Like most farms in Essex, our farm buildings are a mix of traditional and new. Looking back at a map of 1777, the farmstead appears to consist of three buildings that one might surmise are a house and two barns. A century later, maps show there had been some major building work undertaken with the farmstead now laid out in two quadrangles, the sides formed with open fronted and closed buildings and each quadrangle dominated by a large barn. The farmhouse had been repositioned outside the farmyard with its own entrance drive and (as described in a set of Sales Particulars) “capital kitchen garden and pleasure grounds”.
Fast forward to 1964 and an aerial photograph shows the pattern of the two quadrangles still evident though there has been additional building and the quadrangles opened out. Buildings that were the height of fashion in the 1870s were becoming less useful now that livestock were no longer kept on the farm and the sheds were too low for tractors so new barns were tacked onto old ones and new sheds incorporated existing shed walls in much the same way that The Barley Barn was built using medieval timbers from older buildings.
Nowadays we build purpose designed barns that comply with ever stricter regulations for storage of grain, pesticides and fertilisers; few of the buildings from the quadrangles exist in their original state and some of the buildings from the 1960s have outlived their usefulness. However, the two barns that dominated the yard 150 years ago are still standing. Two years ago The Barley Barn was in a sorry state and of little use but since it has been renovated it not only looks wonderful again, but is a useful asset to the farm.
Now we have to consider the future of the other Essex Barn. This barn hasn’t been used for agriculture since the 1980s but has been used as a storage depot for a disposable nappy home delivery service, a builder’s store and for a computer refurbishment business, which rather reflects the social changes over those years.
Most recently, the barn was used as a tack room, feed store and stabling. Following the building of a new stable block, the horses have now moved out (shortly followed by all their paraphernalia we hope) and we have to decide what to do with the barn. As you can see, no matter what we decide, there is the small matter of properly repairing the walls and doors.
There’s no shortage of ideas from the younger generation as to possible uses for the barn but while we work out budgets and pit one idea against another it’s nice to just sit and appreciate the splendour of these wonderful buildings.
And wonder why on earth anyone thought it was a good idea to build another barn this close.