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Manor Farm Barn (known as Harmondsworth Barn)

Case study: High Street, Harmondsworth, Hillingdon, Greater London UB7 0AQ (London)

List entry number: 1000373

Harmondsworth barn building at risk - exterior
Now in the ownership of English Heritage, repair works to the grade I listed Harmondsworth Barn are complete. Regular open days will allow visitors to appreciate the sheer scale of the barn, as well as the exceptional medieval carpentry. © English Heritage

Background and history

Built in 1427, Harmondsworth Barn is a medieval timber-framed building of huge proportions. It arguably ranks alongside the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey given its exceptional architectural and historic importance.

The barn was originally used to store wheat, barley and oats produced on the surrounding estate. It remained in agricultural use for almost 600 years. The last active farmer was WG Potter, who worked in Harmondsworth during the 1970s.

Over the subsequent years Harmondsworth Barn was relatively well looked after. However, in 2006 its fortunes turned when it was bought as a speculative investment. Following its purchase, the condition of the barn started to deteriorate.

Local residents and heritage groups grew increasingly concerned about the condition of the barn. Many of the roof tiles had slipped and plants were taking root in the brick and stone plinth. Working with Hillingdon Council, Historic England issued an Urgent Works Notice. Emergency repairs were carried out to safeguard the building.

Negotiations continued with the owner of Harmondsworth Barn. In 2011 it was eventually agreed to sell the building to English Heritage. The magnificent grade I listed barn is now part of the National Heritage Collection.

Harmondsworth barn building at risk - interior
Harmondsworth Barn was once described by Sir John Betjeman as the “Cathedral of Middlesex”. The barn is nearly 60 metres long and 13 massive oak trusses hold up the roof. © English Heritage

Is it at risk?

Harmondsworth Barn was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2008.

Once acquired by English Heritage work started on an ambitious project to restore the building. The vast roof was re-tiled with handmade clay peg tiles. Structural repairs were also carried out to the timber frame and the rare medieval weatherboarding was sensitively conserved.

The project provided opportunities for training in traditional building skills. Regular tours also allowed the general public to see craftspeople at work.

With repairs to the barn now complete, Harmondsworth Barn was removed from the Heritage at Risk Register this year.

Harmondsworth barn building at risk - roof being retiled with handmade clay peg tiles
The vast roof of Harmondsworth Barn has been retiled with handmade clay peg tiles © English Heritage

What's the current situation?

Harmondsworth Barn is owned by English Heritage, but managed on a day-to-day basis by an active Friends Group. Regular open days allow visitors to enjoy and appreciate the barn's sheer scale and outstanding medieval carpentry.

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