Fair Follows Form Follows Function
London born Yorkshire raised Ben Hart knows his stone barns. He is house manager of Oughtershaw Hall and lives a kilometre or two up the road at Swarthghyll Farm. Something of a multitasker, Ben not only manages Oughtershaw but also farms and runs a bunkbeds barn, self catering holiday flat and studio at Swarthghyll. He is also an expert at dry stone walling: his current project is building a stone path and bridge along Oughtershaw Beck, a subsidiary of the River Wharfe, for visitors to Oughtershaw Hall to enjoy.
So who better to quiz about the ubiquitous stone barns that dot the Yorkshire Dales landscape? There are two distinct features to their appearance. Firstly, most of the barns have a long extended sloping roof covering part of them. Secondly, they have stones conspicuously jutting out of the walls at regular intervals. These are functional buildings so there must be a reason for such features.
Over to Ben, “These barns were built mainly for storing hay. Farmers would bring square bales of hay by horse and cart and stack them up inside the barns. Sick animals would sometimes be cared for in the barns too. There’s a simple reason for the long sloping roofs: they provide better runoff from rain and snow than shorter roofs. The stones that stick out are called ‘through stones’. Before cement, lime mortar was used which moves, allowing moisture in and out. It’s almost like having dry stone. Through stones create stability to the walls and when used with quoins ‘lock’ the building together. Throughs are often used around doorways and the corners of barns to strengthen them.”