The most dominant building in any farmyard was the barn and it is also the most likely to have survived to the present day; smaller farm buildings were often swept aside to make way for large sheds to house the giant machinery of today’s agriculture. Four early modern barns have been preserved in our Oxenbourne farms.
When purchased by Alan and Ceanna Collett in the 1990s, ‘Parsonage Barn’ was in modern sheeting but mercifully the original timber framework had been preserved. The whole structure was moved 35 metres and re-erected as the skeleton of a new private residence. (The discovery of a coin dated 1695 under one of the posts suggests the date of construction.)
Parsonage Barn is situated at the bottom of the Oxenbourne open fields, at the opposite end from Upper Parsonage Farm; as the name ‘Parsonage’ again implies, it was probably another tithe barn.
Lythe House barn
This barn was almost derelict when Peter and Mirabel Brooks bought Lythe House Farm in the 1960s, and one of its five bays was beyond repair, but the Brooks restored the remaining four. This was an eighteenth-century barn, built to store the produce of the farm.
The most striking characteristic of most barns is their size: not only long and wide, they are very high. The two largest of our barns, Parsonage Barn and Upper Parsonage Farm, measure over 20 metres long, 9 metres wide, and over 5 metres high; Parsonage Barn had seven bays and two sets of doors, the others had five bays and central doors. Corn was stored on the stalk until it was threshed, usually in the winter and possibly not until after Christmas. After threshing, the corn was winnowed, using the draught created by the opposing open barn doors to separate the grain from the dust and chaff; the heaviest (and best) grains were thrown furthest; the light tailings which fell nearest the threshers feet was fed to the animals.
The barn entrances were wide enough to admit a loaded wagonand had porches to protect loads from bad weather. By 1700, most barns had doors on both sides, so that carts could come and leave. Some, as Parsonage Barn, had two sets of doors. Planks were often slotted into the bottom of the doorways to prevent hens wandering in and corn flying out during threshing. The floors needed to be very clean (the threshers wore slippers) and were often made of one-inch thick planks.
In the Middle Ages, most barns were built from oak, readily available in Hampshire, and this continued to be the principal material into the 18th century. Purlins had been introduced in medieval barns to provide longitudinal support; collar purlin and crown post roofs were still used for aisled barns. dwellings by 1700, they were common in Hampshire barns where they provided additional storage space and sometimes housed animals: the pitched roofs of all our barns sloped beyond the framework of the central arcade to form aisles on one or both sides. Purlins had been introduced in medieval barns to provide longitudinal support; collar purlin and crown post roofs were still used for aisled barns. Aisled barns often had projecting canopies to protect the threshing from rain and to allow the last wagon to remain overnight under cover, to be unloaded the next morning. Although aisles, like those at Forge Sound and Riverside, had disappeared from dwellings by 1700, they were common in Hampshire barns where they provided additional storage space and sometimes housed animals: the pitched roofs of all our barns sloped beyond the central arcade to form aisles on one or both sides.