Chapter II.

Henry the Second and Richard the First. 1154—1199.

We now come to the commencement of the period during which Clipstone maybe said to have been in its glory as a royal residence or lodging,— during the Plantagenet dynasty, nearly, probably not quite, all of which line of monarchs visited it. Some writers have indignantly repudiated the alleged statement in other works,—which works I have failed to observe,—that this was merely a royal "hunting-box." So far as my observations go, however, I think this term is more suitable than that of "palace."

Henceforth, during upwards of two centuries, these notes are taken in great measure from records which are dated only with the year of the monarch's reign. Such years, of course, comprised parts of two Dominical years, so that the necessary substitution of the ordinary for the regnal year, in quoting from these documents, involves the use of two dates. This is unavoidable, for to commute for any single year is impossible, and the attempt to do so has given rise to considerable confusion in Bailey's Annals of Nottinghamshire. To enable the inexperienced reader to include these double dates within the space of one ordinary year, the dates of the commencement of regnal years will be given in their places so far as is requisite. The year of Henry II. commenced with 19th December, ending of course with 18th December in the year following.

1164-5.—During the period which elapsed between the dates of the last note and the following it appears possible that Clipstone had left the Crown. For in the Pipe Rolls of the reign of Henry II.,—the only rolls of the period,—we find no reference to the place until the eleventh regnal year, as above. This circumstance, however, perhaps only signifies that it had not been let to ferm. But now it was finally royal property. Perhaps, judging from the notes for this year and the following, the King's House, as the "palace" was called,—now for the first time mentioned,— had been in a neglected and ruinous condition, or perhaps was being erected or re-erected. It would scarcely be justifiable to hazard a conjecture that a fortified house or castle had stood here and been occupied by one of the barons of the previous reign, meeting its fate by the edict of destruction of Henry II., which sealed the doom of numbers of troublesome petty fortresses. It is likely, however, that the fifteen years of war, tyranny, and terrorism, which caused the cultivated land to be deserted at the latter end of Stephen's reign, may be responsible for the lack of revenue from this place, from which the recovery appears to have been gradual.

This year, for a tun of wine for the King, and its conduct from London to Clipstone, and thence to Nottingham, was paid £4 12s. 6d., perhaps in connection with a royal visit. In works upon the Kings' House at Clipstone £20, by the King's writ. And for a fourth of the year, while Robert fitz Ranulph held office, £13 8s. 6d.

Thoroton records that the custody of the Forest came to the Everinghams shortly after the above year, in whose hands it continued until the time of Edward I. The Forest was then said to be in three divisions or keepings, the first being the portion between the Leen and the Doverbeck, the second High Forest, the third Rumwood. In the second keeping Robert Everingham was to have two Foresters riding, with two Pages and two Foresters on foot, also two Verderers and two Agisters. In this keeping were two hays: Birkland and Bilhagh, and the Park of Clipstone, in which hays and Park were two Verderers and two Agisters. However, this must refer to a later period, when Clipstone Park was constructed, as will be seen.

1165-6.—This year the Sheriff, Robert fitz Ralph, rendered an account of 44 shillings (amount deleted) of the ferm of Clipstone. In stocking the same Manor—for six oxen 18s., ten cows 20s., ten sows 6s. 8d., ten bee-hives 6s. 8d., twelve sheep 4s.

The word manor seems to have been frequently applied, without discrimination, to both the Kings' House and the whole area of the township, though the latter is correct, the word at this period signifying an estate of which part is in demesne and part held by tenants, over whom the lord had jurisdiction at periodical courts. It was one of the duties of the sheriff, it may be added, to attend to the stocking and re-stocking of the royal manors.

1166-7.—The Sheriff rendered an account of 100s. of the ferm of Clipstone, which was paid into the Treasury.

1168-9.—Towards the Aid,—a feudal tax or subsidy,—this year levied for marrying the King's daughter, to which Mansfield paid 20 marks and Edwinstowe 3 marks, Clipstone contributed 1 mark. It is not quite certain in what ratio this Aid was imposed, but in the following reign another one was paid by the King's tenants in chief,—those who held directly of him,—at the rate of twenty shillings per knight's fee.

1170-1.—Expended on works at Clipstone this year 46s. 8d.

1171-2.—For enclosing the Hays around the Kings' House at Clipstone 20s., by the view of Ralph de Wellebeuf and William fil Rein. In operations upon the Kings' House 43s., by the view of Thomas de London and William fil Rein. Account rendered of 3s. 4d. for honey at the Hays of Clipstone.

