About the Barn


  • The Barn belonged to Coggeshall Abbey, whose remains form part of a private house at the end of Abbey Lane, across Grange Hill and approximately mile (400 metres) from the barn.  The abbey was founded in 1140 by King Stephen and Queen Matilda as a daughter house of the Savigniac Order, absorbed by the Cistercian Order in 1147.  The abbey functioned until it was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1538.

  • It is not known exactly when the Barn was built but, according to the sixth abbot Ralph, the High Altar of the abbey was dedicated in 1167.  It was the Cistercians' practice to build their settlements on a sound financial basis, so it is possible that a barn on this site pre-dates the building of the abbey.

  • Analysis of the oak arcade posts by Carbon-14 dating in 1976 gave a date of 1130 90 years.  However, dendrochronological (tree-ring) analysis carried out in 1994 suggested a date of construction in the range 1237-1270.

  • The Barn in ruinsThe structure of the Barn was significantly altered in the 14th Century and the form it is seen in today is largely as it was then.

  • The Barn continued in agricultural use until 1960 when its new owner deemed it unsuitable for contemporary farming practices.  His neglect and wanton destructiveness led to the Barn becoming derelict.  By the late 1970s, it was in a ruinous state and on the brink of being demolished.

  • Local concern at the potential loss of such an important vernacular building led to the formation of the Grange Barn Trust and compulsory purchase of the Barn by Braintree District Council in 1982.  Temporary repairs were made and the full repair and reconstruction scheme began the following year.

  • The restoration of the Barn took almost 2 years and was completed in 1985.  As many of the original timbers as possible were re-used, some being patched and braced.  However, there had been considerable timber loss and where new material had to be used it is clearly visible.

  • The Barn was transferred to the care of the National Trust in 1989, securing its future in perpetuity.

  • The Barn contains a threshing machine, a collection of carts and other farm implements.  It also houses a temporary exhibition of the Saunders Tools Collection.  Work is in progress to construct a permanent exhibition in a converted byre.  This is scheduled to open for the 2011 season.