Periwinkle Hill – A “Proposed Motte and Bailey Castle”

Periwinkle Hill is situated between the villages of Reed and Barkway, in Hertfordshire, overlooking the old London to East Anglia road, with views that stretch as far as Ely. Located on this hill are the remains of a structure ploughed out from the surface, but believed to be a “proposed motte and bailey castle.”

The site, also described as ‘an enclosure upon the hill (Chauncey 1826, p. 196) may be describing remains of what once stood on the site. Was the enclosure masonry, earthen or ‘other’? We do not know. Munby (1977) described the layout of the village of Reed and suggested possible Roman origins due to the unusual layout of its streets with no typical village green (Clarke 1984, p. 15), and with a dedication to the Roman God Mars, found in a chalk quarry on Periwinkle Hill, there is a strong possibility that he may be correct.

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The Victoria County History (1971 edition) states ‘ a moated round with two small baileys’ present on the hill, and to have belonged to part of the Manor of Reed, and this is where confusion around the sites arises, as it is believed to be part of Barkway. The Old Saxon Hundred boundaries of Odsey and Edwinstree show the remains as being part of Barkway, but these boundaries had a habit of moving to suit the Norman landowners of the time.

Tymms (1832) refers to Eustace of Boulogne having built the castles of Anstey and Barkway at the time of William I, but there is no reference as to where he sourced this information. Capper (1825), before Tymms (1832), also stated that there once stood a castle on the site, built by Eustace of Boulogne, again with no reference as to where he obtained this information. With the two references citing the castle possibly being built under the orders of William I, this places its probable construction in the period of c. 1066 – c.1087. Eustace of Boulogne owned land in Reed, not Barkway, so if he was responsible for the construction of the castle, then it would have been as part of the Manor of Reed, not Barkway.

Researching the owners who held the land in Reed and Barkway has unearthed some interesting and colourful characters, all high-ranking nobles in Medieval history,

  • Eustace of Boulogne
  • Geoffrey de Mandeville
  • Eudo Dapifer and
  • Hardwin de Scales

Each of the above had their issues with the English crown, its holders and the rifts and fighting behind the eventual victors; all of them had connections with the royal households of England through marriage; there are connections with the Knights Templar; Eustace of Boulogne and possibly Hardwin de Scales, were descendants from the Merovingian and Carolinian dynasties. These four nobles were connected in so many ways that their lives seem to cross at all aspects through marriage, relationships, ties of blood and beliefs. The families were all powerful and any of them would have had the means and motive to build the castle on their land.

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Newsells and Barkway Manors came together under Eudo Dapifer and subsequently went to Hardwin de Scales, who held Challers Manor in Reed (Chauncy 1826, p. 197). Thus, Newsells, Reed and Barkway lands, held by de Scales formed a rough triangle with Periwinkle Hill roughly in the middle.

Eustace of Boulogne was not only a wealthy noble but also a crusader. He went on crusade in 1096 with his younger brother, Godfrey of Bouillon, later King of Jerusalem (King 2000, pp. 282-283). His marriage to Mary of Scotland placed him in a powerful position. He died in 1125 and his daughter Maud (Matilda) inherited the Honour of Boulogne. That same year she married Stephen of Blois, later King Stephen, placing the Honour of Boulogne in royal hands, and with it, Periwinkle Hill, if indeed it was part of the Reed Manors.

The de Mandeville family originated in France, very close to the lands held by the Honour of Boulogne (Keats-Rohan 1999, p.61). Lands granted to Geoffrey I de Mandeville made up one of the three largest honours in England following the Norman conquest. He served as Sheriff of London and Middlesex and was custodian of the Tower of London (Hollister 1973). This title was conferred upon his son William de Mandeville who unfortunately fell out with Henry I when he allowed the political prisoner, the Bishop of Durham, Ranulf Flambard, to escape from the Tower of London. He was severely punished and had a large chunk of his lands confiscated (Hollister 1973, pp. 19-20).

Geoffrey II de Mandeville inherited the remaining lands when William died. King Stephen used some of the lands as bargaining tools to buy de Mandeville’s support during the Anarchy (Harper-Bill 1999, p.243). Not only did Geoffrey II want his family lands back but also to claim those of his maternal grandfather, Eudo Dapifer.

Changing sides during the Anarchy, Geoffrey II received charters from both the Empress Maud and King Stephen, but in 1143 he was charged with treason at Stephen’s Court and asked to hand over his castles (Davies 1964, p. 304). Not happy by the developments he took his band of men to the Fens and set up an outlaw base at Ramsey Abbey Ely (Greenway & Watkins 1999, p. 19) and is remembered in history as the Scourge of the Fens.

