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Sketch of old settlement

Artist's impression of small settlement, not actual site

Barwe, Barrow Farm

The farmstead or small settlement of Barwe lay immediately east of Birds Marsh and extended southwards to Barrow Farm. Its existence has been pieced together during this project from archaeological evidence and a number of document sources. This research is ongoing.

Historically, although Barwe was within the boundary of Langley Burrell, it formed a little island enclave of land (about 90 acres) that belonged to another parish, Slaughterford, which lies a few miles away. Detached portions of parishes are not unusual in north Wiltshire and are usually the result of medieval land ownership. In this instance, during the thirteenth century, Barwe came into the possession of Monkton Farleigh Priory and part of their Slaughterford estate, hence the later association with that parish. However, the first indication of Barwe's presence from documentary sources comes in the 1220s/ 30s and it implies that it was regarded as an economic unit or settlement distinct from its neighbours. In 1417, a rental of Monkton Farleigh Priory lands referred to holdings in Barwe, and thus Barwe continued to have an existence in its own right.

The name Barwe may refer to the ploughed-out barrow (an ancient tomb) near the site. But it may relate to the Old English word 'bearu', which means a wood. Given the straight boundary between Birds Marsh and the Slaughterford enclave, it might be that Barwe originated as a woodland that was hived off from Birds Marsh and became cleared and developed. Further corroborating archaeological evidence for Barwe includes a settlement of medieval date identified by a geophysical survey in 2014 northeast of Barrow Farm. Further south to the east of the farm, a possible medieval and post-medieval settlement with ridge and furrow, was also visible as earthworks on aerial photographs taken during the 1940s and 50s. Sightly south of Barrow Farm, possible medieval settlement features were logged similarly in 1977.

Prosperous medieval farmers and landowners often constructed a moat around their premises, largely as a status symbol. The possibility of a substantial house within a moat is suggested by field names such as Moat Mead and Moat Ground which survived for centuries. Tantalisingly, in 1840, a map was made of Biddestone with Slaughterford that included Barrow farm. The remains of the moat are visible on this map to the east of Barrow farmhouse. Unfortunately, recent geophysical survey and trial trenching has not revealed any surviving evidence of a structure associated with the moat, and the moat itself no longer survives.

In 1536, during the dissolution of the monasteries, Barwe which by then comprised about 60 acres, passed into the hands of Edward Seymour, brother of Jane Seymour wife of Henry VIII. The Seymour family leased out the holding from 1595 to the Hulbert family, who eventually bought the estate, now referred to as Barrowe, in 1626. It included a house the Hulbert family had recently built, likely the current Barrow farmhouse. Unfortunately, the documents that remain offer little by way of description as to what made up Barrowe at this time. Until 1647, however, the property did include a 'capital messuage' which was perhaps the high-status dwelling house or manor which had stood within the moat.

By the late seventeenth century, if not before, evidence suggests Barwe, now Barrow, had become a farm, passing through several hands before being bought by the Ashe family of Langley Burrell manor in 1845.

Despite some indication of its existence as a settlement there is much that we do not know about Barwe. It remains a fascinating mystery.


Birds Marsh Wood/Barrow Farm Area
Langley Burrell


Historic England TBC 

Image of Barrow Farmhouse

Barrow Farmhouse

The Grade II listed timber-framed Barrow farmhouse is likely to have been built by James Hulbert, whose family leased Barrow from the sixteenth century, later purchasing it early in the next century. It may have replaced an earlier moated house nearby.

In 1691, it was owned by a gentleman by the name of Brereton Bourchier of Barnsley, Gloucestershire, a strange consequence of his wife's sister being the heiress of Nicolas Hulbert. Bourchier borrowed heavily against the farm, sold it in 1702 and repurchased it two years later with more borrowed money. He sold it again in 1712 to Calthorpe Parker Long of Whaddon, Gloucestershire, but this time did not repurchase it.

