Why should you visit one of the oldest surviving timber structures in Europe?
Until the 1970s Grange Barn was generally believed to date from the fifteenth century. However, during the late 1960s and 1970s new research suggested a different story. Whilst the 'newer' timbers dated from the Barn's remodelling in the late fourteenth century, evidence pointed to an original construction date in the twelfth century.
Grange Barn is a stunning, timber-framed barn which was built sometime after 1240. It was constructed using English oak and formed part of the Cistercian complex of Coggeshall Abbey. Whilst much of the timber is around 900 years old, some of the posts have been carbon-dated to more than 1,000 years. The vast roof has thousands of tiles and it is estimated that the structure supports over 150 tons of tile and roof-framing.
Over the years, the barn was adapted and put to various uses. Originally it would have been used to store, then process, harvested grain, but later became a wartime community hub and was also used as a storage space.
After 1960 the barn fell into decline. Cecil Hewitt, a leading authority on timber buildings, identified that the barn was much older than first thought and incredibly significant. The Coggeshall Grange Barn Trust was formed by the local community to raise awareness and fundraise.
The restoration took two years to complete and in 1989 the Barn was donated to increase awareness and to heighten its exposure to encourage more fundraising.
Today, Grange Barn is open 7 days a week during the open season in Coggeshall, and we welcome thousands of visitors every year. The Barn is open in conjuncion with Paycocke's House, which is a 5 to 10 minute walk away, and the car park at Grange Barn services both properties.
The Barn currently explores varying periods of the history over its 800 years, with particular focus upon the restoration and saving of the property by the community. The story and images of how terrible the state that the Barn was in by the mid 1970's are truly shocking, and the tale of how the Barn was saved is equally as inspiring. With film footage of the restoration, and personal insight into the process, this really is an engaging story of resilience, strong-will and passion which led to the saving of one of Europe's oldest timber buildings from complete destruction.
There is something for everyone, including an engaging childrens trail, and fun activities such as a dressing up station where adults and children alike can dress up like some of our Grange Barn Beekeepers!
With 800 years of stories to tell, it is safe to say that there are still many untold tales that the Barn has to offer. Starting with fundraising at both Paycocke's and Grange Barn over the past year, the team in Coggeshall are working hard to develop new interpretation which explores deeper into the mysteries of the Barn and the people around it.
Whether it be King Stephen and Queen Matilda, Abbot Ralph of Coggeshall, or a soldier during WW2 who attended a dance, there is certainly a plethora of characters whose stories are just waiting to be explored. Who knows who we might discover?
Keep an eye out to hear about what we do next both here and on our Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/paycockeshouseandgrangebarnNT/