Out-barns of Tatham and Botton

The images on this page are taken from watercolours by local artist Peter Osborne. They were first exhibited, as prints, in autumn 2019 at the Gallery on the Green, the world’s smallest art gallery, in Settle. In December that year the prints were shown to THS members at the Society’s AGM. Peter has kindly allowed us to display them here so that they can be enjoyed by a wider audience.

Giclee prints of most may be purchased from Peter. Please send a letter enclosing the number(s) required, and a £10 note per print, to Peter Osborne, Clearbeck House, Tatham, Lancaster, LA2 8PJ. Tel. 015242 61029

The old barns depicted below are reaching their end. Unwanted and abandoned, these lovely remains of an old way of farming life are still an important part of our heritage and of our landscape.

A few out-barns are well-maintained by careful farmers, as indeed are nearly all barns near road or farmstead. These latter can be used for storage of vehicles or equipment. For out-barns, things are different; approachable only by path, track, or simply over rough ground, their only use is for sheep to find occasional shelter. Such minimal use does not justify the cost to struggling farmers of re-roofing and other repair. Decay in roof timbers quickly leads to slippage of roofing slabs. Ingress of water in turn hastens decay by seeping into walls, leading to splits and cracks.

The watercolours are the result of an effort, on long walks over field and fell, to record what is left of our ancient barns. As well as being essentially accurate depictions of their state, they are also affected by a sadness at seeing them so, particularly in the light of their landscape importance. Almost every walk in the area is enlivened by the sight of an out-barn, built in the local stone by the superb craftsmen who lived in our villages in times past.

As things are, nearly all these barns will have disappeared within 20 years. Farming will not get easier, and neither local authorities nor the Forest of Bowland AONB have any plan to save them. The landscape and tourism importance of field barns is better recognised in the Dales National Park, which has funded repair work on more environmentally significant barns.

Yet out-barns could be used for a variety of purposes other than farming, and farming itself looks likely to have to change. One or two could be bunk barns. Others, where connection to power and B4RN are possibilities, could be studios or workshops, provided their users were content with limited vehicle access. A critical requirement is a more flexible approach by planning authorities to proposals to give new purposes to these buildings.

Who will take up the challenge? Who will act to save them?

Peter Osborne, 2019


Map numbers correspond to image numbers. Click a number for a more detailed interactive map of each barn location..

The Barns

Copyright © Peter Osborne 2019

Click any image to enlarge; you can then click right or left through the enlargements, with captions below.