Monday, September 24, 2012

Waxham Barns, Norfolk

Last week I was telling at Waxham 16th Century built barns in North Norfolk to the first years at Acle Academy. It was part of a history and geography field trip, which works well at Waxham because the site focuses not only on the history of the building, but also it locality in terms of environment and economy over four hundred years.


I think thats what stood out for me - the detailed interpretation on many different aspects of both the barns and regions history. There were for example a number of panels focusing on the labourers over many hundred of years as well as the original owners...

Panel about local labourers

There were also some that focused on how the barn was built with displays of building techniques, half finished so their construction was clear...

Cob bricks made of clay, and straw

Knapped and squared flints

 Other panels focused on the the areas and peoples relationship with the sea. From smuggling to ship wreaks and their reclamation by the manor and the locals who often ignored the manorial rights over such material!

Reclaimed ship mast for beam

There was also information on the areas importance at the time it was built especially its vulnerability during the time of the Spanish Armada...

Local detail from a 16th century Armada map
A reconstruction of barn and manor as it might have looked at the time of the Armada

Outside there are panels focusing on the the local flora, fauna and wildlife conservation all of which helps make the barns relevant to today...

Wildlife exhibit inside the barn

All in all a stunning place and one that deserved to be rescued from neglect and certain destruction in the 90s. There is a cafe for visitors and the local beach is quite for those seeking some solitude and huge Norfolk skies. It even has its own local legend of the Devil himself and an 18th century lord of the manor, Sir Berney Bograve. The story goes that every new years eve he held a feast for six of his ancestors whose ghosts would eat with him until midnight. Not only that but on another occasion he was mowing alongside his farmhands and he boosted that he could out mow the Devil. The Devil appeared and challenged him to a race for his soul. Sir Barney accepted but strew the Devil's field with stones so that his scythe was blunted and he gave up with the words, "Barney bor, them stones do cut damm hard". So even a bit of local dialect at Waxham Barn!

There are nice touches like the sheaves in the window slits to keep out the weather

I didn't see the Devil when I was there but I did add some stories of Old Hob to my set. And if you look closely at some of the photos of panels you will see a strange figure from long ago lurking in the here and now!

Thanks to the cafe staff at Waxham for the warm welcome and to Paul and the pupils at Acle Academy for making it a fun day.

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