by Jon Radojkovic
This is one of my favourite barns in our area of Grey County. Although it’s just north of the town of Durham on Highway 6, the barn is set well back from the road and not easily seen.
The front field of this barn that borders the highway is a nice one, flat and no stone fences, unlike the rest of the fields on the farm, all with stone fences. That’s because the stones were used to build this incredible 30 foot by 60 foot mostly granite stone barn.
There aren’t many barns made with stone around here, plenty of foundations, quite a few houses, some one-room schools, and the odd drive shed, or milk house.
Originally built during the 1860’s, the gable stone walls are 34 feet high with a bottom thickness of 30 inches tapering to 22 inches at the top. Although it’s free standing, a post and beam inner assembly adds support to the stone walls. And some of these timbers are massive.
There are two 30-foot swing beams running the width of the barn, at about 10 feet high, tying the two opposite walls together. Swing beams are typically wider in the middle, these being 22 inches thick, so that they could span a longer distance without a middle post for support. Without any posts in the floor area, the whole 30 foot by 60 foot space could have been accessed with horses and wagon.
The roof structure is set into the stone as there is no top plate timber. The 3inch by 8 inch sawn rafters are beautifully joined at the peak with mortises and tenons. At the bottom where the rafters rest on top of the stone wall, there are short pieces of timber embedded into the stone, to further support the rafters.
Every six feet in the stone walls are slits, called embrasures, about 2 feet high, narrow at the front and wider inside. Contrary to movie myths, these embrasures were not there to fire rifles against marauders, they were there as ventilation, for air to pass through and keep hay and grain dry inside.
Above the main doors leading to the threshing floor, are lovely shaped stones formed over a timber lintel, with a keystone in the middle. Above and below each of the embrasures are rough cut stone lintels and sills to support the opening.
Durham at that time was the last stopping place on a colonization road called the Garafraxa Road. North of the town the road became more of a two rut path and during the spring rains was impassable, while still containing many bogs during the drier months. Durham became an important town as every pioneer who came up that road in rough wagons pulled by oxen, needed to stop there. Hotels sprang up, and the most famous, the British Hotel was built on the north hill, above the Saugeen River, and it too was made of stone. The long three story stone structure was said to have been built by the same mason as this barn. It too has survived over 150 years, and is now the British Apartments.