Having spent seven years surfing what I’ve come to call the “underweb”, I’ll tell ya, it takes some pretty weird stuff to surprise me these days. But this? This restores my faith in the internet’s ability to never run out of obscure things to show me. Behold “Colin’s Barn”, an eccentric hobbit-like superstructure built in the 1980s by a farmer– to house his sheep. That’s right, a sheep fortress. It now lies abandoned in a field in the middle of nowhere (more accurately, Chedglow, England), and it is without a doubt the strangest thing I’ve come across in quite some time…
“Colin’s Barn” as it has come to be known, was originally gifted to the internet by the urban explorer’s community 28 Days Later all the way back in 2010. Since then, various media outlets have picked up on it, putting Chedglow in Wilstshire on the map. In fact, if you google Chedglow, the first result that appears is a link to Colin’s somewhat now ‘famous’ abandoned edifice (although Google maps won’t help you find it).
More of a labyrinthine fortress than a barn, well hidden in the fields of Wiltshire sheep country, one man alone built this two story house using mostly stone he found just lying around– and it took him 11 years.
Colin Stokes is the multi-talented sheep farmer who built this place and once owned this land, but gave it all up when a quarry opened nearby, threatening to disturb the peace. Stokes moved to Scotland in 2000 to start a new millenium in greener pastures, and the barn has since been abandoned, now inhabited only by birds, including owls, that found sanctuary in the dovecotes built by Mr. Stokes. Without its shepherd guarding the walls, you’d think after seventeen years this castle would have been in very bad shape, but in fact it’s still in relatively good condition according to documented urbex visits as recent as 2016.
During lambing season, Colin often slept in a room on the second floor, watching over his precious flock. The eccentric design was not planned, and Colin has confessed to British media that he “got a bit carried away”.
He says it grew organically, without drawing up any plans beforehand. Despite his modesty, there is some true artistry to be found inside the barn, including several stain-glass windows made by Colin himself, that represent all four seasons.
Since giving it all up, Stokes has only been back to visit, and I have a feeling it’s a bit of a touchy subject for the sheep farmer with hidden artisanal talents. Apparently he doesn’t actually like people calling it a “hobbit house”. And that would ordinarily where I would go back and edit the title of this article, but I just couldn’t part with the image of a little hobbit man emerging from the elaborate stone castle that is Colin’s sheep barn. Sorry Colin, and if it’s any consolation, I still think you’re one of those very special people that this mad world desperately needs.
Photography thanks to the urbex explorers on 28 Days Later: Pseudo, Palisade, Weeble, Thumper and the original location finder, Clebby. And don’t think I didn’t notice those are all very good hobbit names.
And if you liked these, check out the other amazing eccentric homes from the Vault below ↓ (The Postman who built a Palace made of Pebbles is a personal favourite).