Chapter VIII.

The Forest

The South town of Mansfield in the great Shire Wood to distinguish it from many other settlements of the same name had "in Ashfield" attached to it, not only to distinguish it, but as a description of that part of the Forest in which it stood. It was wholly situated in the Forest, and at one period the boundaries of both Forest and Parish on the South-West and West were identical. The earliest perambulation included the town, but no doubt owing to the fact that the King was lord the later perambulations omitted the Township but included Eastfield Side (known as Forest Side) and that part South of the Maun unenclosed till 1803. The boundary quoted by Thoroton is as follows:— " . . . . so up the same river (Meden) to Otter Brigge (Newbound) from thence by the great way of Nottingham to the Mill Ford (Blackmires) from thence to Mayneshead (adjoining Kirkby Hardwick)."

The date of this Perambulation was a.d. 1232 and is almost exactly the same as that of 1225, but this of 1225 mentions reservations not mentioned in the 1232. A Perambulation of 1539 travelling the opposite direction states: "and from thence by the way . . . . the lane between the fields of Kirkby, and then by the said lane between the fields of Kirkby. And then by the said lane . . . . by the house door of Hardwick up to Mameswell Heade. And from thence towards the West by Hardwicke Hedge. And so going toward the South (clearly an error for North) by the Rewarder Mere (or Moor) between the Kirkby Field and the Sutton fields up to Holebrucke, and from thence by the hedge of Holebrucke Hawe into Colegate. And so passing away by the Coppice Wood of the lord the King called Fulwood. And so by the whole bounds of Fulwood round about up to Normanton Lane up to Hawkiswell. And from thence about the fields of Dirty Hucknall & Houthwell up to Milnford Bridge."

These are the exact bounds of the ancient Parish of Sutton, but it may be added that there is some confusion regarding Milnford Bridge, as this places it evidently in Skegby whereas other perambulations are clear that it is at Blackmires. It is quite possible that the intention of the Officers was to leave Skegby out of the Forest altogether as it had been granted by King John 1207, to the Spigurnels, Godfrey Spigurnel being 'Serjeant of his Chapel.' Readers who desire further details are referred to White's Dukery Records.

No record appears of the forming of the Forest. William Peveril in 1154 being its Custodian, and King John while Earl of Morteyne gave a Charter to Matilda de Caux and Ralph Fitzstephen of all the Liberties and Free Customs in all the Forests of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Succeeding them came the Birkings and Everinghams lords of Laxton near Tuxford. Any portions of the Forest in Derbyshire were according to Dr. Thoroton disafforested in a.d. 1222.

The Forest was divided into three keepings, Sutton being in the middle one, and of the nine keepers one lived at Sutton Woodhouse in 1799, John Green being keeper. Then in Sutton and Carlton the inhabitants at the Easter Vestry meeting elected amongst other officials, two Woodwards, to oversee the unenclosed Forest land.

Meetings of all Officers of the Forest were held at stated periods to correct encroachments, to give an account of all matters connected with the Woods and the Deer and the rights of the inhabitants when all who had any interest or grievance attended, or were summoned before the Justices in Eyre (or travelling Justices) to one or other of the Justice Seats in the Forest. One of the Seats situated in Lyndhurst, and only a few yards from the Sutton parish boundary has been marked by a stone placed there in 1752 and surrounded by a fence and marked by an Inscription by the 6th Duke of Portland in 1931.

As the different perambulations of the Forest vary in many particulars especially in the neighbourhood of the parish of Sutton it is interesting to find the following account of proceedings in connection with a boundary as well as to learn the method of dealing with them.

Exchequer, Treasury of Receipt, Forest Proceeding 13 Ed III. (a.d. 1340).

