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The Parsons Barn

The original Parsons’ Barn was built in 1763 by the local farmer and landowner Christopher Parsons.

Frobisher Way, Shoeburyness, Southend-on-Sea, SS3 8UT
This grade II listed building is in what was the ancient hamlet of North Shoebury. It was not until 1933 that North Shoebury was officially united with South Shoebury to form Shoeburyness and incoporated into the Borough of Southend. North Shoebury was still a rural area in 1980. Following much public debate, an ASDA ‘superstore’ was built in 1981. Two years later, the lone survivor of the old farm buildings was converted into a public house named Parsons Barn and the surrounding farmland covered by new housing.

Text about the origins and history of The Parson’s Barn.

The text reads: In the year of Our Lord 1763 James Bowis, carpenter, was commissioned by one Thomas Drew, agent for Christopher Parsons Esquire, to build a barn on that gentleman’s estate at North Shoebury. The fee was set at £57, to be paid on completion; “and if the barn be well finished, Mr Drew to give Mr Bowis £1-11-6d more”. This fee included the sum of one pound for the taking down of the site’s existing barn, which dated from the fifteenth century, and the selling of its timbers for laths.

The new barn was to be built in three parts: the first and main part for the storage of hay and straw, to measure 70 foot long and 22 foot wide; the second part, the granary, to measure 20 foot long and 10 foot wide; and the third part, the porch, to be 15 foot wide and to project 12 foot out from the main part.

For the timber, Bowis was assigned certain growing trees which he was required to fell, cut, hew and saw within the month of November, thereafter seasoning the finished planks for two full months. The barn was then to be completed by Midsummer’s Day – save only the bricklaying. If any materials from the earlier barn were incorporated, they were only to be those specifically marked by Mr Parsons.

The site chosen lay just to the north of the parish church of St Mary, itself adjoined by the farmyard of North Shoebury Hall (Called ‘Essoberia in the Domesday Book where it is recorded as having wood sufficient for a dozen swine and pasture for a hundred sheep).

Within the church stand the tombs of many of Christopher ‘Parsons’ forbears and descendants, for this was his family’s burying place for the most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He himself was laid to rest in the chancel when he died in 1787, aged 88 (and so the man who gave the barn its name still lies within a furlong of it).

With the agreement for the new barn signed by Drew and witnessed by Parsons and another, the carpenter and his mates set to work taking down the old barn, sorting and laying up the materials as agreed. They set the new foundations in the ground; they prepared the timber; and then, through the spring and early summer they erected the structure, assembling the posts (measuring eight inches by nine), the colls (measuring seven inches by eight), the massive beams (measuring a full eight inches by twelve), the plates, gists, rafters and studs exactly as directed.

At each end of the barn were hung pairs of great doors, sufficient in height to allow a laden wain to pass beneath their lintel.

The joints were all morticed and pinned in a good and workmanlike manner and to the framing, weatherboarding was affixed, each board being nine inches wide and nailed so as to overlap that beneath it by two inches.

By the appointed date, Parsons’ Barn was complete; though it would seem that Mr Parsons was not easily parted from his money, for Bowis did not receive payment until May of the year following.

For some two centuries, Parsons’ Barn fulfilled the purpose for which it was built – storing the corn, the straw and the hay harvested from the surrounding fields. But then, as the village of Thorpe Bay expanded to encompass those fields, it was increasingly neglected and fell into a sad state of decay.

Its end might have been near, save for the fact that, on 23 December 1982, the freehold was purchased by Clifton Inns Limited, a company dedicated to the revival of traditional public houses. In consequences of their efforts, on 6 December, 1983, Parsons’ Barn was wholly restored and refurbished, ready to open its doors as one of the finest taverns in the country.

Photographs and text about Arthur Hopcraft.

The text reads: Arthur Hopcraft (born in Shoeburyness, Essex) was an English scriptwriter, well known for his TV plays such as The Nearly Man, and for his small-screen adaptations such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Hard Times, Bleak House and Rebecca.
Before taking up writing for TV he was a sports journalist for The Guardian and The Observer, writing The Football Man: People and Passions in Soccer. He also had four other books published, including an autobiographical account of his childhood, and wrote the screenplay for the film Hostage. Hopcraft won the Bafta writer’s award in 1985.

Photographs and text about Godfrey Rampling – Great Britain’s oldest Olympian.

The text reads: Godfrey Rampling spent 29 years as an officer in the Royal Artillery. When he died, in 2009, aged 100, he was Great Britain’s oldest Olympian.

In 1932 Rampling anchored the 4x400 metres relay team to the silver medal at The Los Angeles Games. Four years later, he helped the team win gold in Berlin. He narrowly missed out in individual honours at both Olympics.

Much of his training was at Shoeburyness. It was in Shoeburyness that he announced his retirement from athletics, in September 1936.

His daughter is the actress Charlotte Rampling.

A photograph and text about Christopher Parsons’.

The text reads: Parsons’ Barn was built in 1763 by the local farmer and landowner Christopher Parsons, who paid the builders £57, including £1 to take down the old barn on the same site. The Barn was part of the farm attached to North Shoebury Hall to the west.

The Parsons’ were an important local family for many generations. Christopher’s father, also a farmer named Christopher Parsons, was an Overseer of the Poor and a Churchwarden. He died in 1713.

At least the sixth and the last member of his family who bore that name was born in 1807. The twice-married “country gentleman”, Christopher Parsons farmed 600 acres and lived at North Shoebury Hall from 1842 until shortly before his death in 1882.

The sixth Parsons’ was also a botanist, ornithologist, meteorologist and entomologist and collected local natural plants and specimens. He is credited with discovering the first recorded native specimen of the ‘Essex Emerald’ moth.

A print and text about Henry Shrapnel – Shrapnel shell’s inventor.

The text reads: Shoeburyness was just the place for Henry Shrapnel, of the Royal Artillery, to try out his new explosive device. The Shrapnel shell was immediately adopted by the British Army and the government awarded him £1200 a year for life.

Henry Shrapnel rose to the rank of major-general and died in 1842. Meanwhile, the Army had been alerted to the idea of using the area as a permanent site for testing artillery.

A photograph entitled Shoeburyness Sunset II, by Gary Crouch.

A photograph of the parade and beach, Shoeburyness.

A photograph of West Road, Shoeburyness.

Christopher Parsons is credited with discovering the first recorded native specimen of the Essex Emerald moth.

External photograph of the building – main entrance.

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