Barrs Court is situated in the county of South Gloucestershire in the south west of England. The site which has been designated as an ancient monument consist of approximately two acres of land , eighty percent of which is surrounded by a quite well preserved Moat.The Moat was within Kingswood chase, a royal hunting preserve and the sucessor to the much larger Forest of Kingswood, deforested in 1228.
Water filled moats were a common settlement feature of wooded areas in medieval England. The Moat is now the only visible reminder of the area's early history.
Little is known of the early history of Barr's Court Moat. Moats of this type were usually created around the 13th and 14th centuries and early documentation dating back to 1340 gives reference to the Barrs Court Moat.
The name comes from Sir John and Lady Jane Barre who owned the land in the mid 15th century.In the 16th century the Newton family enlarged Barrs Court and built a large mansion in the centre of the moat field, which stood there until around 1750.
One corner of the moat was in-filled when the farm was created following the demolition of the mansion, from what was originally the outbuildings of the original mansion house. One of these original outbuildings, the large cruciform barn was in the late 1980's converted into a public house, known now as The Barrs Court.
Barrs Court Moat is situated 6 kilometres E.S.E. of the city centre of Bristol and lies in gently sloping terrain facing southeast towards Oldland.
Barrs Court mansion would have been an excellent example of a large middle to late medieval house. It would have consisted of a large house, with courtyards, stables, orchard and gardens, surrounded on four sides by the moat, now the only serving relic.The moat would have been constructed more as a showpiece than for defence; prestige was important to the wealthy of that period.
The four internal banks of Barrs Court moat are constructed with a retaining wall. Much of this still remains on site, but parts have been damaged over the years, with the eastern portion of the moat wall being destroyed during construction of the nearby large farmhouse during the seventeenth century. The original walls can still be viewed along the western length of the moat, with the best viewpoint being from the small weir and plank bridge area.
Barr's Court Moat remains as the single most important medieval relic of the old Kingswood Chase.
Water originally drained out of the moat to the South East side, beneath the raised railed walkway alongside the widest section of the waterway, passing immediately through two fish ponds, each with a small dam across to retain the water. This whole area has now been developed with Pressmore Drive and Stephens Drive covering the sites. Portions of these dams and earthworks survived until 1978. To the North of the fishpond was a field formerly called "The Connigre" (Rabbit Warren) which was mentioned in the 1444 survey of East Hanham. This survey also mentions at Barrs Court a "columbrac" or pigeonhouse, whilst in a letter of 1728 a round pigeonhouse and a tame pigeon house are mentioned. An unusual feature of the much larger Barrs Court estate was coal mining, which according to correspondence in the Gloucester records office was being carried out within the park walls during the 1720's and 30's.
Early manuscripts reveal a few brief details of the early manor house, describing it as being enclosed with a high wall all around the park. There were niches all around the outside of the house, filled with colossal leaden statues a large and lofty entrance hall showing the Newton arms, the hall was richly carved and gilt, particularly the fireplace, the shelf of which was supported by two large figures in wood. The hall was paved with black and white marble squares, there was a music gallery at one end leading off to the chapel. The house itself was square with square stone mullioned windows, with gothic heads and labels. There was also a drawbridge. The porters lodge had a large gateway and a smaller one, with images about it and text from the scriptures, one of which was recovered and set up in the chantery isle at Bitton church. The weather vane was a figure representing the Newton crest viz, a Moorish king on his knee, delivering up his sword.
A series of letters in the Gloucester record office refer to repairs being carried out in the 1720's and 30's, as well as the chapel and great hall, the letters mention the "long parlour" , the "green room","my lady's room", "the wardrobe". On the outside of the building there were a pair of turrets with gilded vanes. This final feature suggests that the layout of the house did resemble that of nearby "Siston Court" (see photographs below) which consists of three wings aranged around a deep forecourt with turrets in the internal angles. Reference is also made to gates going out to the drawbridge and the garden walk.
Barrs Court mansion and its moat lay in the centre of a park covering approximately 95 acres, which seems to have been created at a late date, being described as "New Made" in a title deed of 1661. The kidney shaped outline of this enclosure was until recently still traceable on the ground.
The last of the Newton family was Sir John who died in 1661. Having no children he chose to leave his entire estate to an unrelated Sir John Newton of Hador in Lincolnshire, who later bought the manors of Oldland and Bitton becoming one of the wealthiest and powerful of the local landowners.
Barrs Court Mansion has now vanished without trace. A cruciform barn, now converted into a public house, dating back to around 1540 remains, along with various ruins from the later farm premises which itself replaced the manor house in the mid 18th century.