The Barns: Home. Somerset.

The Barns, Home, Somerset, UK.

Let me tell you a story first. A short one. Story of a miracle. In 1980 when my second husband and I were homeless, and burdened like Mother Hubbard with too many children (4). The youngest was 3, the oldest 14 we had resigned ourselves to moving sleeping corpses every night and bought a two bed-roomed farm cottage for the six of us.  As we were moving in, a man in a cloth cap stood at the door, removed his cap and said

“Wouldn’t you rather live in my barns? At the back?”
I said “Your barns were the reason for settling on this cottage. I hoped the children could get out of the rain at least.”
“I’ll sell to you.” he said
“We could never afford them.”
“I’ll make it possible” he said. He did. He asked for a third of their value. Even to find that we needed to sell the cottage. He waited eighteen months until we did. No agreement had been put in writing. He was offered four times what he had asked by more than one developer with the response ‘They are sold. I’ll take no offer. My word is my bond.’

The cow standing intended garden)

We then sold the cottage we had never wanted and moved in with a pick-axe and a sledge hammer. This is what they looked like. The largest was full of vintage car parts, and what was left after the Morris Oxford wipers, the copper headlamps and a Delage chassis were auctioned off was a pile of wood, oak panelling and beams, maple tongue and groove, pine floorboards. I bid a pound. They stretched to fitted kitchen, lintels, bathroom and floors.

We slept with the swallows.

The Courtyard, as was. Milk-churn stand in foreground.


In 1981 I began the conversion  to provide us with a home and the intention to offer them to small arts groups for music rehearsal and performance, painting groups, drama productions and in the hope writing groups would meet for mutual support. (How could four barns be just for us?)

Unfortunately little of that happened. In those days groups did not fancy self catering and I did not fancy cooking, wheeling trolleys, or dish-washing.

Delage in foreground. Caravans for the girls

We did have some conducting courses, and wonderful chamber music concerts for a few loyal supporters but never enough to pay musicians for the intense work chamber music requires. Just to remember them and give good friends an idea here are some photographs.

John with Scythe Barns Original
Schoolmaster learns new skills!                                                                                                                The garden to be, nettles and bindweed.


Here is what it became. For the end of the story see below.

Our house, my study above, veranda below. In summer the smell of roses.
Hedleys Hay, named after benefactor


Sitting room. The roof truss is a traditional medieval support for a single hipped roof, and the king-post was turned by the tin-legged carpenter who made the whole.


Original milking shed

Interior cowshed. Marble looking floor tiles were special concrete with black and white cement.Windows salvaged from a Methodist chapel

The Gallery and Concert Hall
Garden from kitchen terrace
Hedley’s Hay Fireplace and gallery above
Hedley’s Hay with oak screen and self made chandeliers!

To complete the story…years later I sought and found the man who had gifted these.I discovered him and asked what made him knock at our door that day. He looked a little sheepish and said ” I heard a violin playing, and I must admit I sneaked up to your cottage and saw a small angel playing. A tiny child about 5 or 6. Then I decided you were the family who should have them”

When that tiny child gave her first concerts leading a string quartet, he was dead but his widow came to all of them! His name was Hedley Haynes. They had no children of their own!


These have been shared here since my original site URL was ‘purloined’ and is now being offered for sale! Wanted to preserve the record.

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