Edward by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine, to his beloved and faithful Ralph de Nevill, keeper of the Forest beyond Trent, or his deputy in our Forest of Shirewoode greeting. Whereas the lord Henry, formerly King of England, our great grandfather, by his Charter afterwards confirmed the perambulation of the Forest in the Co. of Nottingham made by his command, and for himself and his heirs granted that the said perambulation by the metes and places contained in the same charter should remain firm and constant for ever, and among other metes and places named and expressed in the same charter . . . . it is to be contained that the said perambulation begins at the ford of Coyneswath by ascending towards the west at the water that is called Modene, up to the town that is called Warsop, and by the same town ascending by the said water up to the park of Pleasley and then ascending by the same water up to Hockebrigge, and then by turning aside by the great road of Nottingham up to the bridge of Milneford, and then by ascending up to Mannesheved, and then between the fields of Herdeyk and Kirkeby to the moor of Kirkeby to the corner which is called Nonneker,—and lately at the prosecution of John le Wyne suggesting to us that he has a certain pasture called Fulwode with appurtenances in Penkeston and Normanton in the said county of Nottingham and the County of Derby which are next the said town of Kirkeby . . . . and that the said pasture is distant from the said field of Kirkeby which is the mete of the said Forest of Shirewode there by one league and more, and is outside the metes of the same Forest; and that you and your deputy and other ministers of the said forest pretending that the said pasture is within the said forest of Shirewode have forced the said John by various distresses to pay money for his beasts found within the forest aforesaid according to a certain custom within the said forest which is called Wardeset to our use, and the said John supplicating us upon this for himself that a remedy be used by us, we assigned our beloved and faithful Roger Hillary and Roger de Bankwell to enquire by the oath of honest and legal men of the counties aforesaid, by whom the truth of things could better be known in the presence of you or your deputy Keeper, and in the presence of the foresters, verderers and other ministers of the said forest summoned up on this by the said Roger and Roger if they wished to be present, whether the aforesaid pasture of Fulwode be within the metes of the forest aforesaid contained in the said Charter of our great grandfather, and within the forest or outside, and by inquisition thereof in the presence thereof of Thomas de Longevylers your deputy aforesaid— Keeper in the said forest of Shirewode, and of other ministers of the same forest made by our command and returned into our Chancery it was ascertained that the aforesaid pasture is not within the metes and places contained in the charter of our great grandfather, but is altogether outside the same metes and places by one league and more, and that it is not within the said forest of Shirewode, but outside the same forest, we commanded you that you should allow the aforesaid John to hold the aforesaid pasture of Fulwode with appurtenances outside the said Forest of Shirewode, and the metes and places contained in the charter of our great grandfather without any hindrance. Further, you in no wise intermeddling with the same pasture saving in our right, and the distraints to him or his men made on the occasion premised should wholly cause to be relaxed to the same, or signify the cause to us why you should less obey our command otherwise directed unto you.

And you the deputy aforesaid, our command aforesaid being despised have not yet taken care to do the premises, or to signify to us why you refused or ought not to do them, in manifest contempt of us and our commands aforesaid and no ordinary charge and injury of the said John and his men aforesaid, whereof we are much troubled. Moreover we command you to do the premises according to the tenor of our commands first to you thereof directed, or you the deputy aforesaid are to be in our presence the morrow of souls, wheresoever we shall be in England to show why you have scorned to obey our commands aforesaid so many times thereof directed to you. And you shall have there this Writ. Witness: Edward Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester, our very dear Son, Custodian of England at Windsor, 7 October, the thirteenth year of our reign. (Indorsed) The answer of this Writ appears in the bill attached to this Writ.

He (Ralph de Nevill) replies that the plot of Fulwode in the Co. of Nottingham is outside the mete of the perambulation made by Hugh de Neville, then Justice of the Forest of the lord the King beyond Trent, Wrianus de Insula and others associated with him by command of the lord King Henry, great grandfather of the present king in the ninth year of his reign in which perambulation the said King Henry reserved altogether to himself all his demesne lands as appears in the charter of the perambulation aforesaid which says— Saving both to us and our heirs the enclosure of Willey and with all our demesne in the Co. of Nottingham on the west, north and east of the town of Nottingham, and on the south of the same town as far as the water of Trent which are and shall remain forest. And the town of Skeggeby Sutton and Hokenhale Hothwayt with the plot of Fulwode which were outside the said perambulation are of ancient demesne of the lord king and of the manor of Mannesfelde, are and shall remain forest by reason of the reservation aforesaid. And so the lord king and all his ancestors were seized of the said plot belonging to their demesne lands of Sutton and Hokenhale Hothweyt and in the forest of Shirewood from time immemorial. And to have greater evidence that the said plot of Fulwode in co. of Nottm. is of the demesne of the lord King as is aforesaid Edward grandfather of the present king in the journey of William de Vesci appropriated to himself in the s-d plot of Fulwode eight acres of land for the use of Hugh de Rodemarthwyt, he returning annually to his Exchequer by the hands of the Sheriff of Nottm. two shillings and eightpence.

And for that reason and for many others the said John le Wyne who claims the said plot of Fulwode and his tenants of Penkeston and Normanton, who are and shall remain in the co. of Derby outside the forest are distrained by their beasts as those who have not common pasture in the said plot of Fulwode, of wh. plot the lord King and all his ancestors were hitherto seized of all trespassed, vert and right of hunting, escapes and wardships made according to the assize of the Forest at their swainmote in the presence of foresters and verderers by the Woodward of the same plot, elected by the town of Hokenhale Hothweyt. And there the lord has amends according to the number of offences as of other woods of the demesne of the lord King in the said forest of Shirewode."

