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Barn storming

I went last week to the old barn at Harmondsworth , described by John Betjeman (as you may just see in this photo) as the cathedral of Middlesex.

I went last week to the old barn at Harmondsworth , described by John Betjeman (as you may just see in this photo) as the cathedral of Middlesex. 

It is now owned by English Heritage, although relatively little visited, and has extensive but intelligent restoration, including a new roof and some strengthening. the original timbers were rough and ready, and include a lot of sapwood – they basically just stripped the bark and branches off the oak trees.

What is even more extraordinary is that the barn was in use until 1978, an din the 1950s still had a dirt floor. It was bought by the construction company John Wiltshier which built these rather sympathetic buildings alongside (sadly now empty). 

Sadly, they went bust and the whole site went into decline before EH rode to the rescue. I also like this drawing prepared for the restoration work.

So, a happy ending? Well, not necessarily. The village of Harmondsworth is pretty and has many listed buildings, but it is on the planned site of the third runway at Heathrow airport. If that gets built, two thirds of the village will go. The rest will die, and although the barn will remain, it will be marooned within the airport perimeter. 

Interestingly the barn, built with minimal flourishes, was rather like an equivalent of a retail distribution warehouse today, and so not that far in type from some airport buildings. None of which are likely to last as long.

Progress?

Ruth Slavid

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