The village of Nuthampstead is at the far eastern end of North Hertfordshire, the only parish in the district to have a border with Essex. It shares a lot of characteristics with north-east Essex and south Cambridgeshire. It is part of a loose association of parishes in the area, known as ‘the Hundred Parishes’, covering 1100 km2. Local historian David Heathcote proposed the name. The village is perhaps best known today, especially among the older generation, as the home of some 3000 US airmen, at first of the 55th Fighter Group, later replaced by the 398th Bomb Group. The Americans unkindly referred to their temporary home as Mudhampstead on account of the clay soils.

The parish of Nuthampstead, showing designated Archaeological Areas in pale green (map licensed from the Ordnance Survey)

Several headwaters of the River Quin, a tributary of the Rib, rise in Nuthampstead; the name is not ancient, being first recorded on Kitchin’s map of the county, published in 1750. It is a back-formation from Quinbury (Quenebury, ‘Queen’s manor’ in 1325) in Braughing. In the Middle Ages, it was known as le Burne. There is one spring to the east of Five Acre Wood and another north of Mossop’s Grove, both in the north of the parish, one to the east of Little Cokenach and one in Scales Park in the southeast corner.

Domesday Book

Although Nuthampstead does not appear under this name in Domesday Book, it was a manor of Barkway held from Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1086 by someone called Hugh. It is simply named as Bercheuuei and was assessed to pay tax of £6 on three hides of arable land. Historians suggest that the other manor in Nuthampstead, known as Berwick, was the holding belonging to Eadgar Ætheling in 1086, and held by Godwin; this was assessed for 1½ hides, taxable at 40 shillings (£2). In January 1066, two of Asgar’s men had the manors. Asgar was a significant landowner, with holdings in Afleduuicha, Ashwell, Bengeo, Bozen, Braughing, Brickendon, Digswell, Much Hadham, Hainstone, Hare Street, Hexton, Hixham, Hoddesdon, Hormead, Hyde Hall, Ichetone, Libury, the Pelhams, Sawbridgeworth, Shenley, Stanstead, Stiuichesuuorde, Theobald Street, Thorley, Wallington, Wickham and Wormley. Most of these are in eastern Hertfordshire.

Domesday Book records the taxable population as consisting of 12 villeins and a priest, with four ploughlands between them, 15 cottars and six slaves on Hugh’s holding and four bordars, four cottars and one slave with two ploughs on Eadgar’s land. Three ploughlands were in Hugh’s demesne and one in Eadgar’s. There was half a ploughland of meadow, pasture and enough woodland to provide pannage for 50 pigs on Hugh’s manor, pasture and woodland for 15 pigs on Eadgar’s; Hugh’s pasture and woodland were taxed at 2 shillings. These 43 adult males may imply a population of about 269 people, considerably more substantial than the population of 152 recorded in the census of 2011.

The taxable value, which was £8 (£6 + 40s) in 1066 and again in 1086, fell to just £3 10s when Geoffrey and Eadgar acquired the manors. The reasons for this are unknown; in Cheshire and Yorkshire, revenues fell after the ‘harrying of the north’, when William I led a punitive campaign against an English rebellion, burning fields and houses, and killing a significant proportion of the population. It is unlikely that this happened in Nuthampstead.

Read about the archaeology of Nuthampstead here.

Read about a 1992 fieldwalking survey on the border of Nuthampstead and Barkway here.

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