Great House Barn stands next to the information centre at Great House Farmhouse at Rivington Country Park. The earliest parts of the barn are the two cruck frames which date from the 1600s. The building was originally used to store food for livestock and shelter cattle in the winter but now is a very popular cafe for visitors to the Rivington estate.
Construction of the Cruck Frame
On entering the barn, the oak cruck frames dominate the internal area and are in impressive condition for structures that are four hundred years old. A cruck consists of two long curved pieces of wood usually cut from the same tree so that they are symmetrical. The tree is sawn lengthways down the middle over a pit, a two-person job, using a long saw with a handle at each end.
The next stage in the process is to lay the crucks on the ground so that joints can be cut into them. These are used to fix together the two sides of the cruck using tie beams. The crucks would then be raised up using pulleys and ropes, and the barn would have been built around them. Wooden pegs would hold the timber together, metal being too expensive to use for nails.
The visitor today will be struck by the huge padstones that the wooden crucks stand on. These have a number of functions: they stop the timber drawing moisture from the floor and rotting, they raise the height of the crucks and so the overall storage capacity of the barn and, being so large, they are not moved if cattle lean against them.
The barn has a date stone on the front side with “A TAR 1702” engraved into it. This stands for Thomas, Alice and Robert Anderton and was probably added when the barn was extended or renovated. The Anderton family were landowners at Rivington. Their residence known as Ladyhall was demolished and the site lies underneath Rivington Upper Reservoir. A later residence, Anderton Hall (also known as Stoners) was knocked down in 1930 and the Anderton Centre, an outdoor pursuits venue, now occupies the estate where it was.
William Lever’s Changes
In 1900, William Lever (who later became Lord Leverhulme) bought the Rivington Hall estate. He wanted very much to open up part of it to the public as a park and, in 1902, work began to make 400 acres accessible to all. Two years later the park opened, and work to improve the site would continue for the next seven years, all paid for by Lever.
In 1905, architect Jonathan Simpson got to work on Great Hall Barn. He took out one set of crucks, reducing the barn to three bays in length. Oak timbers were used in the restoration of the remaining crucks, and traditional hand tools and wooden pegs were used to make the work in keeping with the original. The animal stalls were removed, and aisles were added to widen the building.
The roof was extended to cover the aisles, but was brought down to a low level, giving the barn its unusual very steep pitch at either side. The roof was re-laid with stone flags and the outer walls were rebuilt in squared sandstone blocks. A Tudor-style porch was added at the entrance way.
Both Great House Barn and the larger nearby Rivington Hall Barn (which dates from a similar time) were opened to the public to sell refreshments to the visitors.
During the Second World War, the Rivington Hall estate was taken over by the Ministry of Food. Great House Barn was used to store rationed sugar. After the war, William and Rhoda Salmon paid for the renovation of Rivington Hall and the barns, all of which had become derelict. Great House Barn was reopened as a tearoom in 1953 by the Salmons.
In 1983, the barn was in need of repair. The timber work was restored, new windows installed, and the interior plasterwork cleaned and the building rewired. A new car park was created in front of the building and trees were planted around it. This was done at some expense and funding came from Lancashire and Greater Manchester County Councils, North-West Water, the North-West Tourist Board and the Countryside Commission. The building was reopened as a visitor centre.
Today, the Salmon family once again run the Great House Barn as a cafe. It is Grade II listed, is in excellent condition and provides welcome refreshment within Rivington Country Park. The role of visitor centre has been transferred to Great House Farmhouse next door. This fine1600s building features original stone mullion windows and hoodmoulds over the entrance ways. Inside is a wealth of booklets giving information of walking routes within the park, as well as lots of gifts to purchase.
Great House Barn Cafe is open every day 10am-4pm. There is a car park in front of the cafe.
Great House Farmhouse (now called Great House Information Centre) is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday (and Bank Holiday Monday) 10.30-4.30pm.
Leverhulme’s Rivington, M.D, Smith (1998) Wyre Publishing
The History of Rivington: The barns. Leaflet available from Great House Information Centre.
‘Townships: Rivington’, in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1911), pp. 286-294. British History Online
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