Barn through the ages

A Tithe Barn is known to have stood in the Rectory grounds and on the same site as the present building at least 650 years ago.  A description of 1459 noted “a great barn with a little square exit and entrance.”

There is some uncertainty over the date of construction. Although listed as a 16th century barn, it may date to the medieval period as Dr Adam Menuge has stated in his ‘Historic Building report’ “A small number of typologically early features and characteristics can be identified in the timber frame, including passing braces
and reversed assembly. These are sufficient to query the stated 16th-century date for the barn.”

Others have conjectured that Reverend Henry Clifford, Rector of Landbeach between 1569 and 1616 may have commissioned it. Alternatively, a survey in 1975 of the timber frame and construction, carried out for the Landbeach Society, suggested a construction date between 1525 and 1528; possibly linked to recorded building activities of Revd William Sowode, Rector from 1528 to 1544. William Sowode reconstructed the Rectory to its medieval pattern to suit his dignity as Master of Corpus Christi College. He boasted of the amount he had spent, regretting that he would never see the full value of his money again.

Tithe barns were built in the days when every peasant gave a tenth of his crops to the church, the contributions being stacked in the barn for winter threshing and storage. The building has the form of an aisled barn and the woodwork is of note.  There are carefully chosen sinuous arcade posts and a substantial timber frame and rafters, but rather slimmer timbers elsewhere.  The massive double doors are wide enough for the passage of a haywain, and stand opposite each other to allow a through draught of wind to separate the grain from the chaff in the winnowing process.

Much of the floor is laid with bricks that may date back two or more centuries.  In the central section, where the farm vehicles would be brought in with their weighty loads, the bricks are laid on edge for added strength, 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.

In more recent years the Tithe Barn has been used as a storehouse for farm implements, with the structure itself gradually falling into disrepair. The founding of the Landbeach Society in 1971 promoted conservation concern in the village and eventually secured the substantial sum needed to re-thatch, restore and renovate the Barn In 1975.

The Barn was formerly owned by the Diocese of Ely, and leased to the Landbeach Society for the benefit of the village as a whole in 1975.  South Cambridgeshire District Council purchased the Tithe Barn in 1986 and the lease was continued.  It has been open for educational visits and organized events such as drama and music on summer evenings.   However, the lack of any amenities (electricity, water, toilet) as well as the inconvenient access along a rough field path, have been limiting.

In 2014 the Landbeach Society surrendered the lease to the District Council because it could no longer maintain the property and the Tithe Barn Trust has been established to repair, re-thatch and secure the future of the Barn.

Adapted from Landbeach Then and Now  by Ray Gambell, published by Mission Computers, 2015

A hidden gem in the heart of Landbeach, Cambridgeshire