Clipston Meadows.
Clipston Meadows.

SUCH a feeling of quiet dwells in this little sleepy village, consisting of a few labourers' cottages and farmhouses, with straight canals along the meadows in place of the pleasant river with the golden ragwort flourishing on its banks, that from its appearance a stranger would gather no idea of its ancient importance, for there is nothing to indicate the rude state which must at one time have been here maintained; certainly those few undressed stones, roughly built together, which he notices by the roadside, would never convey the impression that this was the Kings' House, or the "Castle," as it was sometimes called, or that within these walls the most powerful of the Plantagenet Kings once held their court and issued their edicts. Mr. Stapleton (to whose short History of Clipston the writer is indebted for his account of a number of the incidents noticed) has done good service in gathering together the records of a once famous spot.

In Thoroton's History of Nottinghamshire it is said that before the Norman Conquest Osborne and Ulsi had two manors in Clipston. There, afterwards, Roger de Busli had in demesne one and a half carucates of land, twelve villeins, and three bordarii, having three and one half carucates and a mill, with wood by places pasturable. In the Confessor's time the value was sixty shillings; when the Domesday survey was taken it was forty shillings.

From the time of Henry II. it is known to have been a royal residence; large sums of money were expended on account of building the Kings' House, of the chantry within its walls, of providing utensils for the house, of making the vivarium, or fish pond, of building the mill, as well as of stocking the farm. Quantities of wine, also, were ordered to be conveyed here.

It is stated by an old chronicler that when Richard I., after his return from the Holy Land, had brought to subjection his rebellious subjects in the castles of Tickhill and Nottingham, he, on the next day, being the 29th of March, 1194, "proceeded to view Clipston and the Forest of Sherwood, which he had never before seen, and they pleased him much." On the 2nd of April, the King was again there, to meet William, King of Scotland. The following day being Palm Sunday, the King remained at Clipston; while the King of Scots spent the day in great solemnity at Worksop.

Though the name of King John is closely associated with this building, it has not been found that he paid many visits to Clipston. He was there, however, in the first year of his reign (which dates from Ascension Day, 1199), and again 1201, when the Sheriff, William Brewer, gave an account of his expenditure for "carrying the King's Bacons from Clipston to Northampton — ten shillings and ten pence." To the Chaplain at Clipston he also paid twenty shillings for his services from the Sunday next before the feast of St. Nicholas, until the Sunday next before the feast of the Ascension, and likewise twenty shillings to him from that time until St. Michael's day.

King John's last visit to Clipston is believed to have occurred on the anniversary of the day when his brother Richard first saw Sherwood Forest. The large quantity of wine ordered to be sent here about this time is also an indication of hospitality. There is further evidence that the Kings' House, even when he was far away from it, had an interest for him, for on the eleventh of January, 1215, the King being then at the New Temple, London, commanded the Sheriff to provide payment for the two Chaplains at Clipston and Harestan, there ministering by his order for the soul of King Henry his father. He died at Newark Castle on the 19th of October, 1216.

About the fifth year of the reign of Henry the Third, Clipston was burned and repaired again, but whether the Kings' House suffered is uncertain, though, from the work ordered some time afterwards to be done to the King's chamber, it is not improbable. In regard to this fire, Henry III. (whom Dante, in his vision of Purgatory, describes as "the King of simple life and plain"), while at Blyth, directed Brian de Insula to see to the repairs of the houses of "our poor men there," and to allow them to cut down a reasonable amount of timber to rebuild them, and to see that this was done "at the least detriment to our forest." How fearful the King was of any injury being done to the forest, may be judged from his repetition of the order in the following week for the timber to be " taken from the forest at the least detriment to it," and adding, "above all."

The order given to the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1849-50, for the sale of the wine in the Kings' Houses at Clipston and Nottingham, was doubtless owing to the preference for the new vintages, especially as directions were issued to other Sheriffs in different parts of the country to the same effect. Henry the Third died on the 16th of November, 1272; and during his long reign it is not known that he ever visited Clipston.

In a Forest book containing the laws, statutes, and ordinances of the Forest of Sherwood, compiled about this time, the marks and bounds of Clipston Park are defined as "beginning at the pounde at Clipston, and extending to Toyst Cross, and from Toist Cross to the holm dale unto the bancke of Mane, and from the water bancke of Mane going to the well dale, and from the well dale going to the herthe pitt, and from the herthe pitt to bradmeer, and from the bradmeer to the leapinge place besyde the chappell of St. Edwynnes and so going by the way unto another leapinge place, and so from thence unto the said ponde at Clipston where it began."1

The reign of Edward the First began on the 20th of November, 1272, but there are very few records of his early years, either relating to the manor or to Sherwood Forest.

