THE COUNTRY’S FAVOURITE FARMER GIVES US HIS MONTHLY GUIDE TO AGRICULTURE IN BRITAIN
Classic farm buildings of the UK.
Around the UK, most modern farm buildings tend to look alike. But that
hasn’t always been the case. Before steel frames and pre-fabricated construction, craftsmen only had local materials to work with, and buildings
were made to suit the landscape, weather and farming methods of the region. Many of these diverse, traditional buildings are still around and in daily use. Here is my guide to the country’s most distinctive farm buildings...
COTSWOLD STONE BARNS
On my home territory, there’s an old saying: “On the Cotswolds, the stone is in the blood.” Barns
made of the local honey-coloured limestone have featured in our landscape since the Middle
Ages and are often the largest traditional buildings apart from the parish churches. They are big because, until the late 1700s, corn grown here fed the farmer’s family and workers, so an entire harvest had to be stored to last the year.
SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS BLACKHOUSES AND WHITE HOUSES
Crofters on arable land once dwelt in blackhouses
– low, narrow single-storey buildings made of boulders, peat and earth with thatched roofs but no chimneys. Smoke from the open fire would escape through the thatch. Deemed insanitary,
blackhouses were replaced in the late 19th century with ‘white houses’ (so called due to their white render), now known as Crofter’s Cottages.
YORKSHIRE FIELD BARNS
Dotting the Dales are countless field barns; stone barns built in the 18th and 19th centuries to store
hay and house cattle during the winter. Hill farming can be dangerous in freezing conditions,
and field barns helped dairy farmers avoid driving their herd through snow for milking. The simple system had livestock at one end of the barn and the hay at the other. In spring, the cattle manure was spread on the meadow as a fertiliser.
SOUTH-EAST ENGLAND GRANARIES
Threshed grain, seed corn and animal feed needs to be stored in a safe, dry and rodent-proof place. Rather than building granaries above stables or outhouses, farmers in the south east of England and East Anglia created their own free-standing granary. The timber-framed building sat on staddle stones above the ground, away from vermin. One or two storeys high, they could be made more secure with tarred weatherboarding.
KENT OAST HOUSE
These reminders from the county’s heyday as a hop-growing region have become an unofficial symbol of Kent. Instantly recognisable, they had
a very specific, practical use – to dry hops for beer-making. The distinctive brick-built roundel topped with a white cowl was turned by a wind vane to help draw the moisture out of the hops in the kiln below. Converted oast houses are now
highly sought after by homebuyers.
Before pig-rearing became commercial, many rural homes and farmsteads kept pigs, fed on kitchen waste or windfalls. In South Wales, pigs were housed in distinctive circular sties, made of a dry stone wall with a lintel over a single opening
and a domed roof. This is ancient building technique was also used for goose and duck shelters. There’s a well restored circular pig sty at the National History Museum in St Fagans.