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HER Number:MDV10077
Name:Tithe Barn at Bishop's Court, Sowton

Summary

Large barn with an impressive cruck roof dated by dendrochronology to the late 14th century. It was originally longer, probably nine bays, but was truncated to its present length of 6 bays in the earlier part of the 19th century. Part of the building was converted to a brewhouse at about the same time.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 981 917
Map Sheet:SX99SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishSowton
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishFARRINGDON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX99SE/1/1
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I): 86175

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BARN (XIV - 1387 AD to 1387 AD)

Full description

Alcock, N. W., 1966, The Medieval Buildings of Bishops Clyst, 133-5 (Article in Serial). SDV126511.

Bishop's Court. Barn. Early 14th century. Fine base cruck roof. It has four bays on one side of the cross entry: and two (probably four originally) on the other. The walls are of coursed rubble masonry in a hard brown sandstone, probably from Whipton. Two-stage buttresses carry the thrust of the trusses; one buttress is in the centre of the surviving east end, and two are set diagonally on the corners. Before the west end was demolished it had twin buttresses set square at the visible corner. Ventilating slits with wooden lintels are in each bay with three in the east end wall. The barn has been altered. Other details: Plate 13, Figs 1-2.

Alcock, N. W. + Barley, M. W., 1972, Medieval Roofs With Base-crucks and Short Principals, 135,145-6,156 (Article in Serial). SDV177657.

Built originally for the Bishop of Exeter. Cited as an example of base-cruck roof construction. Authors draw attention to shaped braces inside main trusses which give the interior effect of an arched roof. Other details: Figures 1, 4.

Alcock, N. W., 1981, Cruck Construction: An Introduction and Catalogue, 113 (Report - non-specific). SDV342504.

Base cruck recorded.

Department of Environment, 1989, Sowton, 26 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV336331.

Former tithe barn. Probably early 14th century. Rubble sandstone; gabled end pantiled roof. Rectangular plan, 90 feet x 24 feet, but possibly originally 115 feet long, with a (formerly central) cross entry. Exterior: buttresses with 2 set-offs, the east end with one central, and two diagonal buttresses. Ventilation slits between buttresses. Some later doorways, one with elliptical arch. Interior: some later partitions and partial flooring. Roof: seven bays; of base cruck construction; (or middle cruck construction if Mercer's terminology used); conventional cruck structure below the collar with square-set purlins, arched bracing and wind braces, the crucks set on templates about 5 feet above ground level. Above the collar the roof is a common rafter type with queen posts, upper purlins and bearers at either end. The original construction survives at the west end: 2 vertical timbers rest on the lintels of the ventilator slits which support the ends of the middle purlins with collar above: straight braces from these posts to collars and to purlin. Standard upper structure stands on the collar. Other details: LBS 86175.

Wade-Martins, S., 2000, The Farmsteads of Devon: A Thematic Survey, 27 (Monograph). SDV351739.

14th century ecclesiastical barn.

Thorpe, J. + Horton, D., 2005, The Great Barn and Medieval Stables at Bishops Court, Devon (Report - Survey). SDV359932.

The barn is located to the east of the house forming the south side of a yard which is still cobbled beneath the grass. The barn is the earliest building in this complex. Dendrochronological evidence suggests it was built in 1387. It has an impressive cruck roof. It is built from fairly small blocks of neatly coursed sandstone. The roof was covered with corrugated plastic in about 2000 but before this it was covered with 19th century pantiles. It is suggested that it was originally roofed with slate.
It is a six bay buttressed building, 27.1 metres long internally, but was originally longer; the west end wall representing a 19th century truncation. Swete's illustration of 1801 shows the barn prior to this truncation. The original 14th century barn was probably nine bays long and open to the roof from end to end. Between Swete's visit in 1801 and the production of the Tithe Map in 1838 it was reduced to its present length. At about the same time parts were floored including a section to the east of the threshing floor which had fire places on both floors. This is thought to have been the brewhouse mentioned in the Tithe Apportionment, which refers to the buildings around the yard as pigsties, stables, coach house and brewhouse. It does not mention a barn. See report for full details of the barn.

English Heritage, 2006, Buildings at Risk: The Register 2006, 69 (Report - non-specific). SDV336311.

The Tithe barn and Stable Block at Bishop's Court were undergoing slow decay in 2006 with no solution agreed.

Debois Landscape Survey Group, 2007, Bishops Court, Devon. Landscape Survey and Management Plan, 3, 14-15, Appendix 1:BC02 (Report - non-specific). SDV349911.

