Barn turned into village hub wins award

AN Essex farming couple who transformed an ancient barn into a bustling village focal point have scooped a national accolade.Chris and Tania Butler were crowned winners of the Country Land and Business Association's building conversion award after creating a post office, shop and café in the thatched building, which lies in their farmyard at Greenstead Green, near Halstead.

Sarah Chambers

AN Essex farming couple who transformed an ancient barn into a bustling village focal point have scooped a national accolade.

Chris and Tania Butler were crowned winners of the Country Land and Business Association's building conversion award after creating a post office, shop and café in the thatched building, which lies in their farmyard at Greenstead Green, near Halstead.

The Butlers, who are due to be presented with their award on Thursday opened their rural enterprise less than a year ago following the closure of the village post office, and since then, business has boomed.


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They now employ three staff from the main post office in Halstead and offer a full range of post office services including foreign currency.

They also have a shop carrying more than a thousand lines of almost entirely local foods and goods and a café, with more than 65% of food coming from within a 30 mile radius.

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Within months, trade was well ahead of their projections and they have been able to take on a total of 16 staff.

“We were such newcomers, especially for catering, so we opened in February when it would be quiet to give us an easy run,” said Mrs Butler.

“But there's nothing much to do on a Sunday in February, and we were absolutely inundated.”

Already, the couple have seen the need to extend and improve the kitchen area to cope with the volume of business.

“Originally, we saw the restaurant only as an add-on but quite frankly we have sufficient custom to make it much larger,” said Mr Butler.

The conversion work was carried out by local builders G I Hutton, and green English oak was used to replace damaged timbers. The floor is fitted with an underfloor heating system, fed from a multi-fuel boiler which burns wood chips, crop waste and logs.

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