History of Tithe Barn

The Tithe Barn is thought to originate from 1480. There was a hamlet of 28 subsistence farmers recorded in the area in Doomsday Book of 1086.  

As early as the 14th century the community was large enough to need a church and Holy Trinity was built. The Tithe Barn adjoins the Church on one of the highest points of ground, overlooking the flat and boggy surrounding moors.

Medieval Middle Ages

Tithes were a payment in kind (one-tenth of the produce of a land holding, paid to support the local rector) until the system was changed to a monetary payment, under the Tithe Commutation Act 1836.  

Coal mining flourished locally for some 400 years. Documents report that in 1507 Nailsea coal was being sold in nearby Yatton for the firing of lime kilns. The early shallow bell pits were replaced in the mid nineteenth century with deep mines.


The availability of good coal supplies attracted glass making to Nailsea. By the 1850s Nailsea boasted the fourth largest glass works in England. The fine work of skilled glass blowers resulted in a style which developed an international reputation as 'Nailsea' glass. Established in 1788 it operated until 1873 when it ceased production. Coal mining in Nailsea ceased in 1882.  

Hannah and Martha More first visited Nailsea in 1791 and were shocked by the level of poverty, depravity and lack of education they encountered amongst the industrial workers. They persuaded the Church to provide housing for a schoolmaster and mistress of their choosing, as well as additional space for their Sunday School. The house was thought to be Glebe Cottage, next to the Nailsea Tithe Barn which was also extended in its use as a school for the education of the children of the working class.

Early 20th Century

The school was still operating as Nailsea Parochial School in the 1900s. In 1923 it became the local Secondary School, often called Old Church, until Backwell Secondary Modern was built in 1953 and children were bused there. However, it retained an infant class alongside the Secondary School pupils so that the youngest children did not have to walk far to the other schools in the vicinity.

World War II

A class of children from London were evacuated to Nailsea during the war. They alternated lessons mornings and afternoons with the local pupils. Many former pupils have recorded their memories of how hard life was in the war and immediate post-war period.


The class of '53 were the last Secondary School pupils. In 1963 the Tithe Barn became Hannah More Infant School. However, in 1972 the new Hannah More Infant School opened and the Barn became an annexe to Grove Junior School. It continued until 1985. It then became the Grove Day Centre run by Social Services for people with learning disabilities until it closed in 1998. A campaign to save the Tithe Barn from developers started in 1999.