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The cathedral of barns


We fall silent. The timbers speak.

English Heritage has bought medieval Harmondsworth Barn for £20,000.

Built in 1426 by Winchester College, Hampshire, the barn has undergone some repairs, but remains largely as it was built, nearly 200ft long, 40ft wide, and 36ft high.

Thirteen huge oak trusses rest on stone blocks holding up the roof. The timber bears the marks of the confident and capable carpenter who built it.

It's a wonderful structure, and I like the fact that the barn stored grain, and the profits from selling the grain supported Winchester College. Then there's the poetic connection.

Sometime ago, poet John Betjeman called the barn the 'cathedral of Middlesex', and his accolade helped to save it from destruction.

The people of Harmondsworth, close to Heathrow, have battled for six years to rescue the barn. Between April and October, local volunteers will keep the barn open to the public for two Sundays a month.

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