Barns have been part of the landscape since the Middle Ages. With a relatively simple architecture they provide a window on to our rural history and tradition, each with their own distinctive regional characteristics.
This is especially true in the Cotswolds, where they range from simple field barns to larger threshing barns and a number of elegant surviving estate and manorial barns. Most obvious is the harmony the majority have with their surroundings, due in large part to their construction in the local stone under the ubiquitous Cotswold stone tiled roofs.
Further reading: Witney Gazette review 5 April 2006.
Modern farming practices, however, no longer fit these earlier stone predecessors and most are now redundant: incompatible with 21st century machinery and intensive farming.
[Salutation Farm, Barnard Gate]
Whilst on the very edge of what might generally be considered as the Cotswolds, Eynsham still has vestiges of such a rural economy. Like many a Cotswold village several barns within the village envelope have now been converted to other uses, most notably into domestic housing; but equally many more have disappeared completely over the past decades.
A walk around Eynsham will nevertheless reward the interested observer - take a tour >>
[Aelfric Court - before and after]
Oxford Colleges owned substantial tracts of land in and around Eynsham and down in Bitterell a large barn belonging to Merton burned down and lay derelict in the late 1970s before being rebuilt for domestic use.
'Little Barn' nearby was a small byre with a granary.
Another wooden granary, (location?) set on staddle stones, was demolished in 1965.
Wintle's Farm barns on Mill Street have completely disappeared, though there do seem to be vestiges of attached outbuildings.
After some years as a branch of Barclays Bank the barn fell vacant in 1993 / 4, to revive in 2006 as Eynsham Emporium.
Blankstones Farm on Acre End Street still has some outbuildings and a small stone barn ...
... with the unusual, if not unique, feature of being entirely brick lined and dated as 1805 on an internal tie-beam.
'The Haven' on Newland Street retains some features of its earlier farming days ...
Next door in Newland Close is what once was a small threshing barn with attached thatched stables (with an unusual faggott roof) which were converted for domestic use in 1972.
For a more detailed and systematic consideration of the design, construction and changing uses of Cotswold barns, together with their place in the rural economy and landscape, look at Cotswold Barns by local Eynsham author Tim Jordan - ISBN 0752437402, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Stroud.
This well illustrated book provides unique historical record of a fast-disappearing feature of our architectural and agricultural heritage.
Tim expands on the subject with yet more of his own photos in this latest paperback "Cotswold Stone Barns" ISBN 978-1445601816.
It's on sale at Eynsham Post Office or online.