Middle Littleton Tythe Barn, also known as Middle Littleton Tithe Barn, is a grade I listed 12th or 13th-century tithe barn in the village of Middle Littleton, near Evesham in Worcestershire. It is one of the largest and most notable tithe barns in England. The barn is constructed of a mixture of Blue Lias and Cotswold stones, with a stone tile roof. It was originally built for Evesham Abbey, which was the third largest abbey in England. It is now owned and operated by the National Trust.
A tithe barn was a type of barn used in much of northern Europe in the middle ages for storing rents and tithes, one tenth of a farm's produce which was given to the Church. Tithe barns were usually associated with the village church or rectory and independent farmers took their tithes there.
One of the finest tithe barns in the country, Middle Littleton is a Grade I listed barn dating to the 13th or 14th century, the National Trust dates it to around 1250 but the National Monument Records has it built in 1376 for the monks of Evesham Abbey which was the third largest abbey in England. The barn was granted Grade I listed status on 30 July 1959. For many years the most likely builder was thought to be John Omberseley, Abbot of Evesham in 1376. However, more recent dendrochronology testing has revealed that the barn was at least a century older than Omberseley's tenure, and dates to the middle of the 13th century.
More recent thinking is that the Tithe Barn was built by Abbot John de Brokehampton (1282 - 1316) to store hay and cereals (before threshing). The Abbey extracted the ‘tithe’ on both crops and livestock to provide an income from the Littletons to finance the hostilarius for the accommodation of guests at the Abbey.
The barn is constructed of Blue Lias stone and Cotswold stone dressing, it has a triple purlin roof which is tiled in stone. The roof slates range from 6 to 18 inches long and were held in place with wooden pegs, though these have been replaced with pegs of aluminium. It stands 130 feet long and 42 feet wide (external measurement) and originally had a pair of gabled porches on each of the long sides but sadly now only the south porch survives. It is truly a magnificent building, an imposing reminder of the power of the medieval abbeys. Look for decorative finials over the gable ends, these were traditionally used as a good luck charm or to ward off evil.
The walls are supported by eight buttresses on the side walls and three on the end. The barn is built in a 'raised cruck' style, the large cruck timbers are not supported directly on the ground but on raised stone walls. The walls are pitted with holes called putlogs, marking the spot where the carpenters and masons inserted scaffolding to build the structure.
Outside the barn.
On one side of a courtyard are lean-to farm buildings, and on the other is an old cider press building, with exterior stone steps leading to the first floor entrance. This area has a long tradition of growing fruit, so it is very likely that villagers often paid tithes in apples, pears, or similar fruit. The National Trust are currently in the process of restoring the orchard associated with the tithe barn and hope one day to restore the apple store and apple presses. Two apple presses, complete with their milling equipment exist today in Middle Littleton, although they are no longer in use. One of these is part of the outbuildings of the Tithe Barn while the other is attached to a house in West Side. Local brewing of beer, as well as cider making, was important to a small village community.
If you're visiting Middle Littleton tithe barn make the most of your day by visiting nearby Croome Park, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown's first complete landscape garden, and the Fleece Inn in Bretforton.
** – Tithe Barn walk – **
This is a level circular walk apart from one descent and a later short but steep ascent of Cleeve Hill. In between there is a leisurely stroll along the River Avon. The route in the main is along field tracks and may be muddy after rain. The Tithe Barn is open 2-5pm every day until 31st October. It reopens on April 1st 2017 until 31st October 2017. Parking available year round. The walk is classified as Moderate and is 6.2 miles long. It should take three and four and a half hours. This is a dog-friendly walk. Wheelchair access is described as Challemging.
Start: National Trust Middle Littleton Tithe Barn, Croft Rd, Middle Littleton, Evesham, Worcestershire.
1. From the car park at the Tithe barn walk up Croft Road and turn right, go through the gate at the end of the road, bear right across the field to two adjacent gates in the right- hand hedge. (You will have a good view of the back of the tithe barn).
2. Go through the left hand (furthest) gate, and turn left keeping the hedge on the left. Carry on until you reach the road on the edge of North Littleton.
3. Cross the road and follow the track which is signposted to Cleeve Prior without turning off for 1.3 miles until you reach Cleeve Prior. Along this track, after three quarters of a mile you will cross a stile and a wooden bridge and then pass by the Severn Trent water works, eventually entering Quarry Lane into the village of Cleeve Prior.
Local information. Cleeve Prior was held in the Middle Ages by the Prior of Worcester – Prior’s in contrast to the Bishop’s Cleeve which was held by the Bishop of Worcester. The remains of a number of Roman period settlements have been found in the area and Cleeve Prior was one of over forty early medieval farms established on the highly productive land of ‘The Vale’.