The farm was generally leased. Long-term tenants included the Matthews family, who held it from 1773-1844 when John Matthews died. It was then a dairy farm with a few pigs. Matthews also made cider at Barrow and had 200 gallons of it on the premises at his death. The farm was then bought for £6324 by Rev Robert Ashe, who owned the manor of Langley Burrell.

Like many farms, Barrow was mentioned in the diary of Francis Kilvert. Writing in the 1870s, Kilvert recounted a memory of a village woman from several decades before. 'At her old house, the Barrow Farm, there used to be a dance at Christmas in the old farm house (sic) kitchen and the young people would dress up the room with these ivy bunches and blossoms flour-whitened. Many a merry party and gay dance was there in the old farm house, but the farmer would never allow any mistletoe to be hung up.''


Barrow Farmhouse
Hill Corner Road
Langley Burrell


NGRef: ST 92266 75214
Historic England 1022348 

Image of Barrow Cottages

Barrow Cottages

Barrow cottage was once two cottages. It dates from the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and is constructed from rubble stone. It has a timber frame and a stone slate mansard roof.

In the 1870s, Francis Kilvert mentioned Barrow Cottages in his diary. On 3 May 1875, he recorded he had visited Alice Couzens and Charlotte Knight there and poetically wrote, 'In the soft dewy evening I loitered on the lawn through the twilight from sunset to dusk, listening to the singing of the nightingales.'


Barrow Cottages,
Hill Corner Road,
Langley Burrell


NGRef: ST 92273 75162
Historic England 1363834 

Image of Roman Spring

Possible Site of a Roman Spring

Before maps and plans were used a common way to define an estate being conveyed by a legal document, or charter, was to add a list of significant landmarks around its boundary. More than a thousand such charter bounds have survived from the Anglo-Saxon period, and scholars have long tried to identify the landmarks in these documents and thus define the area being transferred.

One such, appearing to relate to Hardenhuish and dating from 854 AD, is in the British Library.1 It was puzzled over by an expert 'solver' of charters, G.B. Grundy, a century ago. He admitted defeat, but suggested that one landmark, in Anglo-Saxon funtan hlaew, might refer to a prehistoric barrow just to the west of Barrow Farm (hence the farm's name) on the southern edge of Bird's Marsh. Accepted by the Ordnance Survey, it was marked on the 1923 edition of the large-scale (25-inch) map. It was also noted by the archaeologist, L.V. Grinsell, who visited the site during the 1950s and measured the barrow, which by then had been flattened.

The word funtan means 'spring', and hlaew means 'barrow', so the landmark seems to denote a spring beside or close to a barrow. But funta(n) is not the usual word for a spring - much more common was wielle. Funta is a Latin loan word, one of a small number adapted by the Saxons, and derives from Late Latin fontana (from which the words font, fount and fountain ultimately derive). Hlaew too is not the most usual word for a barrow, which in Wessex was beorg, though there is another nearby, behind the modern name Rudloe.

In 1977, Margaret Gelling, examined the funta names she found references to (in Wiltshire Urchfont, Teffont, Fovant and Fonthill are examples) and concluded that Saxon speakers used this word when there was evidence of a Roman structure built around the spring that was then still surviving. This may have been a simple stone platform for use by visitors to the spring, or something more elaborate, such as a shrine to the god of the river, as nearby at Nettleton. Landscape historian, Simon Draper also interprets the name as 'indicative of some sort of romanised spring (i.e. associated with a Romano-British building) rather than just a natural spring'. A Roman farmstead has recently been found nearby. All of this would lead to the conclusion that the name denotes a very ancient and significant place.

But there are several caveats. The funta derivation is only a theory derived from examples elsewhere (no-one studying them has noticed this example); the identification of the landmark with the barrow near Barrow Farm cannot be proved; and the document itself (as many are) may be a forgery. So, it all remains conjecture, for now at least.


Barrow Farm,
Hill Corner Road,
Langley Burrell


Historic England TBC 

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