John Norden’s Survey of Barley, Herts, 1593-1603. A detailed survey by the celebrated Elizabethan Surveyor which provides a remarkable picture of the open fields of a midland village.
John Norden's Survey of Barley, Herts, 1593-1603.
Edited by J.C. Wilkerson
John Norden (1548-1625), estate surveyor and county mapmaker, was the first to attempt a series of county histories and topographies for a complete description of England Speculum Britanniae Hertfordshire, his second volume, was published in 1598, the last to be published in his lifetime, though manuscript versions of five others have survived. After 1600 he worked mainly as a surveyor for the Crown and for the Cecil family. He also engraved a number of maps.
John Norden’s survey of the manors of Barley, coming midway between Domesday and the Enclosure, helps to complete a framework on which to build the history of the growth of an English farming community. The survey contains a wealth of information that few parishes are fortunate enough to possess.
The “township” of Barley is situated in an area of fertile land in the middle of a long narrow parish in the northeast corner of Hertfordshire. Its northern boundary with Cambridgeshire is formed by the Icknield Way, the land to the east is also in Cambridgeshire today, although at one time this was in Essex.
The survey of John Norden covered three of the four main manors. The first half, which is in Latin, [translated in this volume] sets out the demesne lands and gives a list of the occupiers with a description of the land to which they had titles, together with the acreage and rent. The second part, which is in English, records each of the 1798 strips in the 111 furlongs of the six open fields, with the occupiers name, the size and the manor to which it belonged.
There is also a map which gives the furlongs, woods and enclosures, the names of many of which are still in use, and the names of the occupiers of the crofts, many of whom have descendants still living in the district. This map appears to have been drawn very accurately and a comparison with the Ordnance Survey map shows that the parish boundaries have not altered since Norden’s time.