Bank barns are especially common in the upland areas of Britain, in Northumberland and Cumbria in northern England and in Devon in the south-west.
The origins of bank barns in the UK are obscure. The bank barn had made its first appearance in Cumbria by the 1660s on the farms of wealthy farmers: here farmers bought drove cattle from Scotland and fattened them over winter before selling them in spring. The great majority of bank barns were built in Cumbria between 1750 and 1860, and the last were built just before the first world war.
Usually stone built, British bank barns are rectangular buildings. They usually have a central threshing area with hay or corn (cereal) storage bays on either side on the upper floor; and byres, stables, cart-shed or other rooms below. The threshing barn on the upper floor was entered by double doors in the long wall approached from a raised bank: these banks could be artificially created. Opposite the main doors was a small winnowing door which opened high above the farmyard level. A common arrangement had an open-fronted single bay cart-shed below the threshing floor, with stables on one side and a cow-house on the other. The entrances to these lower floor rooms were protected from above in many cases by a continuous canopy or pentise carried on timber or stone beams which are cantilevered from the main wall. Brick-built bank barns are less common.
As well as the true bank barns that occur in a small concentration in Devon, a variation on the bank barn is also found in Devon and Cornwall where the upper floor is accessed by external stone steps rather than the hillside or a ramp.
The gallery is fully accessible to visitors with disabilities via an external ramp for wheelchairs and those who find difficulties with steps. We ensure that there is sufficient space between displays for easy movement of wheelchairs. Access to toilet facilities also takes the disabled visitor into account.