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The Abbey Barn at Abbey Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Glastonbury, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1441 / 51°8'38"N

Longitude: -2.7109 / 2°42'39"W

OS Eastings: 350365.1613

OS Northings: 138554.151856

OS Grid: ST503385

Mapcode National: GBR MK.8C00

Mapcode Global: VH8B3.YHQS

Entry Name: The Abbey Barn at Abbey Farm

Scheduled Date: 12 January 1932

Last Amended: 6 October 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019389

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29699

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Glastonbury

Built-Up Area: Glastonbury

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes The Abbey Barn, of 14th century date, which lies just
outside the perimeter of the walled precinct of Glastonbury Abbey on the
corner of Chilkwell Street and Bere Lane. The barn, which is a Listed Building
Grade I, was almost certainly constructed by masons from Glastonbury Abbey for
the abbey farm. It is of exceptional architectural quality and was clearly
intended to reflect the abbey's important role in the region. Glastonbury
Abbey is the subject of a seperate scheduling.
The Abbey Barn is constructed mostly of limestone rubble with random courses
of orange marlstone. The roof structure consists of eight raised base-cruck
trusses set on horizontal timber baulks and carrying a superstructure of upper
crucks. Each dividing roof truss is accompanied by an external stone buttress
to provide added support. The resulting building is of seven bays with opposed
waggon porches flanking the central bay. The huge arched waggon entrances
allowed access to horse drawn wagons which could pass through the barn after
unloading without the need to turn. In addition, there are two arched
pedestrian entrances in the side walls of each porch. The barn measures 29m in
overall length by 10m wide, although the width is doubled at the central bay
by the additional width of the two porches. Each of the individual bays is
about 3.4m wide and, other than the central bay, each is lit by opposing wall
vents splayed on the inside; the walls of the barn are also studded with
numerous ventilation holes contributing to the dry and airy conditions
required for the optimum storage of crops and other produce. Both gable ends
of the barn have two cross-shaped vent windows, splayed within, below a
traceried window of three small trefoiled lights which sits in the apex of the
gable. On the exterior walls, immediately below the windows in the main gables
and above those in the porches, are the emblems of the four evangelists:
St Mark represented by a winged lion on the south, St Luke by a winged bull on
the north, St John by an eagle on the west, and St Matthew by a winged man on
the east.
Later alterations to the barn include a medieval or post-medieval rebuild
of the gable end of the south east porch which may have been subject to
subsidence after it was first constructed. A replacement of about one third of
the timber roof trusses, together with a total re-tiling of the barn and porch
roofs, took place during repairs in 1976-77. This provided the opportunity for
dendrochronological (tree ring study) dating of the original roof timbers
which indicated a felling date for the trees used of between 1343-61 and
consequently a mid-late 14th century date for their use in the roof structure
of the barn.
Glastonbury Abbey was one of the richest foundations in England at the time of
the Domesday Book (1086) and it boasted an impressive abbey church and suite
of monastic buildings by the 14th century. The Abbey Barn is well documented
in manorial rolls and surveys of Glastonbury Abbey which survive from the 14th
century onwards. Records show a series of repairs to the thatched roof of the
barn from its earliest reference in 1302 up until 1365, prior to the
replacement of thatch by tiles. The added weight of the tiling may also have
occasioned the replacement of the roof trusses with those timbers which
produced the felling date of 1343-61. That the barn was part of the abbey
manor farm appears to be confirmed by an abbey document of 1517 recording that
it stood in a farmyard or grange, together with other agricultural buildings
which have subsequently disappeared.
All sign posts, agricultural and other items, and fencing both in the barn and
within its 2m protective margin are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 many monastic buildings
were either robbed of their stone or converted to other uses. However, the
larger monastic stone barns, which were built with a high degree of
craftsmanship, were specialised buildings which remained serviceable as
barns despite their passing into private ownership and this has in many cases
led to their survival. Those monastic barns at some distance from their parent
religious house are often called tithe barns as their purpose was to store the
tithe (traditionally a tenth part of the annual produce) collected from those
tenant farmers who were working land owned by the abbey, the tithe payment
going to support the community of the monastery and the upkeep of its
properties. However, a barn built on an abbey farm adjacent to a monastery is
more correctly known as an abbey manor barn as it was used for the most part
to store produce from the abbey's own immediate holding, although this would
not have precluded the storage of crops from adjacent manors or granges.
The Abbey Barn at Glastonbury was the abbey manor barn as it is sited just
outside the precinct walls of the abbey complex. It would have stood with
other agricultural buildings as part of the manor farm or home grange of the
abbey. The Abbey Barn is one of only four surviving monastic barns in Somerset
associated with Glastonbury Abbey and the only one to stand in such close
proximity to the abbey itself. Its importance is further enhanced by its use,
in the late 20th century, as a repository for old agricultural machinery
within a museum setting. This allows public viewing of both the interior and
exterior features of the barn. Despite some repairs, mainly concentrated on
the roof, the Abbey Barn retains much of its original medieval fabric and
ecclesiastical detail and it contains architectural and archaeological
evidence which will be informative about the religion, lives, and activities,
of the monastic community of Glastonbury Abbey in the medieval period and how
that community related to the wider world.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Gryspeerdt, M, Glastonbury Abbey Barn, (1995)
Bond, C J, Weller J B, , 'Essays in Honour of the 90th Birthday of C A Ralegh Radford' in The Somerset Barns of Glastonbury Abbey, (1991), 68-73

Source: Historic England

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