Periwinkle Hill, Barkway, Hertfordshire.


With the lack of historical records concerning most castles in Hertfordshire, it may be possible to gain some information regarding the owners and builders by looking into who owned the land upon which the castles stood. The landowners considered for the Barkway motte and bailey castle would be from the time of the Norman invasion in 1066 and up until 1225. This period also includes that of the Anarchy, the time when Stephen of Blois and the Empress Matilda fought over the right to the English crown, and also the Baron’s War of 1215-1217, ‘Although most Hertfordshire castles are mere grassy mounds without a story, a few can be glimpsed in action (Bartlett 2000, p. 274) and also that, ‘All the Hertfordshire castles of which written record survives were caught up in troubles of the last years of John’s reign….’ (Bartlett 2000, p. 274). With this evidence it is plausible that the undocumented castles may also have seen action during these periods in history.

Castles erected without the approval of the King were generally known as Adulterine castles (Bartlett 2000, p. 28) and following times of unrest these Adulterine castles were demolished. The control of a castle or castles meant the holder held power,

Control of castles was an essential element in the exercise of power. The balance of royal and baronial authority was affected by how many castles were in the king’s hands and how many were in those of his magnates….The Angevin kings thus clearly pursued a policy, or habit of action consistent enough to be called a policy, that reduced the imbalance in castle-power between them and their great men. At the same time as they took the opportunity to seize or demolish the castles of baronial opponents, they poured money into strengthening and enlarging their own (Bartlett 2000, p. 278).

Therefore the positioning and the holding of castles was of great importance, however, it is surprising that there is so little written evidence about the majority of Hertfordshire castles despite the counties importance in the affairs of Medieval England and the wealthy, high ranking nobles that constructed and owned them.

The following references give evidence for a castle existing at Barkway,

Castles.   Anstey and Barkway, both built by Eustace, Earl of Boulogne, temp…..William I…. (Tymms 1832, p. 31)


Barkway….here formally stood a strong castle built by Eustace, Earl of Boulogne, but demolished in the reign of Henry III….’ (Capper 1825, p. 52).

The above demonstrate that there was a castle on the site and a date range for existence of the structure being between 1066 and 1272.

Chauncy (1826) tells us that

Barkeway is situated two miles distant from Barley to the south on the Edge of the Inclosure upon the hill thro which the road passes from London to the counties of Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk…. (Chauncy 1826, p. 196).

Location of Periwinkle site

Is Chauncy describing standing remains for a structure or earthworks on Periwinkle Hill? If there were still evidence of remains that would then prove that parts of it were still extant in 1826.

Eustace, Earl of Boulogne, was ordered to build a castle at Anstie under the orders of William the Conqueror,

Anstey or Anstie….This manor was given by the Conqueror to Eustace, Earl of Boulogne, who is represented to have built a CASTLE here, by the Kings command, for the purpose of intimidating the English…. (Britton et al 1988, p. 186).

With Anstey being built under the direct orders of William I, it may also be the case that Barkway was possibly built under the same orders, as the village lay on a major route to East Anglia. Evidence can be seen in the above reference from Tymms (1832) that the castles at Anstey and Berkway were built ‘…temp William I….’ (Tymms 1832, p31), narrowing the date of possible construction to a range of between 1066 and 1087.  And this is important when looking at the documents for that period, for evidence of the castle, its building or being mentioned.

Following the Normans arrival in England it is well known that the new landowners, the French nobles, were encouraged to build castles to subdue the local populations, ‘In the early days of the settlement, the siting of castles was dictated by strategic considerations…. (Green 1997, pp. 179-180).

As Barkway was situated on the main road from London to East Anglia with views across to Ely, it would only make sense to locate a castle on the site. The positioning of the castle need not have been in the Lords main Manor or Honour where he resided. Green (1997) states, ‘The Honorial court of the Counts of Boulogne in Essex was held at Witham, but there was a castle at Ongar….’(Green 1997 p. 181). This shows the use of a castle need not always have been for the purpose of accommodation over long periods of time, but to give a demonstration of power and dominance over the surrounding area.