In September, 1290, the King was at Geddington and Rockingham, on the nth he was at Hardby (or Harby, as it is now called), in Nottinghamshire, where it is probable he then left the Queen, who during this autumn was suffering from illness. From the 13th to the 17th he was at Newstead, the next two days were spent at Rufford Abbey, and from Rufford he went on the 20th to Clipston. On the 23rd he was at Dronfield, in Derbyshire, and remained in that county until the 7th of October, when he left for Clipston, where he remained until the 12th. On the 14th of October the King made known his intention of going to the Holy Land, for which purpose he accepts the tenths granted by his subjects.

As King Edward was said to be strongly attached to the Queen, it is possible that this resolution had some connection with her serious illness.

The King summoned a parliament to meet at Clipston during this autumn. It is said to have assembled on St. Michael's Day, and must have been a stately gathering, which, no doubt, would call forth the resources of the adjacent religious houses of Rufford, Welbeck, and Newstead, to furnish accommodation for the nobles, knights, and their various retinues. At the conclusion of the parliament the King spent several days at Lexington and Marnham. He was again with the Queen at Harby on the 20th, where he remained until her death, of a slow fever, on the 28th of November.2

Edward the First appears to have spared no pains in training the heir to the throne both in the art of war and in matters of business. This is said to be exemplified by a large quantity of letters written by the Prince in 1305, which have been accidentally preserved.

Edward the Second, who succeeded to the throne in July, 1307, made frequent visits to Clipston. On the 25th of the following September he writes from thence to the Sheriff of Gascony and the Constable of Bordeaux, requesting a thousand tuns of good wine to be forwarded to Clipston for the occasion of his coronation.

Edward was a tall, handsome man, endowed with great bodily strength, and well qualified to excel in martial exercises, but want of earnest purpose darkened his whole career. He was addicted to gambling, by which he lost large sums of money, and was driven to borrow of servants to pay his debts. One of his gambling agents was Piers Gaveston, towards whom, through Edward's injudicious favouritism, the jealousy of the nobles became so much excited that they broke out into open rebellion, took Gaveston prisoner, and put him to death.

Edward felt her death very deeply, and is said to have mourned for her all the rest of his life; he accompanied the funeral procession throughout the whole way.

The Christmas of 1315 the King spent at Clipston, making many presents, and on the 20th of December he sent regretting his inability to be present at the coronation of Philip, King of France. On the same day he gave permission to the Earl of Athol to take all the plunder he could win from the Scots, and also gave orders for a grant to be made to the widow of the noted Piers Gaveston.

To Clipston, in 1317, came Cardinal Pelagrua, the Nuncio of the Pope, the Cardinal "coming to our Lord the King, to announce the creation and coronation of his said Lord the Pope." In the royal accounts is included a gift of one hundred pounds to the Cardinal, and also a present to Amenenus de Pelagrua, the nephew of the Cardinal, of a basin chased and richly gilt, with a ewer to match.

Edward, when on his travels, was accustomed to be accompanied by a lion and Genoese fiddlers.

In January, 1320, the King held a council of the magnates at York. He then proceeded south with the Queen, and was at Clipston from the 1st to the 4th of February on his way to London, where he arrived on the 16th.

In 1322 Thomas de Burgh is ordered to pay arrears of wages to a chaplain celebrating divine service daily in the chapel of the King's Manor of Clipston—5 marks yearly. To Thomas Atte Merk, bailiff of the manor and keeper of the King's peel, 3d. a day; and to Roger de Warsop, keeper of the paling about the park there, 2d. a day; from the time of the death of Gilbert de Stapleton, and to continue to pay these until further orders.

In 1323, the keeper of the Kings' peel of Clipston is ordered to deliver to Joan de Boys, Patronilla de la Dale, Robert de Cleveland, and John de Oselaston, poor tenants of Edwin de Chandos, four oxen, six cows, and three calves, which were taken from them by certain men who were pursuing Thomas, late Earl of Lancaster, on his flight from the bridge of Burton, when the said men took many beasts in Derbyshire, from those who were believed to be the Earl's adherents, and drove them to the said peel, and delivered them to the keeper for custody.

1 Dukery Records.
2 The Queen's funeral procession left Lincoln on December 4th, her body being buried at Westminster on the 17th, and her heart deposited in the Church of the Dominicans.
The route taken by the funeral procession is ascertained by the account of the crosses the King erected to her memory at Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Northampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St. Albans, Waltham, West Cheap, and Charing.