The real mystery surrounding Geoffrey II de Mandeville concerns his death near Burwell Castle, and some Knights Templars riding by, throwing their mantle over him and taking his body to the Old Temple Church in London. Firstly, the mantle with the red templar cross was not used until 1146 (Addison 1999, p. 296), secondly, did his body hang in a tree in the old church yard as rumoured? thirdly, why did the Templars refuse to hand his body over to the Abbot of Walden Abbey when ordered to do so by the Pope? (Round 1892, p. 226).

Eudo Dapifer’s line can be traced back to ‘Norman, son of Hubert de Ryes, Calvados, arr. Bayeux’ (Keats-Rohan 1999, p. 194) and attached to the household of William of Normandy.

Lands granted to Eudo made up one of the three largest Honours given to followers of William after 1066 (Planché 1874, n.p), with the other two being to Eustace of Boulogne and Geoffrey de Mandeville.

Eudo was Steward of the Kings Household and secured a good marriage by marrying into the wealthy and influential de Clare family.

William I died in 1086 and he willed his Normandy lands to his eldest son Robert Curthose and his English lands to his younger son William Rufus. Eudo is rumoured to have played a major role in securing the English throne for William Rufus. It is said that he had been in Rouen when William passed away and did not let anyone know about the death of the king until he had secured allegiances of the major coastal fortresses of the English realm for William Rufus (Freeman 1882, p. 462).

With land, wealth, a high ranking marriage and being in the new kings favour, it seemed only fitting that Eudo would donate to the Church. He was the founder of Colchester Abbey and took a direct interest in the style and design of the building (Newman 1988, p. 70).

Having already served two kings and been loyal to both, Eudo found himself serving a third following the death of William II. But the new King, Henry I, was not as friendly as his predecessors had been.

Henry was suspicious of Eudo’s loyalties owing to his connections with the de Clare family who were supposedly involved in the hunting accident that had killed William II (Hollister 1973, p. 637). The king made changes to the laws of inheritance and took away an heirs right to hold titles that their fathers had held (Newman 1988, p. 106). This freed up positions that Henry could fill with his favourites and not strangers that he did not really know or possibly trust.

Hardwin de Scales came to England following the conquest in 1066 and was rewarded with lands. Possibly originally coming from the Aquitaine region of France, de Scales was granted a Barony (Blomefield 1805, p. 149).

Hardwin de Scales held land in both Barkway and Reed, which gave him a yearly income of £6, the same as that of Geoffrey de Mandeville who held land only in Barkway (Hinde 1995)

De Scales, it is believed, had twin sons and his Barony was divided between them upon his death (Green 1997, p. 338). One inherited his Cambridgeshire lands, and the other, his Hertfordshire lands. The Hertfordshire lands were centred at the Manor of Challers, in Reed and Hugh held them, his title was Lord Deschallers of Reed. Periwinkle may have been constructed by the de Scales family as they held a Barony at the village of Reed.

The primary branch of the Reed family terminated with the death of Anne de Scales in 1493.

In conclusion, all four major land owners may have built or held Periwinkle, however, the two references stating that it was Eustace of Boulogne needs to be researched further, including the sourcing of the references to this piece of information.

The motte and bailey is at a very important location. On the main London to East Anglia road, with views to Ely and surrounded by land held by the three wealthiest families following the Norman Conquest.

The Knights Templar are connected to two of the families and the elaborately decorated Royston Cave, believed to have been formed by Templars, is just up the road.

The de Clare family gave Baldock to the Order and the Honour of Boulogne were connected to them through family ties. Geoffrey de Mandeville had some connection with the Templars which needs to be further researched, as well as the intriguing mystery surrounding his death and the effigy given his name in Temple Church, London, which research has shown, is not him. So who is this unnamed Knight and why does he bear de Mandeville’s name?

The large number of moated sites in the village of Reed also throws up a number of questions; why so many in one village and why is it laid out in a truly unconventional and non-medieval manner.

Finally, what was, and possibly still is, so important about this area of Hertfordshire that it was held by high ranking Norman families, belonged to both the royal houses of England and France, the lack of information about its origins that has been lost through time.

Written by Sue Carter

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Sue Carter
Sue Carter
Sue Carter is a research archaeologist living in Western Australia, and founder of the webpage . Sue’s passion lies in fortified sites, especially hillforts, and researching prehistory in both Australia and Britain. Having spent time in the Pilbara region of Western Australia recording Indigenous sites, Sue is keen to see that Australia’s prehistory is recorded, saved and the knowledge shared, to improve the understanding of Sahul’s settlement thousands of years ago.

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