Lacock Tithe Barn
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Well-preserved 14th-century cruck frame
In the heart of Lacock village, a stone's throw from the entrance to Lacock Abbey, stands a beautifully restored 14th-century tithe barn once used by the nuns of Lacock to store grain.
In the early 13th century there was a small settlement near the banks of the River Avon, on the edge of the royal hunting forest of Melksham. When Ela, Countess of Salisbury established Lacock Abbey in 1232 the inhabitants of Lacock became tenants of the Augustinian nunnery.
As tenants, they did not pay rent in money but 'in kind'; that is, instead of an annual cash payment they gave the abbey a proportion of their crops or other local products such as wool fleeces.
To store these payments the Abbey built a tithe barn attached to the precinct wall. We do not know exactly when the barn was erected but it was sometime in the 14th century.
The tithe barn is built with blocks of limestone rubble supporting a cruck-framed roof. The roof is topped with heavy slate tiles. The interior is split into eight bays by large cruck trusses supported on blocks of dressed stone. Some of the timber beams show carpenter's marks, and some bear apotropaic protection symbols (symbols meant to ward off evil). The floor is made of beaten earth.
The south end of the barn is cut at an oblique angle. This end has a blocked doorway that once gave access to High Street.
There is a very large wagon porch on the east side, where wagons loaded with grain could drive directly into the barn. Opposite this wagon porch is a large exit door opening onto East Street.
In the 18th century a small cell was built onto the northern end of the barn. This cell, topped with a stone dome, acted as the town lock-up, where drunk or disorderly miscreants could be kept overnight until they sobered up.
Though it has been thoroughly restored, the barn is much as it would have looked in the medieval period.
After the nunnery of Lacock Abbey was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1539 the tithe barn no longer needed to fulfil its original function. The building was used to store agricultural machinery and in the 18th century it became the village's market hall. In the Victorian period it stored grain, and a threshing machine was installed in the large doorway in the west wall.
More recently it was used to hold coronation teas. Today it is used for housing a craft market during the annual village fair. At all other times the barn is kept open so that visitors can simply wander in and enjoy the beautifully restored timber frame and the huge open space.
There is an information panel inside the barn describing its origins and its history.
The tithe barn was passed to the National Trust along with Lacock Abbey and the village by Matilda Talbot, the last private owner of the Abbey.
Unless you are an architectural historian it won't take you long to explore the barn, but it is well worth popping in for a look, and to marvel at the huge cruck timbers.
The tithe barn is located at the corner of High Street and East Street in the heart of Lacock and just a minute's stroll from the entrance to Lacock Abbey. There is no dedicated parking and no obvious signs, but you really can't miss it. Park at the main Lacock visitor parking area on Hither Way (National Trust).
About Lacock Tithe Barn
Address: East Street, Lacock, Wiltshire, England, SN15 2LQ
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: At the corner of East Street and High Street. Parking in the main village car park on Hither Way (pay and display but free for National Trust members).
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Fox Talbot Museum - 0 miles (Museum)
Lacock, St Cyriac's Church - 0.1 miles (Historic Church)
Lacock Abbey - 0.2 miles (Historic House)
Corsham Almshouses - 2.9 miles (Historic Building)
Corsham, St Bartholomew's Church - 3 miles (Historic Church)
Bowood House and Gardens - 4 miles (Historic House)
Sheldon Manor - 4 miles (Historic House)
Corsham Court - 4.5 miles (Historic House)
Nearest Accommodation to Lacock Tithe Barn: