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#Hart Heritage 5 – Outposts of an outlaw, Adam de Gourdon and the Crondall Castles, by Linda Munday

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I am Adam de Gourdon, a noble free; Perchance thou hast heard my name. “I have heard it, I trow (quoth the prince), and thou Art a traitor of blackest fame. Yield thee to me!” But the outlaw cried, “Now, if thou knowest not fear, Out with thy sword! by a good knight’s word, I will give thee battle here.”

Excerpt from The Prince and the Outlaw by Menella Bute Smedley (1855)

Hidden away deep in the Crondall countryside in Hampshire lies an area of dense woodland just to the right of a public footpath. To anyone out walking, you may be forgiven for walking straight past not noticing anything special. However, within this tree laden wood lies the remains of the medieval castle of Barley Pound, once the hideout of the famous 13th century Hampshire outlaw, Adam de Gourdon (Williams-Freeman 1915, 307)

Aerial map of Barley Pound and Powderham from the air

Figure 1 Barley Pound and Powderham Castle from the air  © Getmapping Plc Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right 2017

Adam de Gourdon was a nobleman,  the Lord of Selborne and Bailiff of Alton. He became an outlaw after being disinherited of his land by King Henry III. (Hampshire History 2017) He had sided with Simon de Montfort and other barons in challenging the power of the king and his son Prince Edward. King Henry along with his predecessor, King John, had scant regard for the agreements made with parliament over the extent of the monarch’s powers. King John had put his seal to the Magna Carta, to which he then failed to adhere and Henry III also had disagreements with barons over his failure to abide by measures which would see his powers kept in check. (Battle of Evesham 2017)

By 1264, there was a civil war with supporters of the baron, Simon de Montfort, capturing the king and his son Edward. They were held prisoner whilst parliament tried to enforce its will over the King. Unfortunately, the king and his son escaped and Simon de Montfort was killed in battle at Evesham by the king’s army. When the King resumed power, Simon de Montfort’s son and other barons and knights, including Adam de Gourdon, continued fighting against him and his supporters. (Battle of Evesham 2017) It was from the castle of Barley Pound and the two surrounding siege castles of Powderham and Bentley that he made his raids on unsuspecting passers-by (Williams-Freeman 1915,307). We know that he seized the ancient mill at Hawkley, near Petersfield from the Bishop of Winchester some miles east but gave it back to Edward 1 in 1280 (Hampshire History 2017).

In 1266, Prince Edward himself decided to ride out to confront Adam de Gourdon. We know that he happened upon him in a wood somewhere near Alton and a fight ensued. Prince Edward was the victor but he refrained from killing Adam de Gourdon and instead showed mercy. He took him back to the royal court to meet with the King and Queen to ask for his life. (Cassells 1865, 296) The poem The Prince and the Outlaw by 19th century poet Menella Bute Smedley eloquently continues with the story:


Figure 2: Adam de Gourdon presented to the Queen – The English School

“Prince Edward hath brought him to Guilford Tower, Ere that summer’s day is o’er; He hath led him in to the secret bower ,Of his fair wife Alianore; His mother, the lady of gay Provence, And his sire, the king, were there; Oh, scarcely the Gordon dared advance In a presence so stately and fair……. My children, arise!” the old king said, And a tear was in his eye; He laid his hand on each bright young head, And he bless’d them fervently. “With a joyful heart I grant your prayer, And I bid the Gordon live.”

                                Excerpt from “The Prince and the Outlaw”- Menella Bute Smedley 1855

 Barley Pound and the siege castles

As well as the castle at Barley Pound, there were also two other medieval castles close by, Powderham and Bentley. Barley Pound was by far the largest and was previously thought to be a Roman amphitheatre. It was marked as such on 19th century county maps with Powderham marked as Roman encampment. Contemporary ordnance survey maps correctly describe Barley Pound and Powderham as a Ring and Bailey and Motte respectively. Bentley Castle, not even shown on earlier maps, is now simply noted as an earthwork with its name unofficially bestowed by archaeologists excavating the site in the 1980’s (Stamper 1984, 81).

barley pound historic map no licence

Figure 3- Map from 1870 showing Barley Pound Castle as a “Supposed Roman Amphitheatre “ and Powderham Castle as a “Roman Intrenchment.”

