Middle Littleton Tithe Barn, Worcestershire


West end of the barn
The interior

Elegant, wood and stone barn from the late 13th century, in a quiet, rural location; amongst the best preserved in the country
Middle Littleton, 5 miles northeast of Evesham; WR11 5LN
Photo Tour (12 images)
Medieval barns may be less photogenic than castles or churches, the other main types of surviving buildings from this period, but they are still important relics, and impressive because of their skilled construction, in particular the roofs, which are supported by a complex arrangement of beams and trusses. Several dozen such barns are found in southwest England, many under the management of either English Heritage or the National Trust, and are usually located in peaceful, countryside locations. The barn at Middle Littleton in Worcestershire is owned by the latter organisation, and is a free to enter site, not much visited, and signposted only in the near vicinity. The barn is amongst the earliest examples in the country, probably constructed in the middle of the 13th century, and is notable for its large size, the good state of preservation, and for the rich yellow brown colour of its limestone walls.

Middle Littleton is the most central of a trio of small villages on a plateau on the east side of the River Avon, 5 miles northeast of Evesham. The settlements were probably established during the Roman occupation, associated with the important Roman highway of Ryknild Street (now Buckle Street), 2 miles east. In medieval times the village was subsidiary to Evesham Abbey, and the barn was constructed as a base to store tithes from the local population, paid as taxes. The oldest building in the village is St Nicholas Church, dating from the start of the 13th century; the tithe barn is believed to have been erected a few decades later, and forms part of a group of aged structures also including a manor house and several other agricultural buildings, one lately used as a cider mill.

The Barn

The signed parking area for Middle Littleton Tithe Barn is a lawn on the south side, a short walk from the church. The lawn is bordered by a low stable range to the west and the cider mill to the east, and is divided by a low wall, perpendicular to the barn. The barn is about 140 feet long, 40 feet high and 30 wide, and has two pairs of entrances. The western pair are more prominent, accessed through porches (that on the south side is biggest); the two eastern doors are contained within the main wall, which is divided into 11 bays, most sections illuminated by narrow, vertical, unglazed windows. The two ends have larger windows, on three levels, and additional ventilation is provided by small square holes at regular intervals.

South side of the barn
Wall in front of the barn

Walls and Roof

Most of the walls are constructed of blue lias limestone, light grey in colour, while the edges, buttresses and other prominent sections are of the yellow Cotswold stone. Like most other old barns, the roof is built using a raised cruck frame, with a row of pairs of tall, slightly curved timbers extending from niches near the top of the walls to the apex, and strengthened by cross beams towards the top. Faint apotropaic marks, also known as witches' marks or daisy wheels, can be seen on some of the masonry, inscribed in the belief that this would help ward off evil spirits.