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A brief history of Coggeshall Grange Barn

Inside Coggeshall Grange Barn, Essex.
Inside Coggeshall Grange Barn, Essex. | © National Trust Images/Timothy Smith

Coggeshall Grange Barn is one of the oldest timber-framed buildings in Europe. It was built 800 years ago to serve the farms of nearby Coggeshall Abbey and has since been used by generations of farmers. In the 1980s the barn was close to collapse, but the efforts of the local community and hard work of a restoration team ensured that it was preserved as a true representation of how it was, for everyone to enjoy today.

The creation of Grange Barn

Coggeshall Abbey was founded in 1140 on the banks of the River Blackwater. The Cistercian Monks farmed a wide area of land known as a ‘monastic grange’. A large barn would have been needed to store and process their crops.

The barn was built probably in the mid-1200s. It’s size and the skill involved in its construction gives us an impression of the power and influence of the medieval Abbey at that time. The monks would have been diverting the river, building a new bridge and a new chapel at the same time.

The Abbey was dissolved in the 1538 by Henry VIII, but it has left a rich legacy of buildings and documents.

Changes through time

Grange Barn has been put to various uses throughout its history. 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.

The structure of the barn has also been adapted several times since it was built. Major changes were made in the 1300s to raise the walls, strengthen the roof and include larger doors and porches. Since then, other changes have been made, including the replacement of the wattle and daub walls with brick.

Falling into decline

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.

Restoration and the future

The restoration took two years to complete and in 1989 the barn was donated to the National Trust to increase awareness and to heighten its exposure to encourage more fundraising.

Although no longer a working agricultural building, Grange Barn continues to be used for a range of events, including food, craft and antique fairs and theatre productions.

Follow the timeline to see the progress of the saving and restoration of the barn since the 1960s.

Recent history of Grange Barn


Grange Barn is designated a Grade II listed building

Designation gave the barn a higher priority status, and the benefit of recognised protections. 

Mother and baby reading an information sheet inside Grange Barn, Essex

Discover more at Grange Barn

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