The Bishop’s Cleeve Tithe Barn is at the gateway to the original village, near Cheltenham’s famous racecourse under the edge of Cleeve Hill and the Cotswold escarpment. It was built in the 15th century as a Tithe Barn for the Bishop of Worcester opposite Cleeve Hall, then a summer residence of the Bishop. It was the first of its kind in England, and is constructed of Cotswold Stone with a Cotswold stone roof supported on an oak hammer beam roof structure.
At the end of the 19th Century the south end of the barn was destroyed by fire and cleared away but most of the original structure including the north end and central entrance remains. The Tithe Barn is now a Grade II Listed Building and an important part of the built heritage of Bishop's Cleeve.
In 1953 the Tithe Barn was transferred to the villagers and the Parish Council became the Custodial Trustees. A plain English interpretation of the of the trust deed can be seen here.
Following fundraising activities and with the aid of sponsorship from local business a programme of restoration of the exterior and improvements to the interior was carried out . The refurbished building was ceremonially opened in 1956 by the then Speaker of the House of Commons William S Morrison 1st Viscount Dunrossil, then conservative MP for Cirencester and Tewkesbury.
The conversion to a Village Hall provided a Main Hall on the first floor with a sprung Canadian Maple wood floor for dancing, which it was claimed could accommodate 150 couples or 200 seated - current fire regulations have now reduced this to 150) and on the ground floor rooms for a library, a doctors surgery and, where the bar is now, a NatWest Bank, though not called that then.
A Village Hall Charitable Trust was set up (Charity Commission number 301465) for which the current Volunteer Management Committee are the Trustees. When the charity was established, the building's Custodial Trustees devolved authority for the use, care and maintenance of the building to the volunteer management committee, the trustees of the Village Hall charity.
The Tithe Barn has been in popular use as a Village Hall since then and has been kept in good condition over the last 50 years. The committee are keenly aware of burgeoning legislation with respect to public buildings, the need for inclusive access and the need to provide the standard of facilities expected by the community in the 21st century. When the Barn was converted the population of Bishop's Cleeve had risen form 704 in 1876 (when one William Taylor was the Constable) to 4000 in 1950. We are now serving a community of 10,000, larger than that of Tewkesbury, the borough town.
Since then it has been the venue for numerous village clubs and societies and many many weddings and anniversaries. It has seen various arts, music, drama (the home of Cleeve Players for many years), and jazz events. The picture shows the current chair of trustees with his then girl friend and now wife and friends, at a jazz event in the 1960s!
Sorry, but here are no ghosts at the Barn except the memories of those who have used the Barn over the years, met their friends and enjoyed great events concerts plays opera parties dances receptions birthdays and all sorts of village get together.
The trustees have concluded a four phase extension and refurbishment project that maintains the historic outline of a tithe barn and has used an agricultural style to provide a lift, two new meeting rooms, two easy access lavatories, one with baby changing facility, and new bar with new cooled store room and a new kitchen off the main Hall .
For more photos of Bishop's Cleeve and the Tithe Barn see Mike Ralls' superb website 'Images of Bishop's Cleeve'
A brief history of Bishop's Cleeve can be found on a Brief History of Bishop's Cleeve
Thanks to Mrs Christine Wall (one time management committee member) for some of the later history of the Village Hall