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A huge medieval barn in west London ranked equal with the Houses of Parliament and Westmister Abbey for historical value has been saved for the nation from woodworm, or worse.

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English Heritage has stepped in to buy the ‘Cathedral of Middlesex’ for £20,000, after it was deemed at risk after years of neglect.

Harmondswoth Barn, in Hillingdon, near Heathrow Airport, was built in 1426 to store grain for Winchester College.

At almost 60 metres long and 12 metres wide, the space recalls that of a large Cathedral’s nave. Meanwhile, the roof is supported by 13 large oak trusses that echo the vaulting in high church buildings.

The similarity between Harmondsworth Barn and ecclesiastical buildings certainly struck the late Port Laureate John Betjeman – who gave its poetical soubriquet.

Largely unchanged since going up in the early years of Henry VI, Harmondsworth Barn fell into the hands of offshore property speculators in 2006.

Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: “Harmondsworth Barn is one of the greatest medieval buildings in Britain, built by the same skilled carpenters who worked on our magnificent medieval cathedrals.

“Its rescue is at the heart of what English Heritage does - protecting this nation’s architectural treasures and helping people discover our national story through them. We will complete the repair of this masterpiece and working with local people, will open it to the public to enjoy.”

The purchase marks a victory for the Friends of the Great Barn at Harmondsworth.

Local MP and founding Friends member, John McDonnell MP, said: “Six years ago I convened a meeting of local residents to found the Friends group to save this beautiful barn and I want to pay tribute to their hard work in securing this jewel in the crown of our local heritage.

“Thanks to this dedicated band of local people and the commitment and professionalism of the staff of English Heritage I am now overjoyed that we have secured this wonderful building for future generations.”

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