This is the earliest reference to the Hays. The word itself means a hedge, but here it signifies an enclosure,—always occurring in the plural. The number however is not mentioned, but there were probably two, perhaps one within the other with a view to defence. The hays of Sherwood Forest were enclosures in which no man could claim commonage.

The phrase "by view" requires a little explanation. When the sheriff of a county executed, by order, any work for the King, the amount expended was set down to his credit, to be settled for at the end of the official year. But, to save the King from being overcharged or defrauded, "viewers" were appointed to oversee the work. The number of these is not often mentioned,—though they are specially set down as four in 1214; it probably varied, perhaps in proportion to the magnitude of the work. These were mostly agents of the Grown, royal taskers, purveyors and the like,—at times local jurats,—who were afterwards examined before the Barons of the Exchequer on their oaths, before the Sheriff was finally credited to the amount expended.

1173-4.—William fitz Ranulph, Sheriff, this year gave account of the Assize of the King's Demesnes, and among the rest Clipstone 32s. 8d. Assize has many meanings, and in the present case may mean either a tax or rent,—probably the former.

1174.—This year, 30th September, saw peace made between the King and his rebellious sons. We are only interested in the conditions and concessions of this agreement in so far as they relate to Prince John. The provision for him included one thousand librates (pounds) of rents in England, of the King's demesnes and escheats, the Castle of Nottingham with the county of the same, the Castle of Marlborough, and lands, &c., in France. It seems that the gift of Nottinghamshire, however, must have meant only the revenues, for the expenditure at Clipstone continued to be set down year by year, as before, in the royal accounts.

1176-7.—Expended at Clifton, with the vivarium (fish-pond), £210. This may be a mistake for Clipstone, judging by subsequent references. The outlay was an enormous one.

1177-8.—Operations upon the vivarium of Clipstone £20; the chapel £20; the House £36 6s. 8d. This fish-pond may or may not have been the mill-dam as in after years. This is the earliest reference to the chapel; such an expenditure conveys the impression that it must have been connected with the cost of building the structure.

1178-9.—Works at Clipstone and Nottingham £65; the park £10 12s. 6d.; the vivarium, &c., £126. Overseers, Henry Leech, Reginald de St. Maria, Adam de Mortain, and William fil Walkelin; and for horses and beasts employed for the King's use, by Hugo de St. Mauro, £4 15s. 3d. With reference to the above, it should be remembered that there was a park and vivarium at Nottingham. Possibly the last item has reference a royal visit.

1179-80.—For inclosing the park at Clipstone £30; overseer William fil Walkelin. This is important as the earliest certain reference to the Park, especially as it tells us the date of inclosure. Though not the first, as has been stated, it was yet among the first of English parks. Previous to this inclosure the men of Mansfield appear to have had common of pasture on the site, a privilege of which they were thus deprived, apparently without recompense.

1181.—The King was at Nottingham about August 1181, whence he probably journeyed north. A charter to the order of Lazarites, bearing date at Clipstone, very possibly belongs to this period. It is attested by Geoffry the King's son, Fulk Painel, Reginald de Curteneye, Robert de Stuteville, Ralph fitz Stephen, Bertram de Verdon, Michael Belet, and William de Bendinges.

1182-3.—For utensils in the King's House at Clipstone, by the King's writ, 36s. 6d.

1184-5.—In payment of Humphrey de Bussei, for guarding the King's House at Clipstone, 66s. (or 60s.); and Ranulph and Herbert, for keeping the Park there, 4s.

1185.—About February the King appears to have been at Clipstone. Of two charters there expedited one is to Thurgarton Priory, Notts., the other to Barling's Abbey, Lincolnshire. The testing clause of the latter, when corrected by the former, gives witnesses common to both, viz., Hugh, Bishop of Durham; William, Earl of Arundel; Ranulph de Glanvill; Bernard de St. Wallery; Roger de Stutevill; William de Stutevill; Hugh Bardolf, Dapifer; and Ranulph de Guddinges. This appears to be the only other recorded visit of Henry, but it is probable that he was here on other occasions, though the sparse records and chronicles of this reign afford but general ideas of the royal progresses. He frequently traversed the neighbourhood in passing between the north and south of the kingdom, and in 1157, for instance, he spent a long period from September to December in Notts, and the Peak.

1185-6.—For inclosing the court of Clipstone 60s., by the view of Humphrey de Bussei and Tom de London.

1186-7.—For breaking up the vivarium at Clipstone 50s., and for carrying the fish from the same to another vivarium.

