The Barn as purchased circa 2001
As with most Barns the origins and dates are unknown. It is not shown on either an 1842 or an 1844 map, but does appear on one from 1884, giving it certain existence around 1864 or so. However, barns were not always shown on old maps, and being without a house could in any case have been easily overlooked.
It is situated on a parcel of land numbered 428 and called Long Field, the land being owned and occupied in 1842 by Peter Tooke. The 1884 map shows a courtyard and other buildings around it, with an entrance over the ditch in the corner of what will be the back garden. There are still bricks and rubble in this corner from the entrance. Long Field has long since been amalgamated with other fields and disappeared, just my little corner remaining.
The adjacent land behind the Barn on which the current bungalow sits is field 427 known as Apple Tree Piece which as you would expect was indeed an old orchard.
Our Barn is unusual in that it is not located with a farmhouse but is in an isolated spot. What is now the Patio Door was the original Barn door leading out to the courtyard. On the opposite wall are two high level loading pitching doors, these were part covered over when the lean-to extensions were added on this side, but I have kept windows in the part of the doors remaining. It is likely these were used to bring hay and straw into the Barn for storage and that a mezzanine floor existed at both ends of the Barn, but no traces remain.
There are no remains of a doorway opposite the Barn door as this panel was mostly removed but could have contained a pedestrian door if any. The windows facing the field were a later doorway added, and pretty certainly this end wall was originally solid. In its original form the Barn existed without any outer buildings. In the Main Bedroom En-suite in the corner is an original ring on the main beam of the Barn around a metre high, which shows signs of its use as an animal tether.
The timbers in the Barn mostly show signs of a previous life elsewhere. I hope to date some in the future. Basic construction was post and truss with pegged dovetail and scarf joints. The Knee brace cross beam supports are unusual and must have been extremely difficult to source. Likely built with a combination of local artisan and agricultural skills it was built simply to serve a purpose. All nails and fixings would have come from the local blacksmith, located just a few hundred yards away. The footings were made from flints from the fields with maybe some bricks and likely a lime mortar simply built on the existing soil. The original roof is unknown. Sadly, even with intimate contact during conversion its past secrets remain hidden.
What is now the Master Bedroom was likely the first addition to the Barn, being a lean-to added to the roadside end. When I purchased it it still contained old horse harnesses that had been left there after the horses were replaced sometime after the Second World War. Sometime around then the roof pantiles were re-laid and at some point, the field side gable end was repaired. In the storm of 1987, the Barn was pushed over onto both the lean-to extensions and would have certainly collapsed if these had not provided support. This lean has been kept in the converted building and can be clearly seen.
Clarkes Lane was originally just that, maps showing the Barn at the end of a track from Ilketshall St Andrew. In the other direction the lane from Beccles ended some quarter mile away at the next farm, with likely just a footpath in between.
The history of Barns is poorly documented, but initial thoughts that it was a Threshing Barn is unlikely. True, the later adoption of a pair of through doors would have allowed it to be used for Threshing, and if there were mezzanine floors either side this would support this use, but the original build only had one main door in the south east centre section. The Pitching door on the roadside of the north west section was originally built, whilst the field side door could have either been original or a later addition.
Historically around 1550 smaller combination Barns with stabling / cattle known as Neathouses were introduced. This continued with Beef fattening on Turnips and Cabbage using these buildings. Neathouses were often isolated. Around 1750 Threshing Barns became popular and in building Knee Braces replaced Arch Braces. In 1800 timber became scarce with local brickworks overtaking timber builds. Dairy and cereals become increasingly popular and many Neathouses are converted to Barns. 1820 saw cereals increasing and diary reducing and in 1840 it became popular to keep livestock in yards. 1850 saw brick building totally replace timber, with very few traditional Barns built after 1860.
The Barns last use was as an open grain store, the galvanised tin lining a futile bid to keep the rats out. It had also housed an oil tank for red diesel and a chemical store. The Cottam family owned the Barn from 1934, purchasing it from Thomas William Cook who had bought it in 1926. The Cottam’s lived just 200 yards away at Birchams Farm, having purchased that in 1920. Prior to grain storage it is likely the Cottam’s kept horses in the Barn, the large timber hooks by the door likely used for harness. As the Cottam’s had buildings and a large Barn with their Farmhouse their purchase of the Barn would have been incidental to land purchase.
So really there is little fact to go on regarding its history. Pieces come together and assumptions are made. The adjacent orchard would support keeping pigs in the yard. The animal tether is a clue from the past. But even when considering country wide trends in farming you must remember that it wasn’t unusual for a resident to never venture out of the Village. Carpentry and agricultural skills were passed from Father to Son, so methods in a rural environment are difficult to date. Much will remain a mystery.
The 1905 map below shows the Barn together with outbuildings, titled 416, and the separate entrance from the road. Shown in the centre of this plan is Birchams Farm, and the red line denotes the land belonging to this. I know not where the owner of the Barn lived, unless it was in a part of the Barn.