A walk with Sidney Jackson #6

The Archaeology Group Bulletin gave its readers an opportunity to publish interesting historical structures or objects observed on country walks, and then to receive informed comment about them. I cannot think of an obvious forum for such interactions today. That is not to say there is not still considerable interest in local history. There is a Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society which, in more normal times, holds regular meetings at the Bradford Club. Some of its members undertake research of real value which is published in an excellent journal, The Bradford Antiquary, copies of which can be found in the Local Studies Library. Bradford U3A has groups devoted to Archaeology and Old Buildings, and there are area historical societies in several parts of the city. But where would you present an interesting farm building that you had just seen? In March 1965 a gentleman from Allerton sent Sidney Jackson some photographs of a barn he had examined at High Bradley, near Skipton. SJ redrew an illustration for the Bulletin, which seemingly couldn’t cope with photographic images. The building was identified as an ‘aisled barn’ and attention was drawn to the roof truss and supporting wooden pillars. The basic design consisting of a central ‘nave’ and two supporting aisles, a pattern that echoes the Roman basilica and was widely used for church design.

If you would like to examine an almost identical building I can strongly recommend the Grade 1 listed, seventeenth century, Great Barn at East Riddlesden Hall: I have included a recent photograph.

The barn is 120 feet long, 40 feet wide, and consists of eight bays. The external stone walls, pierced for lights especially at the gable ends, are load-bearing so this is not a timber-framed structure, although many wooden members are incorporated. The oak upright timbers support the roof trusses. They stand on stone bases since wooden posts buried in the soil inevitably rot within a century or so. The oak roof trusses are of the ‘king post’ type. The supporting timbers running lengthways along the roof are called purlins. The purlins engage on the ‘principle rafters’: the other roof members are ‘common rafters’. The rafters support stone slates which keep the barn weather-proof and mean that the pitch of the roof is kept relatively low, unlike a steeply pitched thatched roof. There is a solid stone and brick floor and two pairs of doorways with arched porches. Doors placed opposite one another in a barn indicate that it was once used for threshing. The through draught helping the separation of grains from the chaff. The stone surface was the threshing floor which needed to be kept clean. The aisles are fitted with cattle stalls so, like many northern barns, it was used both for crop storage and stock. In his original article Sidney Jackson rightly pointed out the value of such barns to those who appreciate fine carpentry.

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