The Barley Barn stands in the corner of our farm yard. To the east are the traditional farm buildings – the old cowshed, another old Essex barn and the house while to the west is the working farm yard with modern grain stores and sheds.
The Barley Barn was probably built around 1800 and appears to have been cobbled together from several older buildings, with some of the posts dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. No longer suitable for modern agriculture, the Barley Barn lay virtually unused and neglected with rope holding down the roof, rafters rotting away and some decidedly dodgy looking brickwork at the base. At the beginning of 2011, faced with expenditure just to keep the barn standing (it’s a Listed Building so letting it fall down was not an option) we sat down to work out a Grand Plan to renovate the barn so it could be put to use once again.
Two years later, after bat surveys, historic building reports, planning applications, unsuccessful grant applications, business plans and a forest of paperwork, the builders started work. The small adjoining shed was knocked down, the roof and weatherboarding were stripped from the Barley Barn and the concrete floor was dug out to leave a glorious skeleton of beams. Gradually, everything has been replaced, though not necessarily as we would have chosen. As the barn is Listed, rules regulate the materials we can use, so we don’t have the internal finish we’d have liked (and what we have has cost us more) and the insulation is less efficient than we planned. Hey ho.
But, despite that, the building is gradually coming together. The roof is on, the walls are boarded and the doors are hung. There’s still plenty more work to do on the barn but, when it’s finished, The Barley Barn will house an Art Gallery and Exhibition Space and be used for craft workshop days. Our daughter Ruth, who’ll be running Slamseys Art is planning classes in crafts such as floristry, screen and lino printing, photography, upholstery and jewellery making. There’ll be Hand Made Wedding workshops for brides-to-be and Hen Weekends with Life Drawing and Nipple Tassel Making, which sounds um … interesting.
So, do any of you bright sparks out there have ideas for original and exciting classes? Have you been on an inspiring course or is there a craft that you’d like to try? Maybe you’re a tutor with skills to share. Anything considered. All tips, advice and warnings will be gratefully received.