Explore Bradford: Barton Farm

Barton FarmBarton Farm, on the southern side of the town, beside the river Avon, was the grange farm of the Abbey of Shaftesbury’s estate of Bradford.

It was developed in the middle ages around a central square with a huge barn, granary, smaller barns and a farmhouse. Together they form one of the most complete medieval farm complexes in the country.

It remained a working farm into the 1960s, so there have been many additions and alterations throughout the six centuries of its life.

Land next to the river passed to Wiltshire County Council to become the Country Park; the Victory Field next to Pound Lane had already passed into public use as a sports field. The Tithe Barn was sold by the Lord of the Manor, Sir Charles Hobhouse, to the Wiltshire Archaeology & Natural History Society in 1915. It was handed over to the Ministry of Public Buildings & Works in 1939 after restoration and is now in the care of English Heritage. The other agricultural buildings around the yard now belong to Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust, except for the farmhouse which is in private hands.

The Tithe BarnThe largest building is the great barn, which is known, probably wrongly, as the Tithe Barn. It dates from about 1340 and, at 168 by 33 feet (51x10m), is one of the largest in the country. Externally it is all of cut ashlar stone, braced by stone buttresses, some of which have shallow curves cut out of them where a circular horse-engine had stood under a lean-to to drive threshing machinery. Two porches, called streys, project on both sides, larger on the north. These were entrances, but also generated a through-draught for winnowing -separating corn from chaff in threshing. The roof is covered with thousands of thin stone tiles.

Tithe barn interiorThe great glory of the Tithe Barn is its timber roof. The roof trusses -the pairs of main timbers- are all of the type known as raised crucks, in which the main parts are two curved timbers. It consists of fourteen trusses which are in three patterns, probably because of the difficulty of finding the right number of trees of the same shape to make them the same. The trusses are connected by horizontal timbers: the wall plate on top of the stone walls and three levels of purlins which are supported by curved braces. All this supports the rafters, which take the 100 tons weight of the roof tiles.

Barton Farm GranaryThe Granary, on the eastern side of the yard, was used to store grain, as its name implies. The building was an addition of the 15th century, a hundred years later than the Tithe Barn. The sacks would have been stored on its upper floor, which may have originally been supported only on columns to prevent rats and mice from reaching the valuable crop. It was probably originally all built of timber with wattle-and-daub walling between the main wooden uprights. The roof is supported by four oak cruck trusses.

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West Barn The West Barn is mostly a building that dates from 2003, but incorporates parts of what was probably the oldest building on the Barton Farm site. It roughly represents the cross wing of a barn that ran north-south and has been dated by tree-rings of a timber to the end of the 13th century or early 14th. It was greatly altered in 1769 (according to a datestone), but became derelict in the 20th century and then the remains burnt down. Redevelopment was carried out by Bradford’s Preservation Trust in a medieval style and materials and features an open oak roof. It was opened by the Prince of Wales and is used for exhibitions, weddings and other functions.

Barton FarmhouseThe farmhouse of Barton Farm would have been the house and offices of the Steward or Bailiff of Shaftesbury Abbey’s estate, his family and retainers. Most of the building was rebuilt, or at least highly modified, in the Georgian period and is now divided into two separate homes. From the medieval farmhouse there remains a perpendicular-style two-storey porch and, at the other end, the wing that juts out and over the old farm track contains a medieval hall with fine timber roof on its upper floor. This could have been the audience hall of the Bailiff, where he received tenants or held the Manor and perhaps Hundred courts.

Barton BridgeBarton Bridge is a 14th century bridge with four pointed gothic arches carrying a track across the river Avon. It would have been built to connect Barton Farm with the property to the north and perhaps with Bath and the Manor of Kelston to the west, which was administered by the Bailiff of Bradford.

This has in recent years erroneously been called a packhorse bridge, but it is wide enough for carts and at least twice as wide as needed for a packhorse!

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