|From Ron Green and Tony Millatt, Mersea Museum
There were over twenty farms on Mersea, and pretty well every farm of any significance had a large wooden barn, most of a similar design. Their main purpose was for storing the harvest which would have been in sheaves stored in the wings. They often had an aisle across the centre of the barn, with large doors at either end of it, and a solid floor. Threshing was done by flail and with the doors open, the wind would blow the chaff out. Later, the threshing machine took over - the drum would be placed in the middle and the steam engine stood out in the yard driving the drum by a belt. The straw would be deposited in the stock yard behind. The arrival of the combine harvester after World War 2 changed it all, and the threshing machine is now a thing of the past.
I believe only one West Mersea barn survives and that is at Mortimers near The Fox. The barn at Barrow Farm is still there, but much changed and now a residence.
By far the largest of the old Mersea barns was at West Mersea Hall and is well remembered as the Hall Barn function venue, club and restaurant. I worked on it during the conversion in the 1950s. There was a period when some well known jazz bands performed there and I saw Humphrey Lyttelton and Aker Bilk's band there. Kenny Ball's band was another. I was amused to overhear Bernard Cudmore and Aker chatting at the bar and compare the Somerset accent with the Mersea. The barn has since been replaced by the Hall Barn complex.
There was a good barn at Garden Farm on East Road, at one time used by the Dramatic Club to store their scenery and later by Miss Catchpole with her horses. This barn was demolished to make room for the Elmwood Drive development. The barn at Cross Farm was also demolished to make room for houses. The one at Brierley Hall suffered storm damage and has since been replaced by a new building. Waldegraves barn was taken down bit by bit and has now completely gone. There was one known as West Barn which also belonged to Waldegraves and stood near Workhouse Cottages on the track to Rewsalls and has now gone. Weathercock barn is long gone and I'm not sure if Bower Hall's survives. I think not. There is no survivor at Wellhouse.
Broman's barn at East Mersea survives, as do barns at Reeves Hall and Rewsalls, and the one at North Farm is now residential. I helped on stripping the thatch from Reeves Hall barn and replacing it with corrugated iron when working for Clifford White in 1949. Some years later my wife did the catering for a wedding there. It was in May but a horrible wet cold day. After we cleared away Wendy suggested we went to Colchester for a meal and to warm up. I foolishly sat with my back to a radiator and passed out briefly. It was suggested I was given a brandy but a doctor who was also eating there said water, so I didn't get my brandy.
Finally, just over The Strood, the old Bonners Barn was demolished by the terrible storm of 1987 and still lays in a heap as it fell.
West Barn about 1965
Hall Barn being demolished in 1986
Published in Mersea Life November 2022