Barnwell earthwork

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Other/Unknown)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameBarnwell earthwork
Alternative NamesBarnwell St Andrew
Historic CountryNorthamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough
Modern AuthorityNorthamptonshire
1974 AuthorityNorthamptonshire
Civil ParishBarnwell

A curious earthwork near Barnwell Brook, apparently the site of an early castle. The entrenchments form two enclosures, and consist of two ditches and one rampart, the water of the brook being caused to wash round the inner ditch and perhaps also at one time the outer (VCH).

These earthworks are situated at the bottom of a valley through which runs a fast flowing stream; they are non-defensive in character and appear to be a constructed landscape feature complete with fish pond and duck decoy pond. Similar works are not uncommon in the Midland counties, they are, in the main, attributable to the 16c - 18th c., and this feature would doubtless be utilised during one of the earlier phases of the adjacent Barnwell Castle (F1 FDC 02-MAY-62).

RCHM suggests earthworks may have originated as a moat. Adjacent copse 'Empty Spinney' may be Le Hympehaye of 1285 meaning 'an enclosure made of saplings or shoots' (RCHME). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Identified by an early castle site by Downman in the 1906 VCH. Later authors have interpreted the earthworks as fish ponds etc. Nearby Barnwell Castle dates from the mid C13 but probably occupies the site of the earlier manor house. The manor was held for a knights fee by le Moyne (Moigne; Moygne) family, initially as tenants of Ramsey Abbey, in the C12 which is a tenurial history which would not exclude an early castle here. Sometimes said to be a motte and bailey (including, unfortunately, in earlier, pre August 2013, versions of the Gatehouse website and database). The is no raised mound, the earthworks consisting of double ditches with, what the VCH calls, a rampart between them. There is a suggestion it may have originated as a moat but there is no evidence of occupation at the site and it may be the earthworks were always an adaptation to produce a complex set of fishponds, possible divided by hazel hurdles, allowing management of fish by age.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL047853
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  • Lowerre, A.G., 2005, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (Oxford: John and Erica Hedges Ltd: BAR British Series 385) p. 240 (unlikely as castle)
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of the East Midlands (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 71 (mention)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 165 (mention)
  • RCHME, 1975, An inventory of the historical monuments in the County of Northampton Vol. 1: North-east Northamptonshire (HMSO) p. 16 online transcription
  • Downman, E.A., 1906, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Serjeantson, R.M., Ryland, W. and Adkins, D. (eds), VCH Northamptonshire Vol. 2 p. 413 online copy


  • Lowerre, A.G., 2004, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (PhD thesis: Boston College) p. 513