Recently rescued by English Heritage after decades of neglect, this Grade I listed barn ranks up there with the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey for its architectural and historic significance. Yes, that’s right. No typo. A barn. But to think of the Harmondsworth Barn as just a barn would be a great disservice to this huge and imposing medieval structure. A much better way to think about the Harmondsworth Barn might be to take a phrase from poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman, who preferred to think of it as the “Cathedral of Middlesex.”
Built back in the 1400s by Winchester College as part of its manor farm – and remained an actual working barn for seven centuries – the oak framed barn is a phenomenal (and phenomenally rare) example of medieval carpentry with one of the best intact interiors of its era. At nearly 200 feet long, 40 feet wide and 25 feet tall, with 13 massive oak trusses holding up its expansive roof, the term “cathedral” is as apt a title as any for such an immense and awe inspiring building.
Located on High Street, in the tiny village of Harmondsworth Village, the barn is the largest timber framed building in England and situated just on the outskirts of Greater London, only about three miles from Heathrow Airport. Worthy of a day trip (there are two pubs in the village to get some grub, a pint and a local’s sense of the barn and the area) or a quick visit en route to or from the airport, it stands as a grand reminder of the long span of British history.
For the time being the Harmondsworth Barn is free to visit for the public, but open hours are limited. Until October 31st, the barn is open the second and fourth Sunday of each month from 10am to 5pm. It will then be closed from the first of November until the 28th of March 2013, to reopen again in the spring. So that’s just two chances – the 14th and 28th – to view the barn before it’s closed up for winter. Check out the Harmondworth Barn’s English Heritage page for updates and driving directions.
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Photo: Chris Osburn