It is a curious coincidence that a similar dispute arose in A.D. 1651. At that time a Committee was appointed by Commonwealth Parliament to sequestrate the estates, and to fine all who had taken up arms in defence of the late King, and amongst others the Duke of Newcastle to whom Fulwode had been granted, and from which he derives one of his titles. It was seized by this Committee, and a claim was made by the County Committee of Derbyshire to the Central Committee that Fulwode was in Derbyshire. The County Committee for Nottinghamshire thereupon reported as follows:—

"We enclose the Certificate of divers Justices of the Peace, Verderers of Sherwood Forest and other Officers and Gentlemen of the county touching Fulwood which without any reason has been endeavoured to be drawn to county Derby, whereas by ancient records, and other testimony it is evident that it has been and still is in county Nottingham. We therefore desire that however you dispose of the profits whether it be managed by us or the Commissioners for Co. Derby you will not give them occasion to entrench upon the rights of County Notts, as they are very apt to do. 1. Certificate of Thomas Lindley, J.P. and 23 others that Fulwood Fields now in question are within the Forest of Sherwood and in County Notts, as appears by an Inquisition taken upon the Oths of a Jury of both Counties in xiv Ed. III (a.d. 1341) and another of xxx Hen. VIII (a.d. 1539) as upon examination of some of the deponents who have been at the perambulation of the Forest, and others who have known both Assessments and Tithes paid for the same to the parish of Sutton-in-Ashfield. 9 June, 1651."

It seems plain that owing to the fact that the over lord of the Manor of Sutton was not resident, and at this date, i.e. 1341, the under lord, the Suttons had removed their interests to Lincoln there was no one of sufficient authority to protest against these efforts to dismember the parish, and it is only in quite recent days that Fulwood has been made an extra parochial liberty, and Huthwaite a separate township.

In the Great Regarde (or Survey) of the Forest in 1358 begun by John de Bristol and John de Crumwell, Knights and others their fellows and assistants themselves as Lords Regardant, and the rest as Jurors in the 31st years of the Raigne of Ed. III and ended on the nativity of our Lady Virgin in the year following, it was reported that "Jordan de Sutton (then dead) had made one Assarte of olde of 10½ acres of medow at Nether Haie in the Moore of Sutton in the Kings demesne and it belongeth to the towne of Sutton and John son of Robert of Henor was then tenant." Robert was also reported probably by the Woodwards of Sutton "that he drieve the water of man out of his course at Jordan Intake in Sutton Moore by estimacion one rood of ground in length."

Ralph Cain, Clerke, possibly a member of the old Norman family of Caen, usurped to himself a piece of ground in Fulwood. Whether he was Priest or not his land is described as being in Hucknall Houthwaite, and as having been in the hands of John the King. In the same Regarde it was reported that John de Sutton drew the Forthe that is called the Long Forthe out of the right course to the Kings hurt and the Commonalty of the towne of Sutton, but now it useth the right course,—so that this claim equally royal and popular had been recovered.

In a.d. 1447 it was again reported that the King had thereof the moore of Hucknall Houthwaite for an assart of XLVIJ acres and a half called Hucknall Brecks by the year XXs & Vd.

Ralph Lord Cromwell had a Grant of Billowe, Birkland, Rumwode and Fulwode as Steward 23 March, 1445, and on 5 March, 1484 a Grant was made for Life of the mastership of Fulwood to Sir Charles Pilkington.

In the Abb. Placitm. of Ed. I it states that Adam the parson of Esethwayte (Eastwood) claimed CL acres of land at Fulwoode "Et Prior (de Lenton) die quod Fulwood est neq burges, neq villa, neq hameletum, Et die Adam non potest hoc didicere. Ides Prior sine die."

In an Inquisition taken at Mansfield on the death of Sir Charles Cavendish 5 April 15 Jas. I (1617) before Wm. Fletcher and John Numan Esq. and Thomas Hall, gent, by virtue of a certain Commission of the said lord king by the oath of Edward Needham (and 15 others) who say that they are divers and several Closes and Parcels of land .... called or known by ... . Coxe Moor, the long Meadowe .... Fulwood Closes .... Hucknall Brecks, etc. of assart (Forest land enclosed) waste and pourprestures (Forest land built upon) and of other land and tenements of the ground of the said King."

These lands are in the parish of Sutton and are still so named. This Sir Charles Cavendish was the 13th child of Sir William Cavendish and the 5th of his second wife Elizabeth (Bess) Hardwick. He resided at Kirkby Hardwick when he commenced to build a large house near Kirkby Grives, but after an assault upon him by Sir John Stanhope of Linby in 1599 when viewing the work, and blood having been shed, Sir Charles gave up the project and taking up his residence at Welbeck, died there. His son became Duke of Newcastle and the Dukes of Portland are descended from him on the female side.

