Tag Archives: thatch

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.

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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.