The demise of Anstie came about during the reign of Henry III,

And on this side Anestie, which was not long since the inheritance of the House of Yorke, and in elder times the castle there was the nest of rebels, wherefore Nicolaus of Anesty, Lord thereof, was expressly commanded by King Henry the Third to demolish so much of it as was raised since the Barons wars against his father King John. But now time hath wholly raised it (Camden 1607, n.p).

Could this have been the same plight of the castle at Barkway?

Cropmarks of supposed Motte & Bailey Castle

The Hertfordshire County Council Historic Monument Record show that,


Hertfordshire County Council


Cropmarks/earthworks of a possible motte and bailey. APs [aerial photographs] show cropmarks and slight earthworks comprising two parallel linear ditches (possibly trackways) leading to a D-shaped enclosure ditch (approx. 80m x 70m) and a vague oval mound (approx. 35m in diameter). Within the enclosure are rectangular subdivisions which could be building steadings. Ploughed annually, the mound survives to a mere 1m high and the enclosure ditch to approx. 30cms deep in 1984. This is supposed to be the castle belonging to the chief manor of Reed <6>.

 The reference <6> comes from Munby, (1977). He states,

Reed, before the Norman conquest, was divided among several Anglo-Saxon owners and, small as it is, had several manors afterwards. The chief manor, Challers, was the head of the Scales’ holding in the county and there was a small castle, ‘a moated round with two small baileys’ on Periwinkle Hill1. This castle, the outline of which can still be traced in a ploughed field, is sited, significantly, outside the gridded area of Reed and so just outside the Parish boundary, in Barkway 1 – (Victoria County History 1971). (Munby 1977, p.72).

The wording of the above paragraph states the castle was part of the Scales Manor of Challers, which was held by the Scales family. However, with the boundary having changed and the supposed castle being located within the lands of Barkway, this would place it firmly in the hands of either Geoffrey de Mandeville or Eustrace of Boulogne, both held lands in that specific area.

The Victoria County History (Victoria County History 1912) states that the Manor of Queenbury was held by Count Eustace of Boulogne by 1086, and that it remained as part of the Honour of Boulogne.

Of intereset is the fact that the Prime Meridian passes just to the east of the village, between Reed and Barkway, and this could have some, albeit New Age, relevance to the importance of the site and its continuity as an important position. And considering that the Royston Cave is just down the road may add more weight to the importance of the castle which once stood there.

The above throws up some very interesting questions about the whole area. Its Roman period in particular and why there has not been the addition of more buildings in the village as has been the case at Barkway, over the centuries. Roman artefacts found in the area include figurines of the Roman God Mars, and aerial images show, under the right conditions (dry) that there are outlines of rectangular buildings to the south east of the site towards the village of Barkway, which could possibly be of Roman origin.

Barkway Hoard              Image: Public Domain

The large number of moats in Reed also raises questions 6 in total. Why so many in such a small area? And why was the village so important as to be held by such high-ranking families throughout most of its history, including the Royal families? Looking at the maps it is clear that there was something large at Barkway but this disappears from the maps after 1840 – could this give the time that any remaining structure as demolished on the site? Which brings us back to Chauncey’s quote (repeated here) relating to the visibility of the site,

Barkeway is situated two miles distant from Barley to the south on the Edge of the Inclosure upon the hill thro which the road passes from London to the counties of Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk…. (Chauncy 1826, p. 196).

The Hundred boundary between Reed and Barkway is interesting. The names for the two Hundreds are Odsey and Edwinstree. The Hundred boundaries were introduced to England by the Saxons,

Originally, when introduced by the Saxons between 613 and 1017, a hundred had enough land to sustain approximately one hundred households headed by a hundred-man or hundred eolder (Vision of Britain 2009, n.p).

Possibly the boundary of the Hundreds changed, and this is shown in the following,

One of the curious consequences of the Conquest was virtually to freeze the Shire pattern and the diverse assessment systems as they existed in the days of Edward the Confessor. Only the Hundred boundaries tended to shift, and more often, it seems, by local tampering than by considered decision (Warren 1987, p. 30).

