Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Stop Along The Way

Yesterday, the weather having relented, I was out and about on my bicycle. I was on my way to Thaxted in North Essex, but that's a long way from home so I cut my journey by taking the train some of the way - yes, you can take a bike on the train, all for free and for nothing! Now, would you suppose that, once on the bike, I took the direct route, put my head down and pedalled for all I was worth? No, of course not, I found lots of things along the way. 

We will get to Thaxted eventually, I promise, but not in today's post. Just as far as the village of Widdington where there's something interesting to see, but only on Saturdays, and something else that only happens in the village once every year.

It's not the church; though there will be some later in this series. And it's not the gardens either, though there were some very attractive ones vying for attention.

This one?

             Or this one?

                            OK, both.

What we are here to see is something older, less colourful, only open to view on summer Saturdays but rather special.

Yes, an old barn! Priors' Hall Barn, to be precise. It's one of the finest surviving medieval barns in the country and has been dated to the mid-fifteenth century and although it's obviously needed a little help along the way most of the original oak frame still survives.

And what a magnificent structure it is! Four hundred oak trees are said to have been used in it's construction. It was originally owned by the French priory of St Valery sur Somme, then later by New College in Oxford.

The barn had to be large enough to hold the year's harvest, not just the grain, for in those days the crop was stored as sheaves to be threshed later in the year.

One end of the building has a raised wooden floor which served as the granary once the threshing was done. You can see that the far wall is plastered to make the structure more weather-proof and, if your eyes are particularly sharp, you might see that it's all held together, not with nails or bolts but with wooden pegs or dowels. 

Now it's time we were on our way to the Fleur de Lys pub, not for a beer but to see....

....Morris dancers on tour around the villages. It's all part of Thaxted Morris Weekend. Above are the Thaxted Morris Men and there were many other Morris sides helping them out.

The "horse" belongs to Letchworth Morris. Horses and Fools have long been part of the entertainment and their difficult job is to add to the spectacle and not detract from it. Here's a video of the Cambridge Morris Men, watch out for the Fool and the Horse occasionally joining in the dance. 

And then we'll be on the bike and on our way once again; there're other things to see before we get to Thaxted.

Take care.


  1. What a magnificent barn that is. It's always good to see some Morris Dancing too :)

  2. That's a magnificent old barn! Noticed those mortice and tenon joints held with pegs immediately -the work and craftsmanship that must have involved!

  3. WOW! I LOVE the old barn! How smart of you to take the train part way so would still have time to enjoy the beauty of a far-away destination.

  4. Brilliant to see the Morris Dancers, and the barn, so much history! I can't wait to see your Thaxted post - I have lots of happy memories of around that way.

  5. The barn is so beautifully made that I called J. in to admire the construction.
    Beyond that, I found the red garden intriguing--interesting that red geraniums [pelargoniums] were set into the ground to add to the display. Here they are usually used as indoor pot plants or set out in tubs for the summer.

  6. Wow, that barn is like a cathedral. Such craftmanship. I love Morris dancing too, never fails to make me feel happy.

  7. I would thoroughly enjoy seeing that barn in person. Pretty neat.

  8. What a wonderful day this would have been. The oak barn is beyond wonderful. Thanks for showing it to us. And, I have adored seeing your Morris Dancer photos!

  9. that keeps everyone fit John; you on your bike, the Morris dancers, very unique. The barn was special, they really spent time to craft to last. When are you going to share some squeeze-boxing of your own on a video?

  10. Prior' Hall Barn was such a bonus on the way to your final destination John.. It's huge and very forward thinking when you. think about it. Could this be the very first 'open plan' design that is so popular these days :)

  11. Enjoyed your recent posts very much. Love the barn - what a fabulous frame! You'd probably like the Weald & Downland Museum in Sussex - it will be on A Bit About Britain in due course.

  12. We have friends in Thaxted - it is the most beautiful area. I also love the books of Ronald Blythe - he lives in Wormingford, which is not too far away. Lovely scenery and beautiful countryside.

  13. I so love those mixed flower beds--most places here now have flower beds of only one variety --beds of impatiens or marigolds--so mechanical.

    What a gorgeous barn--I am an admirer of old barns--not many here that old. In Louisiana we have problems with termites--native and Formosan--that eat away the foundations of wooden structures.

  14. How wonderful that the old barn has been preserved. The construction and craftsmanship is just amazing. Four hundred oak trees is a lot of wood. You do find the most interesting things to photograph.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).