In 1915, Williams-Freeman author of An introduction to Field Archaeology as illustrated by Hampshire, describes Barley Pound as one of the best examples of a ring and bailey fortress in the county (Williams-Freeman 1915, 306). It is one of his highlights on his walking trail from Alton to Basingstoke – one of several routes he devised to take you around the defensive earthworks of the county.

Today the site occupies a densely wooded area and it’s hard to make out anything of the structure itself. When I visited it recently it was difficult to get into the woodland due to fallen trees and branches. It had quite an eerie feel to it. It’s off the beaten track and feels isolated even though there is a public footpath running adjacent to it. In Williams- Freeman’s day he also encountered the same overgrowth problem but said he could still recognise its features. He described it as having “a roughly circular shell keep at the south- eastern corner of the wood with an inner bailey on the south-west bounded by a bank about 7 feet high and 11 feet above the bottom of its ditch” (Williams-Freeman 1915, 306-307)

map of 3 castles

Figure 4 -Map showing the defensive outlines of all three medieval castles.

Just further up on the other side of the track from Barley Pound castle is Barley Pound farm. In the field behind stood the famous Barley Pound Roman villa. This accounts for both Barley Pound and Powderham medieval castles being originally mistaken for Roman features. The views in this area are incredible; you can see for miles and it makes good sense to have a castle here. As Williams-Freeman writes “It commands a view of the whole country to the north, from Hungry Hill over Aldershot to the Chobham ridges and to the north-west as far as the Chiltern Hills (Williams-Freeman 1915, 306)

In the 1930’s Powderham Castle was found in the grounds of the County Council school now a private home. It was considered to resemble a Roman watch tower even though it was considered at the time to be a medieval motte. The Hampshire Field Club Proceedings of 1932 says that “no Roman watch tower has yet been recognised in this part of England and the position is admirably suited for a signal station.” (Williams-Freeman 1932, 309) The Surrey Archaeological Society obtained permission from the council to undertake an excavation. Several finds were made from the bottom of the ditch including fragments of a large earthenware vessel thought to be Norman. (Williams-Freeman 1934, 308-309)

From the 11th century onwards, ninety nine percent of all warfare involving laying siege to a castle. (Bradbury 1992, 73) There was a complex process of advance and withdraw involved. Firstly, you had to challenge your opponent, advancing towards one of his strongholds, usually a castle, and besieging it. But what did that actually involve? Well it meant having an army of men first attack the surrounding town or village and then attack the castle. There would be constant firing without let up of arrows and stone shot. Other things may also be fired at the castle including dead animals, dung and even human heads! (Bradbury 1992, 257)

If that didn’t lead to surrender, then a blockade of the castle would ensue. Free movement of people along with the delivery of food and water supplies would be prevented. It was then a case of starving people into submission. (Bradbury 1992, 81) However, things may not go as planned. The lord of the castle may decide to send troops from other areas or his allies to fight you. Hence the need to build a counter-castle or siege castle for your own protection. (Bradbury 1992, 86-87) The siege castles obviously needed to be built fast. We know that both Bentley and Powderham siege castles were constructed quickly. Both of them having very low mottes (a mound surrounded by a ditch which supported the stronghold on top) only 1.2 metres off the ground (Kenyon 1990, 10, Stamper 1984, 85)

Excavations at Bentley Castle – a siege castle to Barley Pound

In 1979 archaeologist Paul Stamper commenced an excavation of Bentley Castle, a name unofficially given to the earthwork by the excavators. The site had been identified back in 1956 but this was the first time it had been excavated. The purpose of the dig was to establish the fortification type. Previously, it had been thought to be a ring and baily fortification. However, the conclusion was that it was definitely a Motte and Bailey. (Stamper 1984, 85) This is a mound encircled by a ditch with an enclosure. (Kenyon 1990,3) The enclosure is thought to be in this case for the pitched encampment who were besieging Barley Pound Ring and Bailey. A large amount of Roman pottery was found during the dig which is of no surprise due to the close vicinity of Barley Pound Villa. There were also a few medieval pottery sherds found. (Stamper 1984, 85-89)

To see photos and more information about the excavation go to this link below:

Bentley Castle excavation

Is Barley Pound Castle the mysterious Lidelea Castle of the Gesta Stephani?

