Robert Somerville  Building Projects

Barn Club – the Book

A tale of forgotten elm trees, traditional craft and community spirit.

Barn Club - the BookWhen renowned craftsman Robert Somerville moved to Hertfordshire, in southern England, he discovered an unexpected landscape rich with wildlife and elm trees. Nestled within London’s commuter belt, this wooded farmland inspired Somerville, a life-long woodworker, to revive the ancient tradition of hand-raising barns.

Barn Club follows the building of Carley Barn over the course of one year. Volunteers from all walks of life joined Barn Club, inspired to learn this ancient skill of building elm barns by hand, at its own quiet pace and in the company of others, while using timber from the local woods.

The tale of the elm tree in its landscape is central to Barn Club. Its natural history, historic importance and remarkable survival make for a fascinating story.


‘A joyful reminder of why nature, being outside, being together and creating beauty is so good for the soul.’

Kate Humble, broadcaster and author of A Year of Living Simply

For the reader who wishes to resist the gathering pace of modern life and take time to learn from the past, the tale of hand-raising a barn the old-fashioned way brings nature, community and craftsmanship together in an enduring and satisfying feeling of a job well done.

Gillian Burke, co-presenter
of BBC’s Springwatch, writer and biologist

In today’s ego-techno-centred world, Robert Somerville’s . . . “Barn Club” approach is a way forward that utilises local traditions, local materials and local hands to create a built environment that is more harmonious with the natural world and of course more beautiful.

Jack A. Sobon, architect, timber framer and author of Hand Hewn