Spotlight On…Barley Town House

IMG_0191bThe Town House at Barley is a beautiful building and has been a feature in the village for more than 500 years. Built in 1526, it is thought to have replaced a similar building which had already existed for four hundred years.

In 1609 a court session in Buntingford resulted in the jury deciding that the Town House was to be used “for the poor inhabitants. for their marriages, to collect and cause by meeting, the gifts of the charitable people to be obtained towards the help and relief of the poor inhabitants within the said town and also concerning assessing taxation and contributions of fifteenths, subsidies etc., provision for, preparation of books and ornaments for the said church and for the assemblies for that charge, for the due keeping of the town armour, and for the nightly and other due watch to be observed, and also for the school house”

In 1638 the charities commission indicated that the Town House served as a home for spinsters.

In 1726 Daniel DeFoe wrote a book on his Tours of Britain. In his description of the Town House he wrote: upstairs there is a large room for entertainment feasting and merriment; a small room to the side for the preparation of food with a spit, large cauldron and dripping pan; a room at the end of the main room which contained a bride bed and good linen, for the couple to spend their first night to consummate their wedding!

The building served as the village school as well as housing the poor and in 1853 there were 36 people living there.

By the end of the eighteen hundreds the building was becoming unsuitable to continue to be used as a school and a proposal was put forward to knock down the town house and replace it with a

Copyright Chris Allen
Copyright Chris Allen

new school building. Luckily the proposal was rejected and the current school building was opened in 1895.

The church connection with the building and its history has continued until very recently when the Rector, Canon Locket, an architect prior to entering the Church, was responsible for the last refurbishment of the ground floor or Undercroft in 1980-81. The work of a dedicated band of village people augmented that of the builders in a transformation of a derelict ground floor into the comfortable rooms that are to be seen today.

Since 1996, when the Town House became the first village hall to be licensed to hold civil marriages, many couples have celebrated their nuptials in this lovely building.

Today the Town House is a focus of the village with many local groups and societies using it as their base.

For more fascinating information about the beautiful village of Barley visit