Get The Drift?

Over at Curborough Craft Centre today, I noticed a plaque on one of the converted farm buildings explaining that it was a former drift house, possibly built on the foundations of an earlier building.

Back at home, I tried to find out what exactly a drift house was used for.  It seems there are plenty of them around (including one in Stonnall) but no real explanations as to exactly what purpose they served. And believe me I’ve looked – I googled, I read (an English Heritage study into farm buildings of the West Midlands and some ye olde book on farming) and I attempted to apply logic but all to no avail.

However, what I did find was that the drift house at Curborough was surveyed in August 1984 along with other agricultural buildings in the Curborough and Elmhurst area. The report on the Heritage Gateway site includes the following information – “Mrs Hollinshead referred to this as a ‘drift barn’. It is in a poor condition; the doors are blocked with corrugated sheeting, the roof is gone and is replaced with corrugated sheeting and the north-east side has been repaired”. The report was part of the Domesday survey of barns in Staffordshire co-ordinated by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1985 and clearly the building has had a lot of TLC since then. You can read it here.

Anyway, eventually, I gave up and went off on a tangent. I’d read previously that the place name Curborough is thought to derive from the Old English ‘cweorn burna’. However, what I didn’t know is that there have been an abundance of archaeological finds in the area, indicating that Curborough was inhabited long before the Anglo-Saxons decided to build a mill on the stream here.  A site near to the farm has been identified as a possible Roman settlement with large quantities of coins, brooches, pottery, tiles and glass being discovered in the late 1990s. It seems even the Romans were relative latecomers, with Mesolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age finds also being unearthed nearby. So many wonderful discoveries and so much more to learn about this fascinating place I’m sure. However, at this moment in time, I’ll settle for an explanation of what a drift house (or barn) is, if anyone can help!


‘Townships: Curborough and Elmshurst’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990)

6 thoughts on “Get The Drift?

  1. Another great story ,I think the most likely reason for it would be a drift mine,
    Coal or Stone may have been close to the surface ,Once the needed material
    was removed there would be no visible signs of the work carried out,I am sure
    you will keep digging until you find the answer Kate good luck.


    • Oooh that’s a possibility, thanks Maggie. I think I may have to email the Historic Farm group. What I think is nice about a query like this is that you find out lots of other interesting things on the way to finding out the answer!


  2. Really interesting, never heard of them! However, according to the online free dictionary ( however accurate this might be) drift is derived from a Middle English word which means ” drove, herd, act of driving” so maybe something to do with drovers and possibly where they could shelter their animals?? Be great to know what the barns were used for.


    • Weird isn’t it! Yet there are lots around it seems. That’s the definition I would have gone for on a linguistic basis I think, but for me it doesn’t quite sit with the position of this barn (and other similar ones) as part of group of buildings surrounding a farm house. However, I could well be wrong as I know very little about the world of farming. Might have to find a farmer to ask! I would also like to find the whole report as that was just the Curborough & Elmhurst section and it says they did the whole of Staffordshire. Maps of Moggs Lane and Beacon Park show old farm buildings and it would be interesting to see if any of these were still in existence at the time of the 1984/5 survey.


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