1189.—Richard I. was not crowned until about two months after the death of his father, viz., on the 3rd September, 1189. Before this, in the previous month of August, he exercised his generosity in making ample provision for his brother, Prince John. He gave him, among other vast possessions, the counties of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and the honours of Tickhill and Peveril, with the forests, vills, and all other appurtenances. In the first year of this reign, however, the local income and expenditure are still set down in the imperial accounts as follows:—

Ralph Murdac, Sheriff, renders an account of £4 of the ferm of Clipstone. The amount was disposed of in this way: Paid into the Treasury 16s.; in payment of Humphrey de Bussei 60s., for keeping the King's House of Clipstone; and Ranulph and Herbert, keepers of the Park, 4s.

Earl John, about this year, as Lord of Nottingham, granted a charter of liberties to that town, which, judging from the witnesses, was issued from this locality. The place is not given, and it would be too wild a proceeding to hazard the conjecture that it was from Clipstone. Among the more illustrious witnesses were Adam, Abbot of "Welbeck; Alexander, Prior of Lenton; Aldred, Prior of Newstead; Ralph Murdac, Sheriff of Notts, and Derby; Geoffry de Jorz (of Burton Jorce); Sampson de Strelley, and Geoffry Luteral (Lord of Gamston).

1194.—It is a matter of history that when King Richard left England for the Holy Land, at the commencement of his reign, his treacherous brother John attempted to seize the crown and kingdom into his own hands, fortifying his own castles in furtherance of that design. When Richard returned in March, 1194, John retired to France, but left the castles strongly fortified. These, however, were in turn reduced by Richard to submission, the last to surrender being those of Tickhill and Nottingham. The latter at length fell into the hands of Richard before the end of March, the Monarch having conducted the siege personally and with characteristic vigour.

On the following day, 29th March—in the words of an early chronicler—Richard proceeded to view Clipstone and the Forest of Sherwood, which he had never before seen, and they pleased him much, and on the same day he returned to Nottingham.

A few days later—on 2nd April—the King again proceeded to Clipstone to meet William, King of Scotland there, ordering, in the meantime, that all who were lately taken in the castles of Nottingham, Tickhill, Marlborough, Lancaster, and Mount St. Michael, should be brought together at Winchester, on the morrow after Easter.

The following day, 3rd April, being Palm Sunday, the King remained at Clipstone on that account. The King of Scots spent the feast at Worksop, observing the day with solemnity.

The following day the two kings passed on to Southwell.

These visits of Richard, the last local reference I have found during the reign, are specially worthy of being remembered when we consider that, out of a reign of ten years, he spent barely eight months in England. The statement that has occurred in some local works, to the effect that the meeting of the kings took place at Clipstone-on-the-Wolds, scarcely requires correction.

Shortly afterwards John was proclaimed a traitor and incapable of succeeding to the throne, his lands being confiscated. At the end of May, however, a reconciliation took place between the brothers, and in March, 1195, Richard restored to John all he had held.

Small as is the scope of this little work, in treating of a spot situated in the depths of his reputed haunt, we are not allowed to pass over the romantic age of the first Richard without an allusion to Robin Hood. It has been recorded from tradition that it was near Clipstone that Coeur-de-lion himself, having become inadvertently separated from his followers, was surrounded by Robin Hood and his men. The Outlaw, having revealed himself, stated that they were there to do homage to His Majesty, which so secured for him the goodwill of the Monarch that he thereupon invited Robin to Westminster— an invitation which was accepted. Unfortunately we cannot place much credence in such stories, though the fact of Richard's visits at least puts this one within the bounds of possibility. The late Spencer T. Hall, the "Sherwood Forester," in his Forester's Offering, records traditions actually current in the forest villages concerning the Outlaw, the most interesting of which he relates in verse, under the title of The Outlaws' Excursion to Clipstone. The poem is lengthy and full of interest, though the author, evidently converted by Hunter's tract, places the incidents in the reign of Edward I. or II. It should be recorded that the real or supposed association of the outlaws with this spot is eternalised by the statues on the Duke's Archway—a short distance from the ruins—of Robin Hood, Little John, Maid Marian, King Richard, Friar Tuck, and Allan-a-dale. Some distance in another direction, also, is Robin Hood's Whetstone, a hill 366 feet in height, and it has been traditionally recorded that this Prince of Outlaws was married at the parish church, while sundry other associations might be mentioned relating to the parish in which Clipstone is but a hamlet.