By Carle Weatherall

The Great Barn at East Riddlesden Hall is one of the most impressive in the North of England.

It is largely unchanged since it was rebuilt in the 1600s by James Murgatroyd. It was probably used as a store for corn and hay, and to house livestock. Along with the Airedale Barn (now used to host our weddings) close by, it is a powerful reminder that East Riddlesden Hall was once an important agricultural estate.

The Great Barn’s magnificent oak roof structure rises from aisle posts to cover a vast area – 120ft in length by 40ft wide.

Also on an heroic scale are the two great sets of cart entrances, which both still feature the original barn doors and would have allowed a pair of oxen drawing a fully loaded wagon into the barn.

Between the entrances run stone-flagged floors. These came into use in the winter, when the crops harvested during the summer were beaten against them.

This ‘threshing’ separated the grain from the inedible husks and straw. After threshing, draughts of air were directed through the entrances to blow this chaff away, leaving the grain.

The low pitch of the Great Barn’s roof allowed for the stalls to house cattle during the winter.

Fattened on the East Riddlesden Hall estate between 1825-1830 was the famous ‘Airedale Heifer’.

This prize-winning young cow (owned by William Slingsby, a tenant farmer at the hall) weighed 188 stone and measured 11ft long from nose to tail.

East Riddlesden’s dairy herd provided milk, cream, cheese and meat for the Hall. These, in addition to the grain, chickens’ eggs, local game and fish, would have allowed the families living here to be largely self-sufficient.

The Great Barn is free to visit during our normal opening times, and makes for a nice afternoon out when combined with wildlife spotting on our Riverside Walk and a visit to our cosy tearoom.

East Riddlesden Hall is currently open at weekends between 10.30am and 4.30pm, and from March 22 will be open between Saturdays and Wednesdays, from 10.30am until 4.30pm.