Dutch barn n. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Architecture) Brit a farm building consisting of a steel or wooden frame and a curved corrugated iron roof

A stand of barns, united under Red Oxide paint at Naunton Court Farm, Naunton Beauchamp

This post focuses on the ubiquitous corrugated iron structure know as a Dutch barn in the UK or a hay barrack in the US.

Early barn types in the UK, such as aisled barns, were primarily used for the processing and temporary storage of grain. Processing comprised of hand-threshing (or later, machine threshing) the grain before removal to a granary for more permanent storage.

The hay barn was developed in response to evolving farming practices, particularly the use of water-meadows, which had led to a marked increase in the amount of hay that was produced. Formerly small amounts of hay had been stored in haylofts over a cow shed or stables, or in haystacks. However, haystacks were prone to spoiling in the rain, especially after the stack has been ‘opened’ for consumption.

Different types of hay barns evolved, over time they came to share certain common characteristics, ie. they would generally have a roof but no walls.

Dutch barns, as they became to be called, were often constructed with a rounded or arched corrugated iron roof and with metal uprights, although frequently, telegraph poles are also used.

Due to their ease of construction these open framework barns are often considered temporary with their existence determined by the life of the pole uprights or the corrugated iron roof.

A classic Dutch barn, seen close to The Peddler’s Way, Castle Acre, Norfolk

Despite being essentially temporary structures (often having just a 20-50 year lifespan) Dutch barns remain a very common feature across the country, so common in fact that they almost merge into the landscape and are passed unnoticed. Which is a shame, as they have an austere simplicity and functionality about them that’s worthy of pausing and looking at for a moment. Also as the structures weather and decay they become fascinating architectural statements in their own right, as hopefully the following images show…

The skeletal remains of a Dutch barn marooned in arable fields near Honington, Warwickshire


A slurry pond reflecting the bare structure of a roofless Dutch barn near Wargrove, Wokingham


Rusting, but otherwise essentially intact, a Dutch barn near Romsley, Shropshire


In business, a Dutch barn is use to protect straw bales from the worst of the weather…

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