The boundary, therefore, between Odsey and Edwinstree Hundreds may have changed, which would then locate the castle on Periwinkle Hill as originally being in Odsey Hundred, and subsequently, held as part of the lands of Count Eustace of Boulogne, possibly as part of Queenbury Manor.

1607 Camden Map



1610 Speed Map












Maps dating from 1607 – 1814 show a structure or enclosure at Barkway but this disappears from the 1830 map. This may indicate that the remains, if any were still visible, were removed from the site sometime between 1814 and 1830.

The other possibility is the Manor of Rokey in Barkway. Rokey was part of the original Manor of Barkway but was separated at some point to form a smaller Manor in its own right. Could this have been due to the castle? Rokey Wood is situated very close to the castle site and there are the remains of a possible moat there – could these be fishponds associated with the castle?

As I have shown, the dating of a castle at Barkway is between c1066 and c1272 with the possibility of narrowing the date to 1066 – 1087.  So lets take a closer look at the actual village of Barkway.

The village of Barkway has changed and expanded over the centuries as has the spelling of its name. First recorded in the Domesday Book under the name of Bercheuuei(g) in 1086, it has also been known by the following names

      •             Bercheweig, Berchewei – 11th Century
      •             Bercweie   – 12th and 13th Century
      •             Berkway  – 14th C
      •             Berkeweye
      •             Bercwey

(Victoria County History 1912, p. 25).

Barkway lands were held between four main people but later divided into the following estates (Chauncy 1826, p. 197).

      • Berkway
      • Nusells
      • Rokey
      • Berwyk (Berewyk)
      • The Rectory of Berkway
      • Great Cokenhach
      • Hedleyes
      • Little Cokenhach in Norhampstead

The Domesday Book entries for Barkway are as follows,

The land of Jeoffrey de Mannevile. Hugh de Goisfride held three hides of Jeoffrey (de Mannevile) in Barkway in the Hundred of Edwinstre for one manor. The arable seven carucates, in demeasne are three and twelve villains, with a Presbyter or Priest, and fifteen borders having four carucates; there are four cottagers and six servants, meadow half a carucate, common for the cattel, wood to feed fifty hogs. Of pasture and wood, two shillings rent by the year, and three ploughs; in the whole value it is worth six pounds by the year, when he receiv’d it three pounds a year, in the time of King Edward (the Confessor) six pounds a year, two men (under the protection) of Asgar Staire held this manor and might sell it.

 The land of Eudo, son of Herbert. Eudo held Newsells in Barkway in the Hundred of Edwinstre; it was rated at four hides and half a virgate. The same Eudo of Newsells; it was rated at five hides and half a virgate. The arable is fourteen carucates. In demense three hides and half a virgate, and there are five carucates; there are ten villains with six borders having nine carucates; there are seven cottagers, and one and twenty servants; meadow one carucate, wood to feed an hundred hogs in paunage time, common for cattle of the vill. In the whole value it is worth eighteen pounds a year, when he received it six pounds a year, in the time of King Edward (the Confessor) twelve pounds a year. Aldred, a thane of King Edward (the Confessor) held four hides and half a virgate of this manor; and one socman, a man (under the protection) of Earl Algar held three virgates there; and another socman, a man, (under the protection) of the aforesaid Aldred had one virgate; he paid here a penny to the sheriff every year, and every of them might sell his land.

The land of Hardwin de Scalers. Two men held one virgate and a half of Hardwin de Scalers in Barkway, in the Hundred of Edwinstre. The arable is one caucate, but there is nothing but one cottager. This land is worth, and was worth one shilling a year, in the time of King Edward (the Confessor) ten shillings a year; two socmen held this land, one of these, a man (under the protection) of Earl Algar, had one virgate, and the other man, (under the protection) of Eldret, held half a virgate; He did pay half-penny by the year, and might sell it.

