The C15 barn at Witton Hall Farm is a remnant of a former medieval hospital belonging to the Bishop and Prior of Durham. It underwent early-mid C19 alteration.
Reason for Listing
* Significant original fabric: the surviving timbers of the original roof structure and the survival of significant original wall fabric pierced by original openings means that its original form is clearly illustrated;
* Historic interest: for its early date combined with its context as part of a well-documented pre-Dissolution estate of the Bishop and Prior of Durham.;
* Age: the established dendrochronology date of 1462, places it firmly in the period when all buildings that contain a significant proportion of their fabric are listed due to their rarity;
* Group value: it has clear group value with the Grade II* listed farmhouse, formerly the chapel or infirmary hall of the medieval hospital.
A leper hospital dedicated to St Mary Magdalene was founded before 1150 at Witton Gilbert on land given by Gilbert de la Lay, Lord of Witton. The hospital was controlled by the Almoner of Durham Priory and his accounts from the C14 to C16 survive and refer to buildings, repairs and additions over this time. At the Dissolution, the buildings were leased by the Dean and Chapter and although the hospital function ceased, the buildings survived as a large working farm. The present farmhouse (Grade II*) has been identified as part of the medieval hospital. This barn, which lies within the area of the medieval hospital, is thought to have two main phases. Its original form was a thick walled single storey building with at least one pair of opposing doors and a steeply pitched roof formed of trusses with tie beams; dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) of these tie beams and the oak lintel of one of the original entrances, has produced a C15 felling date for the timbers (1462 (-10,+10)). Subsequently, the walls and roof of the building were raised to accommodate a loft, several new openings were added and external steps to a loft door were added. The south end of the barn was also rebuilt and probably extended. Softwood beams, 3" handmade bricks and welsh slate, all suggest an early-mid C19 date for this second phase. In the early-C20, the farm passed from the Dean and Chapter to private ownership.
MATERIALS: The barn is constructed of random local carboniferous sandstone rubble with dressed and margined quoins and a pitched roof of Welsh slate.
PLAN: It is situated to the north west of a farm group at Witton Hall, on ground that falls away to the south. It is a rectangular building of seven bays, oriented north to south.
EXTERIOR: The barn has one storey and a loft and has six bays, the loft lit by six wide glazed openings directly under the eaves on both sides and by two on the south gable. The east elevation has a large pegged oak door frame with chamfered jambs and a slightly arched lintel with soffit holes, possible for harr-hung doors (pivoting on pintles set into the lintel and threshold rather than on hinges), now blocked. There is also a blocked slit vent and three inserted openings. The west elevation has a blocked doorway, whose quoins are considered to be the remains of an original doorway opposing that of the east wall; there are also a pair of inserted cart entrances and an external stair to a loft entrance at the north end. The north gable has a boarded loft pitching door, and the line of an earlier, steeper roof is clearly visible and there are larger and rougher quoins. The south gable has a group of ten pigeonholes with alighting ledges and a cart entrance.
INTERIOR: The interior has a concrete floor and a modern corrugated metal screen divides it into two parts. Walls are very thick with the exception of the southern two end bays. The loft floor rests on thirteen wooden beams, five of which, displaying mortises and peg holes, are re-used tie beams from the original C15 roof structure; four of these are placed on their sides and one is in its original position. The tie beams had three pegs each for the principal rafters and one is notched for floor joists and a number have carpenter's marks. The loft has an early-C19 softwood roof structure and comprises nine trusses.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.