Barwick, Bokenham’s Manor and Middleton

A quick look at many modern maps will show two separate Barwicks: Great Barwick, where Barwick Hall Farm now stands, and Little Barwick, where Barwick House is. So why do these names never turn up in medieval documents?

The first record of Barwick is in Domesday Book, which shows that in 1086 there was certainly only one village. It had 190 acres of plough land worked by 4 ploughs (drawn by donkeys or mules), and the lord of the manor had 160 sheep. For comparison, Stanhoe at that time had 720 acres worked by 10 ploughs with oxen.

In fact, the answer to the puzzle of Great and Little Barwick does not start to appear until nearly a hundred years after Domesday.

The birth of Middleton

In 1171 the owner of the manor of Barwick gave some land, the rights to the church of Barwick, and a mill to Buckenham Priory, which lay far away, south of the Broads. The mill was probably horse-driven; it cannot have been a water mill, and this would be a very early date for a windmill.

To work this small estate, which was called Buckenham (usually spelled Bokenham) Priory Manor, it was necessary to establish a new farm and houses. This was done about halfway between Stanhoe and the original Barwick, where Barwick Hall Farm now is. The new farm was established near the site of the present Barwick House, and because of its position was known as Middleton.

photo: Gillian Beckett

Possible medieval boundary ditch marking the position of Middleton

This ditch visible from the Barwick road may well mark the southern boundary of Bokenham’s Manor, where the medieval hamlet of Middleton developed, although it does not correspond with the present estate boundary

It is possible that the founding of Middleton was associated with the clearance of a piece of woodland which once lay between the parishes of Stanhoe and Barwick (the Docking Old Road was called Woodgate, a name now used for the nearby old folks’ bungalows in Docking). It may also date to the creation of Shernborne’s Manor. Neither of these ideas can yet be proven.

In the 1200s, when farming prospered, the court rolls list tenants with names such as John of Middleton of Barwick and Regnald son of William of Middleton in Barwick. There is also mention of the road from Middleton to Docking. In 1254 an assessment for taxation showed Barwick at £6, compared to Stanhoe at £10.

photo: Charles Butcher

Possible mill mound on the site of Middleton

We know there was once a mill at Barwick, though in 1698 it “translated" to Docking. The original site of the mill may have been this mound, within the site of the settlement of Middleton, to the north of the boundary ditch and around 200 m south of the present Barwick House

The end of Middleton

In the 14th century came hard times, famine, and finally the bubonic plague (the Black Death). Many small villages became smaller. By 1334 Barwick was valued at only 70 shillings, compared to 190 shillings for Stanhoe. All this may have been too much for the hamlet of Middleton, and after 1400 it is not mentioned again.

At the same time Barwick itself was bought by Thomas Thoresby, best known for the college he founded for priests in Queen Street, Lynn. He is also known to some as the man who cleared away villages (and people) in order to enlarge the area of land he could devote to very profitable sheep grazing. As well as Barwick, Thomas Thoresby owned Barmer, Bircham Tofts and many villages around Lynn that are now lost. This was the end of Barwick as an active settlement.

Middleton becomes Little Barwick

After the Dissolution in 1537 Middleton came to the Townsend family of Raynham. The Townsends amalgamated Middleton into the half of Stanhoe they already owned, under the name Little Barwick. This certainly took place before 1681, when the name Little Barwick appears in a document.

Little Barwick and part of Stanhoe were bought in the early 1700s by John Glover, a farmer from Litcham. His son Robert Glover was known for being a forward-looking farmer and he quickly modernised his new farm. Since then the estate has remained in the same family.

From a hamlet to a house

The confusion surrounding the name Little Barwick was compounded in the early 1900s when the widowed Mina Seymour moved from Barwick House to make way for her son. She moved to a nearby house called The Cabin, which she renamed Little Barwick – but it is firmly within Stanhoe.

St Mary’s church

Domesday records that Barwick had “half a Church”, which usually means that the settlement shared a church with another parish.

By 1171 Barwick evidently had its own church, St Mary’s, because the church is recorded as being given to the newly founded Buckenham Priory (see above).

In 1440 the church was still in use, despite the decline in the fortunes of Barwick. In her will of October that year, Joan Cook wished her body to be buried in the churchyard of “the Blessed Mary of Berwyk”. She left 6s 8d for the fabric of the church, 1s to the high altar, 6d “to the light of the Blessed Mary”, and further money for a chaplain to pray for the soul of Hervey Cook, presumably her late husband.

In 1511 the Bishop received a petition that since there was only one parishioner, the living of Barwick should be amalgamated with that of Stanhoe. Interestingly, the request was refused and the Vicar of Barwick went on drawing his stipend for another 150 years!

photos: Charles Butcher

ruins of Barwick church

St Mary’s church, Barwick, is now a total ruin but its outline is still visible on the ground. This view is from the east. The site is on private land

ruins of Barwick church

The best-preserved piece of wall may represent the remains of a small tower at the south-west corner of the site. The surrounding wood is still known as Churchyard Plantation

Sketch survey of Barwick church ruins in 2010