Visit to a fifteenth century tithe barn in Cambridgeshire
The Tithe Barn Trust is a volunteer run, not-for-profit charity, established to preserve a rare example of a medieval tithe barn. The group’s aim is to secure the future of the barn through opening it to a wider audience and the hosting of public and private events. They hope that these coupled with heritage funding will generate enough income for to cover maintenance costs and the provision of basic facilities.
The barn is unique in that it is one of around two hundred surviving medieval barns used for the storing of rents and tithes, and amongst these, it is exceptionally well preserved. In this period peasants were required to give one tenth of their produce to their church. At Landbeach, the barn is situated adjacent to a medieval rectory – the only know pairing. The earliest believed reference to the barn is from 1456, noting ‘a great barn with a little square exit and entrance’.
The structure is divided into three volumes. The central volume is served by two large doors, and separated from the outer volumes by framework. This pattern follows the form of an aisled barn. Its woodwork is also of note: the frame and rafters are substantial, the arcade posts are sinuous, and secondary structure is of a far slimmer in profile.
The roof is thatched, however at the time of visiting, it had been covered by a large tarpaulin. The main doors are wide enough to allow for the passage of a haywain, and are parallel such to allow a through draft for winnowing.
Much of the floor is laid with bricks. In the central volume, where heavy goods would have been carted in, the bricks are laid on edge to support higher loading, while in the northern section the bricks are laid flat. The southern section of the barn has a wooden floor on which the grain and other produce would have been stored.