A Traditional Essex Barn



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.

traditional Essex barn


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.

entrance doors to traditional Essex barn


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.

traditional Essex barn interior


inside traditional farm building


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.


1960s barn attached to traditional barn

And wonder why on earth anyone thought it was a good idea to build another barn this close.

13 thoughts on “A Traditional Essex Barn

  1. Interesting insight Anne into modern farming and the use of buildings. The inside shot of the roof beams is particularly lovely, I can imagine how satisfying it must be to look at this building daily too.

  2. Our barn burnt down just before Christmas and so we have had the chance to rethink it. It will now be a butchery ( again but better ) with coolroom and freezers and all our sausage making gear, then a division for a distillery ( you won’t need that ) and a small kitchen devoted to cheese and soap making. The front I hope to develop into a ” Goat Grocer” shop and a small Beatrix Potter museum. In the loft upstairs there will be a games room, a small studio, our farm office and a sleeping area. We are also putting in a bathroom and toilet etc beacuse we don’tbhave those facilities in the dairy and it’s a fair hike to the house if you need to go after the early morning milking !
    Just some ideas !!! It’s a beautiful old building , deserves a revamp – and courtyards are fun. They develop a life of their own .

    1. Wow! That’s going to be a fine space but how awful that your barn burnt down. I rather fancy the cheese and soap making kitchen (hopefully seperately and not in combination) and distillery but intrigued by the Beatrix Potter museum.

  3. Old farm buildings while lovely to look at can be a problem with what to do with them. I hope yours isn’t listed, with all the problems that entails!

    1. Unfortunately it is listed. I don’t understand why some people want to buy listed buildings as they seem a complete pain to me. No matter what we do, there will be an added layer of bureaucracy to wade through because of the listing.

  4. Fascinating Anne, I love these old buildings. The possibilities are just endless aren’t they?

  5. I love looking at old barns and remember my grandparents’ farm in Maine. I used to love going in there & just looking at your pictures brings back the smell of that old barn. Those beams look pretty solid so I’d assume no matter what you have to keep those…so many possibilities. Do you have restrictions on what you can do on the property? I know over here in the States, there are very strict zoning regulations & if you want to add a different use to an existing building then you have to petition & get approvals. I had a clothing store long ago & went in to a building that used to house one of those 24 hr. food marts. You would think that it was zoned retail use & still going to be retail use but they made me apply for a different use license. Depends on the town, but some can be a real pain.

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