Local History Society

 Local History Recording Scheme: Ref. B6-5



This is the fifth and last article for Barkham in the Berkshire Local History Recording Scheme, reference B1-5, and is transcribed here because it has relevance for Arborfield as well:

'Theft of Lands in Barkham'

Extract from "Reading Mercury", 9th February 1929 [Peter Ditchfield's "Notes and Queries"]

"To our Lord the King and to his Council complain the inhabitants of Yeingdon, Finchamstede, Earle, Erbourgfeld and Nywelend that where they had their village, and villagers paid rights to a common pasture called Langenhurst in the town of Berkham which is within the bounds of the forest of Wyndsore.

And themselves and their ancestors have had and used the common rights in the said pasture as appended to their free tenantry of time and of mind. Then moreover Mr. Johan de Mautravers as justice of the forest residing as Wyndsore within the bounds of the said forest seized this pasture and had it enclosed by a ditch and a hedge claiming the said common pasture as appended to the Manor of Berkam so that they cannot enjoy their common use as they were wont to use it, and pay without reason, and to their dispossession and to their great damage to which they beg remedy. Endorsed. Ė That some people be designed to inquire if the said people had common rights, since when, how they were dispossessed, and that the inquiry be sent back in chancery".

Notes, - The date of this petition must be about 1330, as Maltravers (the supposed murderer of Edward II) acquired Barkham in that year, and was condemned to death in the same year for his share in the earl of Kentís death, though he escaped abroad and was subsequently pardoned. Yeingdon is Evendonís Farm, near Wokingham, see V.C.H Berks III, 238. The petition, it will be seen, appeals against the encroachment by Maltravers, when justice of the forest, on the common pasture of these villages. The inquisition referred to in the endorsement cannot be traced.

The petition was translated from old French, Ancient Petitions, 8315, Record Office, London,


This very interesting petition was discovered by Mr. R. L. Atkinson, of the Record Office, who translated it from Norman-French, and showed it to Mr. E. K. Purnell. The latter gave it to Miss Simonds, of Newlands, who has collected much information about the village of Arborfield, and who kindly sent a copy to me, for which I am grateful to her.

There are several interesting matters contained in the document. It reveals the ancient form of the spelling of Arborfield, which was Erbourgfield. This shows the error of Professor Skeat, who imagined that the name Arborfield was derived from erber or herber from the Anglo-French herber, old French herbier, Latin Herbarium, a herb-garden, at first applied to garden-lawn, and afterwards transformed (after many changes in sense and some in form) into the modern English arbour. Its most ancient form is Hereburghfeld, containing the personal name of Hereburh, the personal name of some Saxon lady, as Professor Stenton states.

Yeingdon is, as stated above, Evendon, one of the four manors of Wokingham.

Nywelond is the ancient name of Newlands, wherein at Newlands Mr. John Simonds resides. It is pleasant to find this name, as we used to think that the name was modern, whereas it is evidently a very "old-land", and like New College, Oxford, which has been "new" since the days of William of Wykham in the 14th century.

As for John de Mautravers, he was evidently a great land-grabber and rascal. In addition to stealing the common pasture in the "town of Berkham" (Barkham) he stole some lands belonging to a spirited lady, Mistress Agnes Nevil, lady of the Manor of Barkham, who appealed to the King for redress, and the Kingís Reeve, Robert Bullock, of Arborfield, regained for her her lands. Thereby she obtained a husband as well as her property, as Master Bullock, seeing that the lady was an heiress, managed to arrange a marriage between his son and the lady. So Agnes Nevill became Mistress Bullock, and lived happily ever after; and the manors of Arborfield and Barkham were united and remained so for several centuries in the family of Bullock.

The "town of Barkham" sounds a very dignified title for our little village. "Vill", I take it, was the original word in the Norman-French script, and that does not signify a large and prosperous community.

Where the "common pasture" Langenhurst was situate I know not, but part of the village is still called Langley, and this may disclose its situation.

The result of the petition is not recorded, but we hope that the villagers regained their rights. One's only regret is that the rascal Mautravers was, after being exiled, pardoned.

Name and address of recorder: S. E. Burrett, 8, Prospect Street, Reading
Date event recorded: February 1929.

With acknowledgements to Reading Local Studies Library

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