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Barns are a class of building that has had a longer life than many. Where buildings such as castles, windmills, oast houses or forges have usually dropped out of use or been converted to other roles, barns long continued to offer their original purpose to farmers. It's true that today many contain tractors rather than hay, wheat or barley, but the basic enclosed, dry and secure space that a barn offers has been an enduring need on most farms. This must account, in part, for the survival of the great monastic barns such as that built around 1300 by the Cistercians at Great Coxwell in Oxfordshire or the Knights Templars' barns of the 1200s at Cressing Temple in Essex. I say "in part" because these buildings are a cut above the utilitarian, having an almost architectural quality, and that will also hve influenced their retention.
I was considering this recently as I walked passed a small barn near Settle in North Yorkshire. I've known this stone building - and the many barns like it in the area - since childhood. I've watched some continue to be used for agricultural purposes, seen others converted into houses of questionable design and despaired as yet more have been allowed to slowly crumble and fall down. The field barns of the Yorkshire Dales are usually smaller than those found near the farms. Often they had a hay loft and space for cattle below, but generally had a number of uses. They frequently have names: this one is called Far Thornber Barn and you can see another photograph of it here. I stopped and photographed the barn once more and as I did so my attention was caught by the shaft of sunlight that was shining down inside its entrance arch. There was clearly a hole in the roof and I could see some of its ridge stones were missing. On past experience, particularly that of the nearby Fish Copy Barn, the roof will collapse in a few years unless it is renovated. That would be a shame because, though it isn't a particularly grand or unique barn, it does have a modest charm and is a welcome and characteristic addition to the local landscape. Looking back at my photograph of the same barn taken in 2011 I notice that the roof damage was there then though I hadn't noticed it.
Fearing I may not see it in quite this condition again I took several shots of the building in its setting. For this photograph, the best of the crop, I placed the barn to the right of my composition so that the place of my upbringing, the market town of Settle, with the distant peak of Penyghent on the horizon, filled the left.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 28.8mm (78mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/800
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On