On 16 June, 1640, William Earl of Newcastle presented a Petition to the King in which the following appears:— "Petitioner is seized in Fee of several Woods in the manors and parishes of (int. al) Sutton-in-Ashfield and Kyrkby in or near your Forest of Sherwood. That the Tenants pretending to have commons of estovers (i.e. an allowance for life of wood to a Tenant) in those woods by colour of assignment from your Foresters and Officers there which they obtain without difficulty at the Courts of the Forest: cut and carry off a great part of them, but petitioner the undoubted owner makes no benefit being restrained by forest laws from cutting the woods by such ordinary course of assignment whence he is unable to profit by his own inheritance. He prays letters patent granting him and his heirs the power to cut and take away the said Woods at will though they be within your Forest."

Referred to the Earl Marshall, Justice in Eyre beyond Trent who is to certify his opinion.

It is clear from this document that the disintegration of the Forest had commenced, and as the Civil War broke out immediately afterwards the whole of the Estates of the Duke of Newcastle were seized, and the Committee for Compounding on 24 December, 1647 sold a Cottage and land at Fulwood to a William Clayton "on the estate of William Cavendish through his delinquency," thus illustrating their method of dealing with such cases.

At the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 the Duke regained the Manor.

Another method of preserving the amenities of the Forest may be seen in the proceedings following. A Commission to view (i.e. take an account of) the Deer in Sherwood Forest was issued 12 November, 1529, to, amongst others, the Abbot of Welbeck, Roger Greenhalgh of Teversal who at this time was lord of the Manor of Sutton-in-Ashfield, etc., this took place 15 January, 1530.

In the Transcript sent to the Exchequer no mention is made of Sutton Woods but in the Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII Sutton Woods appear and as the total number of Deer is the same in both accounts under the heading of 'Simon Woddys Walke' it may be taken for granted that he was the Forest Keeper at Sutton. They made the following report: "The vew taken in Shyrwood by the foresaid Commissioners the XV day of January In the said Yere and Reyngne of our soveraigne Lord the Kynge as folowith,—Simon Woddys Walke.

The noumber of the Red dere theire iiij xx X
Off the whych dere of auntler xxvij
Nomanys (? Normans of today) Wood.
The noumber of the Red dere theire vijxx 8
Of the whych dere of auntler xxvi

The Return includes 13 other woods and concludes as follows: "by me John Bishop of Elphyn commendatory of the Abbey of Welbeck, by me Brian Stapilton, by me John Villers, knights, by me . . . . Roger Grenehaghe Esquire."

An interesting and exhaustive account of the Forest Laws is given by Manwood who wrote in a.d. 1615 wherein he describes the duties of all Officers of the Forest, all the Offences with the penalties incurred by breach, explaining the meaning of. them, from which I give only extracts that apply to Sutton. He goes on:—

"The Court of Attachment is kept every 40 days throughout the year by the Verderer at which all the Foresters appear. Woodwards must likewise present at this Court all offences down within their charge but they cannot make any attachment, nor attach any offender within their charge .... A Swainmote is properly a Court of Freeholders within the Forest, for this word Mote in Norman speech is called properly a Court, as Halmide are the Courts Baron, as the Courts holden in London .... So the Swainmote is in English a Court within the Forest whereunto all the Freeholders doe owe suit and service. The Verderers are judges and not the Chief Warden of the Forest." Swainmote Courts were held the VI day before Michaelmas "to take Agistment in our demesne Woods," and about the Feast of St. Martin "to receive our pannage." The third court "shall be kept in the beginning of 15 days before St. John the Baptist (24 June) when that our Agisters doe meete together to fawne our Deer."

It was the duty of the Lord Chief Justice in Eyre (i.e., the itinerant or travelling Justice) to enquire whether the Steward had kept the Courts of Swainmote three times in the year according to the Lawes of the Forest and taken his presentments and caused them to be affirmed by the verdict of XII indifferent men, and also to be insealed by the Verderers .... or not. And whether the XL day Court had been kept according to the Statute.

Rule No. 80 was as follows: "You shall enquire if any man have stopped or streitened any Church way, or Milne way, or other waies within the forest or purlieu, you shall present his name." In view of what has happened for very many years, it is much to be regretted that this excellent rule sank into desuetude. An attempt on similar lines was made in the Act establishing Urban District Councils in 1894 but is practically dead, and very little effort is made to preserve ancient Bridle roads and footpaths many of the latter being unusable for want of oversight and by reason of almost unclimable stiles.