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The Great Coxwell Barn

Last week, my friend Elaine said she would kidnap me for a couple hours to take me somewhere special.
That somewhere special turned out to be this amazing place…and, right within my ten mile radius of West Cottage, so happily fit into my Ten Mile Project!

This is the Great Coxwell Barn. It’s the only surviving Medieval, Gothic carpentry, monastic tithe grange in England!

In English, this translates as: a c 1300 barn, owned by the Cistercian monks of Beaulieu Abbey, who used it to collect grain from their tenant farmers.

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Sometimes you get real estate agents write “a wealth of old oak” in house descriptions, but there really isn’t anything else one can say. I mean, look at these amazing beams! The beams hold up a massive and heavy stone (slate) roof.

Can you imagine, there are no nails or screws or anything metal brace-like holding these beams together. The beams are held together by mortise and tenon joists and the pressure they force on each other. Modern technologies used by Houston barn builder are reliable, of course, but I believe this is amazing how our ancestors used to build such timeless constructions.

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The walls are about two feet thick, and I bet that helps to support the massive roof, and there are stone piers which support tall aisle posts, which are double braced three ways at the roof.

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Here is a photo of Elaine walking thru the barn, so you can get some sort of idea of the scale of this building. To me, it’s just as spectacular as any cathedral I’ve ever seen.

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Although not a classic interpretation, the barn does have that cruciform architecture so common to medieval buildings. This is the east end and one of the original doors. This part had a second floor with a little office where ledgers were kept.

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The west end door has a dove cote above it.

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The north and south giant barn doors were a Victorian addition. (those darn Victorians modernising the hell out of everything)

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Some tallies were kept right on the stones themselves. Imagine touching marks made by hands hundreds of years ago.

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The grain was brought in and stored at one end in sheaves, thrashed at the other end, and tallied and counted.
One original set of fully audited accounts for 1269-1270 remains in the abbey records. In that year, the total account for the grain produced was 582 quarters, mostly wheat and oats, but also rye, barley and corn. I looked up the weight of a “quarter” in medieval times, did some math, and it seems that this totalled to 124 tons of grain!

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But this barn was just a small part of a major farm. In the accounts was the total economy of the surrounding farms, which included: 5-6000 sheep, 13 horses, 45 oxen, 1 bull, 11 cows, 18 young calves, 134 swine, which produced: four tons of cheese and six tons of butter, and the bees produced four and a half gallons of honey. There was also some fish from the fish pond, but the amount isn’t qualified in the accounts.

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What an amazing farm this must have been. I’m so glad that the barn is now under the protection of the National Trust.

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Elaine and I walked down to the fish pond, where we sat and chatted for some time, while I wove a clover crown.
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And then, like some Lady of Shalott, I let it float on the fish pond, and we drove to Faringdon for tea.

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Comments: 9

  • August 13, 2015

    Wow, what a fabulous barn! It does look like a cathedral inside (and out). Thanks for the tour. Enjoy!

  • August 13, 2015

    It MUST be this barn which was featured in Downton Abbey, Series 5 – I just watched an episode LAST NIGHT which featured scenes filmed in it. Lady Edith meets the tenant farmer who is raising her illegitimate child (hope that wasn’t a terrible spoiler) right there. Do you think it could be the same? Looks identical. How strange!
    Gorgeous pics!

  • August 13, 2015

    What a beautiful building. I know what you mean too with marks left by people long gone…the saddest I have let my hand lay on were the initials or marks of people in the exercise yard of Nottingham court and jail, people came in, and served their sentence there, died in sealed pits or hung in that yard… strong emotions in that building…

  • August 13, 2015

    What an amazing piece of human history. I’m so glad it’s being preserved. Like you, I reach out with my hand to touch what so many have touched over the centuries.

  • Jo

    August 14, 2015

    Absolutely stunning blog – from the photos to the descriptions. I love that you showed the scale of the building – and told the amounts of grain and livestock there – what a great place it must have been.

  • August 14, 2015

    wonderful photos of a great building.
    sounds like you had a wonderful time!

  • August 17, 2015

    what a treat to go inside and touch those markings .. gives me chills

  • August 17, 2015

    That is truly an amazing barn. I just loved seeing the pictures of it. You looked very cute with your crown of clover.

  • August 17, 2015

    I just love this building. It is steeped in history. Imagine being there when they were building it! The view out the door is just magic .. A photographer’s delight. Thanks so much for sharing V 😀

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