The land of Edgar Adelinge. Edgar Adelinge and Godwine held of him one hide and an half in Barkway, in the Hundred of Edwinstre. The arable is two carucates. In demesne is one and four bordars, with four cottagers, having one carucate; there is a servant, pasture for the cattel, wood to feed fifteen hogs in Paunage time. The land is worth four shillings a year, when he received it ten shillings a year, in the time of King Edward (the Confessor) forty shillings a year. Two socmen, men (under the protection) of Asgar Stalri held this, and might sell it (Chauncy 1826, pp. 196-197).

The above shows that the land of Barkway was distributed between Eudo son of Hubert (also known as Eudo Dapifer), Geoffrey I de Mandeville, Hardwin of Scales, and Edgar Adelinge.  I have been unable to find exactly how the manor was divided up, as far as I know there are no maps with a visual distribution of the land within the manor.

1646 Norden Map

Each of the above had their issues with the English crown, its holders and the rifts and fighting behind the eventual victors of holding, or holding onto it; all of them had connections with the Royal households of England through marriage; all had connections to the Knights Templar; Eustace of Boulogne and Hardwin de Scales (possibly) were descendants from the Merovingian and Carolinian dynasties of France. These four nobles were connected in so many ways that their lives seemed to cross at all aspects through marriage, relationships, ties of blood and possibly beliefs.

The land held by Eudo, son of Hubert, had 21 servants noted against it (Chauncy 1826, p.197), which is the largest body of people recorded for the Manor, this indicates there may have been a building of high status within his holdings. Eudo, son of Herbert also held Newsells and land in Reed. Could the castle be associated with Newsells due to the large number of servants attributed to the area in the Domesday Book?

Maybe one day you will be able to get some LiDAR or do a survey of the site – until then this is just another mystery which leaves the way open for speculation and hypothesis…..

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References & Bibliography

Bartlett, R, 2000. England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Britton, J., Brayley, EW., Brewer, JN., Nightingale, J., Evans, J., Hodgson, J., Laird, FC., Shoberl, F., Bigland, J., Rees, T., Hood, T., Harris, J. 1808. The Beauties of England and Wales, Vol VII. Thomas Maiden, London.

Camden, W, 1607, Britannia. Cited at

Capper, BJ, 1825. A Topographical dictionary of the United Kingdom. Available at

Chauncy, H 1826. The historical antiquities of Hertfordshire.  Harvard University

Clarke, H. 1984. The Archaeology of Medieval England. Blackwell, Oxford.

Cleneos, P, Keynes, S, Lapidge, M. Anglo-Saxon England, Vol 14.

Crouch, D, 1988. Earl William of Gloucester and the End of the Anarchy: New Evidence Relating to the Honor of Eudo Dapifer. The English Historical Review, Vol. 103, No. 406 (Jan., 1988), pp. 69-75

Green, JA, 1997. The Aristocracy of Norman England. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Lord. E. 2004. The Knights Templar in Britain. London: Longman.

Munby, LM, 1977, The Hertfordshire Landscape, Hodder and Stoughton, London

Platt, C. 1995, Medieval England: A Social History and Archaeology from the Conquest to 1600 A.D. Routledge, London.

Poole, AL . 1993. From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 1087-1216. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Potter, TW, 1997, Roman Britain, 2nd edition. London, The British Museum Press,

Pound, NJG, 1991. Medieval Castles in England and Wales: A Political and Social History. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Power, D. 2004. The Norman frontier in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Round, JH, 1922. The Legend of ‘Eudo Dapifer’. The English Historical Review, Vol. 37, No. 145 (Jan., 1922), pp. 1-34

Timbs, J, Gunn, A, 2006. Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales – Their Legendary Lore and Popular History. Vol 2. Read Books.,

Tymms, S, 1832. The Family Topographer; being a compendious account of the ancient and present state of the counties of England. Volume 1. Available at

Victoria County History.  A History of the County of Hertford: volume 3 (1912), Cited at Accessed: 02 July 2010.

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Vision of Britain. 2009. Status details for Hundred.. Available at

Warren, WL, 1987. The governance of Norman and Angevin England, 1086-1272. Stanford University Press.


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