There are several dozen medieval barns in south England, many described as tithe barns - repositories for storing a percentage of local farm produce, paid as a tax to the church - even though comparatively few were actually used for this purpose. The great barn at Leigh, five miles west of Worcester is one of several managed by English Heritage, and is notable for its age, dated approximately to 1344 by radiocarbon methods, and its great size, measuring 140 feet by 34 feet in outline, and 34 feet in height. In common with most such buildings, it was constructed using the cruck frame method, the roof supported by nine pairs of huge curved timbers, each segment formed from a single oak tree, extending from the ground to the apex and linked by cross-beams to form an A-shaped truss. The barn is regarded as the largest cruck-framed structure in the UK.
Leigh Court Barn was built to serve Pershore Abbey, a Benedictine monastery 15 miles east, the church of which still survives, occupying just a small part of the original. The abbot at Pershore lived on occasions in the manor house at Leigh, though this and all other contemporary buildings have long since disappeared. The barn was managed by the abbey for over 200 years, up to the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, after which it was associated with local farms, and was used for storage until early in the 20th century. The structure is largely unchanged since medieval times, undergoing only minor restorations, most recently in the 1980s.
The village of Leigh sits beside the River Tame, along a country road off the A4103. A small amount of parking is available on a verge in front of the adjacent church, just as the road bends by 90 degrees, and the barn is reached by a very short walk down a driveway, which continues to a nearby residence - most of the surrounding land is privately owned, and the barn itself can only properly be viewed from one direction, the south. The site is marked by a small sign, only limited information is displayed inside, and all can be seen in just ten minutes or so, but the barn is certainly very impressive, in its scale, its obvious age, and its authentic state. The interior though is rather messy, due to a colony of pigeons that resides here. Most of the barn is empty, but the eastern section contains several historic stone and wood relics, used for cider making.
The south side of the barn has two main entrances, double doors set within projecting porches, with smaller doors on either side. Inside, the porches link with four of the nine cruck beam pairs, all of which divide the barn into ten equal sections. Other double doors, without porches, are positioned on the north side of the building. The floor sections between the two opposite pairs are formed of flagstones, and it was here that the grain was threshed, with the doors open so that the breeze would blow away the unwanted chaff, leaving the wheat. The walls were originally constructed of wattle and daub, but most sections were soon replaced by bricks. The roof is tiled, but might once have been thatched.