In the 12th century history book, Gesta Stephani, Lidelea Castle is mentioned as being captured by King Stephen in 1147. However, we are told very little about its location. We know it belonged to Henri de Blois, Bishop of Winchester and brother of King Stephen, and was used to protect church lands from plunder. It was taken over by an enemy of the king, a compatriot of Brien Fitz Count, who “stripped the bishop’s land and possessions by grievous pillaging.” (Stamper 1984, 81) The bishop in response to this gathered a large garrison of men together who quickly built two siege castles to surround Lidelea to “reduce the besieged to the extremity of hunger.” (King and Renn 1971, 301) The Earl of Gloucester tried to rescue those in the castle by bringing a huge army of men to destroy the Bishop’s siege castles and get food to the besieged. However, King Stephen getting wind of this from the Bishop of Winchester, promptly arrived on the scene with his soldiers and the Earl with his army fled. The castle promptly surrendered and was returned to the Bishop of Winchester. (King and Renn 1971, 301)

Barley Pound Castle site from footpath

Figure 5 – Barley Pound from public footpath

inside barley poundFigure 6 – Inside the heavily overgrown Barley Pound

There has never been a place recorded in England by the name of Lidelea. Suggestions have, therefore, been made that the name was misheard during aural transmission. it was in fact meant to be Beddelie, a small holding recorded by the Bishops of Winchester in their very large manor of Crondall. The name Beddelie is very similar to the word Badly with Badly Pound being the previously known name of what is nowadays known as Barley Pound (King and Renn 1971, 301

The fact that the Gesta Stephani mentions two siege castles fits in perfectly with the circumstances in which we find Barley Pound Castle, a large castle surrounded by two much smaller ones. Since 1971 no challenge has been made to the idea that Lidelea is in fact Barley Pound Castle and the excavation of Bentley Castle further supported the theory with the castle motte being higher facing north towards Barley Pound castle. (Stamper 1984, 81)


Battle of Evesham, 2017. History http://www.battleofevesham.co.uk/The_Battle/History.html  (Accessed 20/10/17)

Bradbury, J. 1992 The Medieval Siege, Woodbridge, Boydell Press available at Hampshire Cultural Trust Archaeology Collections Library Accession no. A2009.33.1281 C3

Bute Smedley M, 2017, The Prince and The Outlaw – Poem, www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-prince-and-the-outlaw/ (accessed 20/10/17)

Cassells, J. 1865 Illustrated History of England Volume 1 available online at https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Cassell%27s_Illustrated_History_of_England/Volume_1/Chapter_56

Hampshire History, 2017 Sir Adam de Gurdon, knight turned outlaw, turned knight again www.hampshire-history.com/sir-adam-de-gurdon accessed 11/11/2017

Kenyon, J.R. 1990. Medieval Fortifications. London: Continuum

King, D. and Renn, D. 1971. Lidelea Castle—A Suggested Identification, The Antiquaries Journal volume 51, issue 2 September 1971: 301-303

Stamper, P.A. 1984 Excavations on a Mid Twelfth Century Siege Castle at Bentley, Hampshire in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeology Society Volume 40: 81-89 available at Hampshire Cultural Trust Archaeology Collections Library Accession no. B1989.620.126 and online at http://www.hantsfieldclub.org.uk/publications/hampshirestudies/digital/1980s/vol40/Stamper.pdf

Williams-Freeman, J. P. 1915 An introduction to Field Archaeology as illustrated by Hampshire, London: MacMillan &Co available at Hampshire Cultural Trust Archaeology Collections Library Accession no. A2009.33.1196 B5

Williams-Freeman, J.P. 1934 Report on Field Archaeology 1932-33 in F N Davis (ed.) Papers and Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society, Southampton: Gilbert and son


Figure 1 – Aerial map of Barley Pound and Powderham Castle © Getmapping Plc Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right 2017 (used under Digimap Licence for educational use)

Figure 2 – Prince Edward introducing Adam de Gourdon to the Queen by The English School available online at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/prince-edward-introducing-adam-gourdon-to-the-queen-english-school.html accessed 8/12/2017

Figure 3 – Map from 1870 showing Barley Pound Castle as a “Supposed Roman Amphitheatre “and Powderham as a “Roman intrenchment” Surrey XXIX (includes: Bentley; Crondall; Froyle; Long Sutton.) Surveyed: 1870 to 1872 Published: 1873 to 1875 http://maps.nls.uk/view/102352864 accessed 12/12/2017

Figure 4 – Map showing the defensive outlines of all three medieval castles courtesy of Paul Stamper

Figure 5 – Barley Pound Copse from footpath photography © Linda Munday 23/8/17

Figure 6 – Inside Barley Pound Copse photography © Linda Munday 23/8/17







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