Summers Place Auctions to sell the ultimate 3D Puzzle - St John's Barn

8/03/2021     Latest News, Expect the unexpected

Summers Place Auctions to sell the ultimate 3D Puzzle
- St John's Barn is expected to sell for a six figure sum

Images Courtesy of Tom Ames Photography 

Summers Place Auctions' Spring Sale includes a magnificent barn, which was built
within the original grounds of the Order of the Knights of St John Hospitallers in
Suffolk where they first based themselves in 1154. The original part of the thatched
roofed, wattle and daub clad oak framing of the building's core was constructed
between 1760 and 1780, but some of the oak timbers indicate that they had been
incorporated in an earlier building, which could well have been dating back to the
time when the farm was owned by Sir Thomas Gresham.

It is about 51 feet long and 20 feet wide and will be approximately 26 feet tall once
it has been rebuilt. In total the timbers weigh in the region of 20 tons. It comes with
its own legend, which is crucial as no two timbers are the same. If a barn hasn't
been taken down properly with every timber marked, it is virtually impossible to
assemble it again.

The vendor purchased the barn from the company he worked for in 2001 with a
view to have this as a retirement project. The company, specialising in selling
English barns all over the world, had bought it from the parents of the present
owner of St John's Manor, Battisford in 1985, John and Pat Knock, who wrote a
fascinating booklet on the history of the manor and its barn. This magnificent barn is
expected to sell for a six figure sum and the buyer will need to take into account
that the barn will need a suitable plot of land to be rebuilt.

Tudor Barn
Not only does this sale offer the rare chance to own an English barn, but one with a
fascinating history and the current owner as well as theprevious owners have spent
years researching its historyand that of the estate it came from.

Sir Thomas Gresham was instrumental in setting up the Royal Exchange under
Queen Elizabeth I and the building also included an oak frame made of wood from
his estate. The Royal Exchange celebrated its 450th anniversary in January to
commemorate the Queen's visit to Gresham's huge Bourse, which she then
proclaimed to be renamed 'The Royal Exchange'.

The Barn was built in the original grounds where a Preceptory was established in
1154 and by the mid 1300s the military arm of the Order had turned it into a
substantial fortification known as a Commandery. In the 1530s, during the
Reformation under Henry VIII, it was seized and confiscated.

It was a common practise during the early English framing periods (15thC - 18thC)
to incorporate timbers from earlier buildings and some of the timbers from this barn
show carpenters' earlier workings and thus it is thought highly likely that at least a
small percentage of those timbers date back to the Tudor period.

From a 2013 Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory report it could be deduced that
the wall timbers were converted from trees which showed signs of intense
management practise. This is consistent with evidence that Battisford and Ringshall
in the 14th to 18th Centuries comprised vast oak woodlands which would have been
actively managed. A 2015 Oxford University Radiocarbon analysis showed a 96%
certainty that the building was reconstructed between 1760 and 1780.
Knights of St John and the 16th and last Commander at Battisford, prior to the Reformation
was one William Tyrell. The interior of the barn can be seen to match the exterior of the
barn in situ - the two windows and the grey door opening being visible in both the interior
shot and the authenticated aerial photo of St John's Manor Barn taken by Skyviews on 16th
May 1985 (By courtesy of Skyviews Aerial Archives, Leeds, LS15 4JJ).

Further information
The Greshams:
Following the seizure of the Battisford Commandery by Henry VIII during the Reformation,
not much is known about what happened for the next few years. However records show
that in 1544 the estate was sold to Richard Gresham (1485- 1549), an important noble at
the Court of King Henry VIII. Richard's son Thomas, inherited the estate in 1549 and lived
through the years of the death of Henry VIII, the brief years of reign of Edward VI and
Queen Mary I, before becoming courtier to Elizabeth I who was crowned in 1558. After
re-introducing his family name at Royal Court, Thomas was shortly thereafter appointed
Royal Agent at Antwerp, Belgium, at a time when it was necessary for the English Crown to
raise money abroad. Seeing the vast wealth of both Venice and Antwerp originating from
the financial wizardry of those cities' merchants, Thomas then put into practice an idea his
father had had, namely that London should have its own Bourse. He acquired land along
Lombard Street and at Cornhill, where he built London's new Bourse. Thomas was given a
knighthood for his efforts, and like his father also became Lord Mayor of London. At his
death not many years later, he was said to have been the wealthiest noble in England. Sadly
his amazing building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London (1666).

Battisford Oak use to build the new Bourse:
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), Battisford was well-known for the quality
and abundance of its oak trees and so it was an easy choice in 1566 for Thomas to have his
proposed Bourse framed in oak, from his own woodlands. Records show that the huge oak
frames of this mighty building were framed at Battisford Tye (or Common) and thence
dismantled, taken by barge around the coast and up the river Thames, to the Port of
London, and thence transported to Cornhill to form the new Bourse. Completed in 1568 and
of faux stone & brick cladding over the mighty oak frames, it was said that " a more noblier
frame ne'er was built". In 1570, Thomas Gresham accompanied Elizabeth I around the huge
building, who proclaimed it be henceforth known as The Royal Exchange.

The Order of St John's Hospitallers:
The monastic order of the Knights Hospitaller was founded after the First Crusade by the
Blessed Gerard and confirmed by a Papal bull (or charter) from Pope Paschal II in 1113.
They established the first significant Hospitaller infirmary near the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre in Jerusalem and provided pilgrims with armed escorts for their journey, but
before long grew into a substantial force and they quickly became the most powerful

Christian group in the area.
With its increasing recognition and acceptance in England and Normandy, the Preceptory at
Battisford was established, probably on a nobleman's land in Battisford in 1154, according to
the records at the Order of St John's Hospitallers headquarters in St John's Gate,
Clerkenwell, London. One hundred and fifty six years later, in 1310, it was then chosen by
King Edward II (1284 - 1327) as a Commandery - a Manor under the control of a
Commander of an Order of Tyrell.

For more press information, images & interview requests, please contact
Silke Lohmann: or 07932 618754.
For further information on the auction, please visit or call 01403 331331.