4. Go straight across the road to ‘The Green’ and bear right into the churchyard. Bear left, following a faint path to the left past the church to a gap in a row of poplars, go through the gap into the present graveyard, cross to a gate and follow the path past a large old chestnut tree. (On the right is the very fine 16th century Manor House).
5. At the end of the field cross the footbridge go through the gate. About 60 meters further on there is a gate in the left hand hedge. Go through the gate and walk across the field keeping the hedge on your right.
6. After 150 metres, at the end of the hedge go through the gate and turn left continuing until you reach a lane. (Froglands Lane). Cross the lane and continue to a second crossway, keep going straight ahead until you reach the ridge.
7. On reaching the bridleway along the ridge, cross straight over through a set of upright posts to go down and round to the left following a garden fence and past a house, the path goes down through a wooded area to a wide turning area for cars near the river.
8. Here a track (Mill Lane) comes down from Cleeve Prior. Start up the track and after a few meters on the right you will see a path off right towards the river. Follow this path along the river for just over half a mile to the point where a track comes down from the left.
Things to look out for. If you walk quietly you may see a heron, as this is one of their favourite haunts. Another bird often seen here is the kingfisher
9. Continue to the right along the riverside passing through the ends of many long narrow fields, crossing the occasional stile. After one mile the path goes to the left of a chalet, opposite the old mill house at Harvington. Continue along the path for 500 metres to a caravan park, walk through the caravan park and out to the road.
Things to look out for. Along to the right is ‘The Fish and Anchor Inn’ and a natural weir, which strangely enough has a public right of way for people on foot along the top of it - - but it is NOT to be recommended!
10. From the caravan park entrance bear left across the road to a gap in the hedge. Follow the path to the left across the field, through the gate and up to the gate at very top of the ridge. Turn right along the bridleway.
Things to look out for. There are excellent views of the river and the Vale of Evesham from here.
11. At the junction turn right and then left to follow the hedge on the left for ½ mile to the church at South Littleton. Cross the main road and turn left. After 70 metres bear right along the front of South House, a fine Georgian building, with the old bakery opposite. Cross the beginning of Farm Lane to a footpath. This path takes you into the field which divides South and Middle Littleton.
12. Go through the gate into the field and walk diagonally across the field to a metal gate, go through the gate to a second wooden gate and pass between the houses to the road (Manor Rd). Turn left and follow the road round to the right to the T junction with School Lane, the Village hall is on your left and a play area to your right.
13. Turn right into School Lane, go around the bend to the left and when the road turns right keep straight ahead into Croft road signed to the National Trust Tithe barn and return to the car park.
Local information. The three Littleton’s – North, Middle and South – are sheltered on the west by slightly higher ground and away to the east by the Cotswold’s. The Littleton’s lie in one of the most important market garden districts in ‘The Vale’ and this walk goes through some of the market gardens, with their crops of rhubarb and thyme, onions and asparagus (known locally as ‘gras’). In the 1930’s there were some 3,000 small units of between three and five acres round Evesham and the same around Pershore. The break-up of the large estates in the 19th century was greatly encouraged by the acceptance of the ‘Evesham Custom’, whereby tenants owned the improvements they made to holdings and could realize the added value as ‘ingoing’ paid to the new tenant. Life in ‘The Vale’ was almost in another world- hard work for little return, save the freedom of working the land for oneself and being one’s own boss in the open air.
End: National Trust Middle Littleton Tithe Barn, Croft Rd, Middle Littleton, Evesham, Worcestershire.
** – Visiting – **
The National Trust offer guided visits of the barn tailored to your group interests. Bring this wondrous barn back to life with a guided visit lasting up to 45 minutes and covering its use over the centuries. The minimum group donation is £75. For further information and booking please contact Hasnah Sheriff on 01905 370901 or email Hasnah Sheriff.
The nearby Fleece Inn at Bretforton (a National Trust Pub) will offer a voucher to Middle Littleton Tithe Barn pre-booked groups to enjoy a main meal (from their Fleecey Favourites) and a drink for just £10, don't forget to ask about this when you book.
Note that the Farm Animal Sanctuary is very close on School Lane and well worth a visit.
** – Facilities – **
• Coach access by prior arrangement.
• Refreshments available at local NT owned pub – The Fleece Inn.
• One low step into barn and uneven floors.
Location : Croft Road, Middle Littleton, Evesham, Worcestershire, WR11 8LN
Transport: Honeybourne (National Rail) then 3½ miles OR Evesham (National Rail) then 4½ miles by bus. Bus routes: First 247 Evesham to Redditch (passing close Evesham train station), alight Middle Littleton School Lane, ½ mile.
Opening Times Tithe Barn: Daily, 10:00 to 17:00; 1st April through 31st October.
Tickets : Free
Tel: 01905 371006