The medieval farmers who tended their lands in open fields had no requirement for buildings to house their stock; animals were left out all year, and only the diocese needed to store large quantities of grain. As we shall describe in more detail, prosperous farmers now persuaded their less successful neighbours to cede their lands to them and enclosed open fields; they then built farmsteads out among their field, away from the tithings in which farmers and labourers alike had lived. This had a profound effect on farm architecture.
In the Middle Ages there had been two barns in the ‘curia’ of the Court Hall, one tithe and one manorial. The ‘tithe barn’ received one-tenth of all grain harvested by East Meon farmers, while the ‘manorial barn’ stored the produce of the diocese’s demesne land. Today’s barn was built in the 17th century and is smaller than either of its predecessors. Court Farm was now a single unit and this smaller barn presumably sufficed for the grain it produced.The bishops had also built tithe barns at strategic points around the manors.
At the south of the open fields in the tithing of Oxenbourne, for instance, a large self-standing five-bay tithe barn received one tenth of the grain harvested by the tenant villeins. In the 1990s, it was restored by Nick and Susan Atkinson who built Upper Parsonage Farm around it.
Like the other early modern farm households we have examined in East Meon, the new farmhouses provided accommodation and some work areas for those who worked on the farm. Farmers then started to add buildings to meet the needs of their enlarged and more efficient operations: these started with barns, then came granaries, stables, byres, and carthouses. The new buildings spread out from the farmhouse and back again to form a farm yard. To illustrate how farmsteads developed from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries To illustrate how farmsteads developed from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, we have analysed a cross-section of farm buildings in the tithing of Oxenbourne.