In 1316 Stowmarket was an outlying manor of the 12th Century Priory of St Osyth in Essex, meaning that the Church had a great deal of power in the area. Local peasants had to pay taxes (tithes) to the Church in the form of money or goods. As most were extremely poor, the tithes could be paid as 10% of anything grown, made, bred or produced. In the 13th century the Priory built this barn to house local tithes.
Due to its age, the barn is a good example of changing and developing forms of structural and jointing principles. Alterations in the 19th century saw the conversion from thatch to tiled roof and from wattle and daub walls to weatherboarding. In 1968 a freak storm resulted in 60 feet of the barn collapsing into a heap. The damage was irreparable.
Throughout World War Two the barn was part of a working farm, run by the Longe family with assistance from the Women’s Land Army. Years later, in 1967, the once bustling farmyard became the nucleus for a Museum of Rural Life.
Hand tools displayed inside depict the seasonal nature of food production – from bird scarers used by children, to beet forks with knobbly ended prongs.