The barn and stables are remarkable and impressive survivors form the medieval period and as such are of great architectural and archaeological value. Although they have undergone changes they can still be read as high quality buildings from the bishop's farmstead. They are currently only used for storage and are undergoing extensive repairs.
The barn, dated by dendrochronology to 1387 is probably the oldest threshing barn in Devon. Although not the longest, it is the tallest and widest medieval barn known in the county and the only one that bears comparison to the great barns of the Cotswolds and Mendips. This is not only by virtue of its size but also by the sophisticated carpentry employed in its cruck roof.

English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West, 95 (Report - non-specific). SDV342694.

Large mid 14th century barn with arch-braced base-cruck roof of 7 bays, and long early 16th century range of stables. Very bad condition. Currently unused and with a temporary corrugated roof. Owners are undertaking a feasibility study into potential uses, grant aided by English Heritage. Other details: Photograph.

English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West, 85 (Report - non-specific). SDV344777.

No change, still in very bad condition.

Ordnance Survey, 2016, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV359352.

Historic England, 2016, National Heritage List for England, 1164637 (National Heritage List for England). SDV359353.

Tithe Barn 150 metres south-east of Bishop's Court. Former tithe barn. Probably early C14. Rubble sandstone; gabled end pantiled roof. Rectangular plan, 90' x 24', but possibly originally 115' long, with a (formerly central) cross entry. Exterior: Buttresses with 2 set-offs, the east end with 1 central, and 2 diagonal buttresses. Ventilation slits between buttresses. Some later doorways, one with elliptical arch. Interior : some later partitions and partial flooring. Roof 7 bays; of base cruck construction; (or middle cruck construction if Mercer's terminology used); conventional cruck structure below the collar with square-set purlins, arched bracing and wind braces, the crucks set on templates about 5' above ground level. Above the collar the roof is a cannon rafter type with queen posts, upper purlins and bearers at either end. The original construction survives at the west end : 2 vertical timbers rest on the lintels of the ventilator slits which support the ends of the middle purlins with collar above : straight braces from these posts to collars and to purlin. Standard upper structure stands on the collar. The above description is a summary of Dr Alcock's detailed description and analysis in N W Alcock, 'The Medieval Buildings of Bishop's Clyst', Trans Devon Assoc. 98 (1966), espec. pp. 133-8.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV126511Article in Serial: Alcock, N. W.. 1966. The Medieval Buildings of Bishops Clyst. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 98. A5 Paperback. 133-5.
SDV177657Article in Serial: Alcock, N. W. + Barley, M. W.. 1972. Medieval Roofs With Base-crucks and Short Principals. Antiquaries Journal. 52. Unknown. 135,145-6,156.
SDV336311Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2006. Buildings at Risk: The Register 2006. English Heritage Report. A4 Bound. 69.
SDV336331List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1989. Sowton. Historic Houses Register. Unknown. 26.
SDV342504Report - non-specific: Alcock, N. W.. 1981. Cruck Construction: An Introduction and Catalogue. Council for British Archaeology Research Report. 42. Photocopy. 113.
SDV342694Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2009. Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West. English Heritage Report. A4 Bound +Digital. 95.
SDV344777Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2010. Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West. English Heritage Report. Digital. 85.
SDV349911Report - non-specific: Debois Landscape Survey Group. 2007. Bishops Court, Devon. Landscape Survey and Management Plan. Debois Landscape Survey Group Report. A4 Comb Bound + Digital. 3, 14-15, Appendix 1:BC02.
SDV351739Monograph: Wade-Martins, S.. 2000. The Farmsteads of Devon: A Thematic Survey. A4 Grip Bound + Digital. 27.
SDV359352Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2016. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #61382 ]
SDV359353National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2016. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital. 1164637.
SDV359932Report - Survey: Thorpe, J. + Horton, D.. 2005. The Great Barn and Medieval Stables at Bishops Court, Devon. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants. K711. A4 Unbound + Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV87487Part of: Parkland and Gardens at Bishop's Court, Sowton (Monument)
MDV10076Related to: Bishop's Court, Sowton (Building)
MDV10078Related to: Stables at Bishop's Court, Sowton (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7157 - Assessment of the Great Barn and Stables at Bishop's Court, Sowton
  • EDV5959 - Archaeological Survey, Bishops Court, Devon

Date Last Edited:Nov 27 2019 11:19AM