Tithe barns earned their name across northern Europe in the Middle Ages as the place where rents and tithes were stored – typically 10% of villagers’ produce would be given to the Church as a ‘tithe’ – and the barns are increasingly rare in the UK. Landbeach’s Tithe Barn is owned by South Cambridgeshire District Council and is thought to be Cambridgeshire’s only remaining tithe barn in its original condition, with a thatched roof, timber frame, timber granary and brick threshing floor.
The barn is currently in a state of disrepair, with a structural survey commissioned by the Council in 2015 identifying that the barn is not watertight and has water damage to timbers. The Council arranged for a tarpaulin to be put over the thatched roof as an interim measure to safeguard against further deterioration. Current estimates of costs for work required to restore the barn are now £260,000, a sum the Council cannot cover.
The Tithe Barn Trust has seen success in raising funds for the building through recent community donations and grant funding; £60,000 has been raised to date. But the awarding this week of the lease to the Trust by the Council gives it a legal interest in the barn, which will enable it to make larger funding applications to support restoration works. The Trust also recently received listed building consent for essential repairs so, as soon as sufficient funding has been secured, the Trust will be able to act swiftly to begin essential work.
Gemma O’Shea, Chair of Trustees at The Tithe Barn Trust, said: “Securing the 99 year lease is a giant step forward for the Trust, enabling us to submit grant applications which, without a lease, we simply wouldn’t have met funding conditions and criteria for. The Trust is a small charity and not-for profit volunteer group and our local community is incredibly supportive. People have made generous donations and attended fundraising events such as community cinema and theatre. Sadly, the Tithe Barn needs urgent repair works, and unless we act now we could lose this treasure. So, we welcome others to get involved in the project by becoming a friend, donating, volunteering, or coming along to one of our events.”
Cllr Judith Rippeth, local councillor for Milton and Waterbeach ward, said: “The Trust has raised an impressive sum of money in the hope of essential works being undertaken and now, thanks to the fantastic efforts of our planning and conservation officers, the Trust has the legal capacity to apply for grants to help with fundraising. This will enable much needed work to get underway and I’m very happy that this part of our local heritage will be preserved for the future and offer our community more opportunities for events with a beautiful back drop.”
Cllr Anna Bradnam, local councillor for Milton and Waterbeach, said: “The Tithe Barn is a beautiful and historically important building which links people living here to their agricultural past. Since my career has been in agriculture, I’m delighted that local children will have an opportunity to learn about farming in this area, in the very building in which food was stored in Medieval times.”
Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins, Lead Cabinet Member for Planning at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “Structures like the Tithe Barn are so valuable – not only as a focal point for local communities to gather together, but as part of our collective heritage too. Building History students from Cambridge University recently visited the barn, and the Trust runs guided tours and invites self-led education visits too so that people can learn about this unique structure and its place in the community in years gone by. It is fantastic to see the Trust further empowered to drive forward the restoration of Tithe Barn by taking on the lease this week.”
Images Credit: Tithe Barn Trust