This is what Sir John Betjeman called the Harmondsworth Barn near Heathrow. The largest timber-framed structure in England, dating from 1426, this amazing symphony in oak was being used as intended as recently as 1978. Quite remarkable. The barn measures 192 feet by 37 feet and is 39 feet high. As you enter, you appreciate immediately what Betjeman meant.
When built it was owned by Winchester College, itself endowed some 37 years previously by our old friend, the energetic William of Wykeham (d. 1404), Bishop of Winchester (“manners makyth man”). It is believed that the oak almost certainly originates from Kingston upon Thames since records show timber being procured there at the correct date for a barn in Harmondsworth by John atte Oak and William Kypping. This information is the more tantalising when we consider that Wykeham had holdings in Kingston, including a palace.
The Grade 1-listed barn was recently rescued by English Heritage and is run by the Friends of the Great Barn at Harmondsworth who have been looking after the building since 2006. It is open and free to visit throughout this summer on the second and forth Sundays each month 10:00 – 17:00.
We discovered that Harmondsworth village is particularly rich in ancient buildings. The local medieval church of St Mary’s is lovely. One can easily imagine their harvest festivals for centuries on end featuring produce from the massive barn next door.