In April 2017 Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by West Waddy ADP on behalf of the Winterbourne Medieval Barn Trust to undertake archaeological investigations in the grounds surrounding the medieval Court Farm Barn. Geophysical survey had suggested the presence of a moat ditch. Three trenches to the south of the barn were located to target this anomaly, with a fourth trench positioned closer to the barn to investigate any related structures. Three test pits were also hand-excavated to the north of the barn to investigate standing wall footings and related stratigraphy.
The medieval settlement of Winterbourne Court was originally centred on the Church of St Michael (called St Mary’s until 1770), with its 12th-century chancel. Early medieval cist burials were uncovered during the widening of Church Lane in 1905, whilst Winterbourne Court, located in close proximity to the church and believed to be the site of the medieval manor house, was destroyed by fire in 1883.
Court Farm Barn, more commonly known as Winterbourne Medieval Barn, lies immediately south of the church. A tree-ring survey of roof timbers was undertaken in the 1990s which dated the roof to AD 1342. The barn was originally part of the medieval Court and survives remarkably well, with around two thirds of the original superstructure still intact and its cruck roof virtually complete. The western third of the barn was rebuilt in the late 18th−early 19th century, but retained part of the original southern and west walls. The main eastern part of the barn has a flagstone floor which appears to cover the whole floor area. Its internal measurements of 143 feet (original length) by 25 feet wide can be compared with the great barn at Bradford on Avon which measures 167 by 30 feet internally. It was clearly a very important building, possibly the only medieval barn in the former Northavon district and it is certainly the only known barn of this size.
The three trenches excavated south of the barn, contained no evidence for the suggested moat ditch. Instead, undisturbed early medieval soils were revealed, which had been cut by a small drainage ditch and a larger boundary ditch. These are likely to date to the later medieval or early post-medieval date. The trench closest to the barn (Trench 1) revealed another drainage ditch containing 12th- to 14th-century pottery, including Ham Green Ware and a single sherd of Redcliffe Ware, suggesting this ditch was likely to have been contemporary with the building of the Barn. The ditch was later replaced by a series of 18th- and 19th-century stone-lined drains.
To the north of the barn, one test pit (TP 1) was located against a standing 19th-century boundary wall. It revealed levelling deposits for a 19th-century cow byre, of which only the later concrete floor and stone edging blocks remained. The presence of a mortared stone-rubble post pad, suggests that the cow barn had originally been open fronted. The remaining two test pits investigated the soil stratigraphy below a 20th-century concrete-block stable wall, situated just in front of the barn. These pits revealed a stone-rubble layer over intact post medieval soils, the stone-rubble probably originated from alterations being made to the barn superstructure in the later 18th and early 19th centuries.
Whilst no evidence for a moat was revealed, the presence of medieval soils, an early drainage ditch contemporary with the barn and intact post-medieval soils to the north, all help to improve our understanding of this rare structure and its surrounding landscape.