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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Yew Tree Barn - Barn re-born

The new A590 bypass has made Yew Tree Barn at Low Newton safer and more pleasant to visit. On the downside, it's harder to find. Michaela Robinson-Tate makes the detour to discover an Aladdin's cave of architectural antiques, arts and crafts

Yew Tree Barn
Yew Tree Barn

When Clive Wilson first opened his architectural antiques business more than 20 years ago, it was in an ideal location to attract passing trade.
Yew Tree Barn at Low Newton faced on to the A590, the main road from the M6 to Barrow which has grown increasingly busy as time has gone by.
Over the years a wild boar statue which stands guard at the entrance to Yew Tree Barn has become a well-known landmark.
“If people weren’t coming here they were always passing so they would come back at another time,” says Clive’s wife Pamela. “They were always aware of us and we got known for having the wild boar.”
However, in April 2008, and after
a long campaign by beleaguered villagers, High and Low Newton were finally bypassed by a newly built section of
the A590.
Now, instead of the 15,000 or so vehicles that used to pass the doors of Yew Tree Barn each day, only a trickle of cars are driven on the stretch of road. Not surprisingly, it’s made a difference to the business with a loss of passing trade.
Perhaps more worryingly, without signs to guide them, even regular visitors have struggled to find Yew Tree Barn.
Pamela says: “We quite frequently get calls from people saying ‘Where are you, you’ve moved, you’re not where you used to be.’”
Of course Yew Tree Barn hasn’t moved, but drivers have been confused by the new road layout.
It’s now hoped that temporary RAC signs, which have been put up after much negotiation with the powers that be, and which Clive and Pamela have had to pay for, will help to ease the situation. Ultimately, they’re keen to have some more permanent signs of their own put
in place.
On the plus side, Clive, 61, and Pamela, 52, think the bypass is fantastic for villagers and also makes a visit much safer and more pleasant for their customers.
In fact, after passing them for years,
some visitors have called in for the first time because it’s now easier to pull off
the road.

Once customers do find their way to Yew Tree Barn, they’re often taken aback by its size. Clive started the business in 1986 when he used one end of the former agricultural barn to sell architectural antiques. He was one of the early comers to the reclamation scene which became increasingly popular as people sought a period look for their homes.
As Clive points out, architectural salvage is also very environmentally friendly: “We’re probably one of the longest established original green businesses because we re-use everything.”
Today, Yew Tree Barn has expanded greatly and is packed with more than 200 doors, old church pews, door knockers, chandeliers, doorknobs, period oak and pine furniture, fireplaces, oak beams, garden statuary and antiques and much else besides.
An architectural ironmongery department has hand-made iron hinges, door knobs, escutcheons and locks, made using original patterns.
“We do sell nationally and internationally and source from all over the place,” says Clive. “We’ve got a huge network in this country and abroad of architectural salvage companies who we draw upon for customers if they require.”
Clive also offers bespoke kitchen services and he’s diversified into garden design and build in conjunction with local architect Ben Cunliffe.
A few years ago he and Pamela opened The Gallery at Yew Tree Barn, which showcases contemporary art and design-led crafts, much of which is by local artists and makers. It’s a treasure trove of cards, paintings, prints, jewellery, ceramics and textiles. Many of the artists featured belong to Made in Cumbria.
Yew Tree Barn has also grown to accommodate designer makers who have their own studios on the ground floor.
A potter, photographer, jeweller and furniture restorer all have bases there.
Jeweller Jo Dix is well-known for the courses which she runs in Art Clay Silver, a product that can be modelled like Plasticine and once fired in a kiln ends up as pure silver. “I use it to make some of my own work and I teach people how to use it – it’s instant gratification for jewellers,” she says.
Jo has noticed a drop in footfall since the bypass opened, although she says it’s a much more pleasant environment for her and her colleagues and visitors.
“When they do come in they mention how nice it is,” she says. “It’s surprising how many people in the area don’t know how Yew Tree Barn has changed.
Photographer Ian Johnson captures Lake District and Scottish landscapes and is also a framer specialising in conservation framing.
He likes the combination of getting out on the fells to take pictures and then presenting the finished article and seeing someone come along and buy it.
Graham Glynn makes a wide range
of pottery and is known for his
distinctive cats.

By the time visitors have made their way round Yew Tree Barn they’re usually in need of a cuppa.Jane and Sam Clee are the faces behind the Hat Trick Café, so named because it’s the third café that they’ve run.
They’re known for their distinctive menu which includes the popular smoked fish chowder and hot sandwiches like asparagus spears rolled in turkey and topped with Swiss cheese.
Diners are surrounded by lovely old furniture while antique clocks tick away in the background, ensuring the café blends in well with the rest of Yew Tree Barn.
As Sam puts it: “We’ve not got modern furniture in here because it wouldn’t
look right.”

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