.  The timber frame consists of arcade posts which support arcade plates, which run the length of the barn supporting the rafters.

This section may help!

Barn Section

Tie beams span between the arcade posts at high level and in turn support the crown posts, collar purlins and collars.  Crown-post roof construction gives considerable strength to the upper part of the roof and resists the tendency of rafters to crack.  It was widely used in the 14C and together with diagonal braces between most of the principal timbers and notably the curved shores between arcade posts and post plates, resulted in a remarkably stable structure.  (with thanks to Peter Bell and the Littlebourne Barn Committee)

And now some pictures: I’ve included a few in colour this time but as before I think in general Black & White work better!

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

Littlebourne Barn, c1340, Kent, England

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A New but still old Barn

Before moving on to the next (really) old Tithe Barn I thought that this one makes for a change and contrasts to the Woolton Barn featured earlier.  I reckon this one is about 70 years old at the outside (vs roughly 600 years in the case of Woolton). No great joinery or imposing structure but some wonderful colours and a magical space in a very different way.  A touch modernity with dilapidation thrown in for good measure.

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Tithe Barns (1) – The Woolton Barn in Kent, England – structure revealed

Coming from a land where most building is pretty new (and new does not always mean good!) and the few 17C and 18C buildings that do exist are regarded as ancient monuments, I have long harboured a fascination with the old architecture of my adopted homeland, Britain. Here ancient really does mean ancient.  My exploration of the Cathedral over the last couple of years and more particularly it’s roof structures has led me to look more closely at other old timber structures in the county.

Tithe barns are an interesting case in point.  They are uniformly old, most dating from the 13 or 14C and more interestingly they reveal their inner most secrets without any attempt to hide or disguise how they are put together.  It’s all there and as been so for centuries.

Most tithe barns in this country are timber-famed structures, in contrast to the preference for stone on mainland Europe.  I visited the Woolton Barn recently. The structure has had some more recent soft wood restoration but it is essentially a 15C oak structure with the two ends glazed where there would normally be timber cladding.  This last feature makes the building very light (not a common feature in buildings of this sort) and enables it to be kept in use all year round.

Kent Barn

I love the raw and sculptural quality of the timbers and the fact that they have remained doing their job for so long.

Kent Barn Kent Barn Kent Barn Kent Barn Kent Barn Kent Barn Kent Barn

Kent Barn

A short note on tithe barns in general:  these structures were built throughout Europe to contain the 10% of produce that everyone was obliged to give to the church.  They were usually located near a centre of activity like a Monastery, Abbey, Church or Cathedral.

Although all shot in colour, I have presented most of these as Black & White images as this emphasises the structure and because I increasingly feel that unless there is a clear visual or commercial imperative, there is little need for colour!

The next barn I look at will be an older 14C building with a slightly more complex structure and a very much darker interior.  But it exists in it’s original location with pretty much all the original timbers in place.