A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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Introduction, p. 391. Braydon, p. 402. Chippenham and Melksham, p. 407. Selwood, p. 414. Savernake, p. 417. Chute, p. 424. Clarendon and Melchet, p. 427. Grovely, p. 431. List of Forest Eyres, p. 433. Wardens of the Forests, p. 434.
By the 13th century the forest law was administered in four royal forests (fn. 1) in western Wiltshire, namely Braydon, Chippenham, Melksham, and Selwood, (fn. 2) and five in the eastern part of the county, namely Savernake, (fn. 3) Chute, (fn. 4) Clarendon, Melchet, (fn. 5) and Grovely. Two of the forests in each part of the county were administered jointly: Chippenham with Melksham, and Clarendon with Melchet. The bounds of these forests included arable, meadow, pasture, and even villages as well as the woodland, and the lands and woods of subjects as well as royal demesne. (fn. 6)
The origin of the forest system in Wiltshire is a matter of conjecture. The royal forests were certainly established in regions where clearing and cultivation had made comparatively slow progress because of the unfavourable terrain. (fn. 7) Braydon, Chippenham and Melksham, and Selwood Forests developed from the great belt of woodland known to the Saxons in the 9th century as 'Sealwudu', (fn. 8) which stretched from the Thame valley to the Vale of Blackmore. (fn. 9) The Oxford Clay upon which 'Sealwudu' grew was covered in prehistoric times by dense forests of 'damp oak-wood' with thick brambly undergrowth, and with marshes at the lower levels. Whereas the royal forests of Braydon, Chippenham and Melksham, and Selwood in Somerset lay mainly upon the Oxford Clay Vale, the distinct Forest of Selwood in Wiltshire was established mainly upon the Upper Greensand to the east of it; this was less densely covered in early times with 'dry oak' and birchwood. (fn. 10) Similarly the oak woodlands covering the extensive areas of Clay-with-Flints and other later formations upon the underlying Chalk formed the nuclei of the eastern forests. (fn. 11)
The distribution of settlements named in Domesday shows areas of marked sparsity of population in those districts which were, or subsequently became, royal forests. (fn. 12) These districts contained extensive woodlands, (fn. 13) which supported large herds of swine. There were 23 swineherds in Chippenham, (fn. 14) and 29 in Westbury, and 13 in Warminster, (fn. 15) in the Selwood Forest area. The tenants of South Newton had pannage for 80 pigs in Melchet Wood, (fn. 16) as also had the tenants of Washern, near Wilton. (fn. 17)
Game naturally abounded in the forests. Fallow deer were taken in large numbers in the 13th century. (fn. 18) Red deer were evidently fewer, (fn. 19) the roe is less often mentioned, (fn. 20) and the wild boar not at all.
The Anglo-Saxon kings enjoyed hunting in their Wiltshire demesnes, and there were officers responsible for the royal sport. Domesday records that Edward the Confessor gave his huntsman Wulfgeat a hide in the royal manor of Chippenham, (fn. 21) and that another huntsman, Alvric, held land of the king in Burbage and at Harding (fn. 22) in the Savernake area, and in Cowesfield (fn. 23) in what became Clarendon Forest. But the preConquest kings of England do not seem to have exercised hunting rights beyond those enjoyed by any other landowner in his own demesne. (fn. 24)
It seems clear that the system of forest law, courts, and officials, which appears in developed form in the records of the 13th century, was imported into England from Normandy after the Conquest and applied to suitable districts of Wiltshire by arbitrary decrees of the Norman kings. (fn. 25) The 'Dialogue of the Exchequer', written between 1176 and 1179, gave a significant explanation of the payment to Salisbury Cathedral of a tithe of the Wiltshire forest revenues. Forest amercements were declared to be 'unlawful'—i.e. contrary to natural justice—and the tithe an attempt to give a respectable colour to their exaction. (fn. 26) This scarcely argues any great antiquity for the forest system.
The Norman forests were certainly created in well-wooded and sparsely populated parts of Wiltshire where there were extensive royal demesnes. The royal manors of Lydiard Millicent, Chippenham, Melksham, Calne, Bromham, Warminster, Westbury, and East Knoyle (fn. 27) formed the nuclei of the western group of forests, and Bedwyn, Wootton Rivers, Collingbourne Ducis, and Amesbury of the eastern group. (fn. 28)
But by 1086 the bounds of the forest had already been extended beyond the king's demesnes. What later became the Forest of Clarendon was in existence as an extension of the New Forest. (fn. 29) In the south-eastern corner of the county the Bishop of Winchester's manor of Downton included 2 hides which were waste, and 'from which the men dwelling on them were driven on account of the king's forest'. (fn. 30) Two hides of Edward of Salisbury's demesne in Winterbourne Earls in Alderbury hundred were in the royal forest, (fn. 31) as also were a quarter of Laverstock, belonging to the nunnery of Wilton, (fn. 32) half of the land at Milford near Salisbury held of Humfrey de Lisle by a certain Gozelin, (fn. 33) and half of the land held by Wulfgeat in the same place. (fn. 34) It was this extension of the forest law to lands held by subjects, a characteristic feature of the Norman forests, (fn. 35) which aroused such deep resentment in England.
Domesday shows also that the forest administration was in existence by 1086, at least in embryonic form. The royal Forest of Grovely, where the king's foresters held a hide and a half, (fn. 36) is mentioned by name. Some of the Conqueror's huntsmen appear to have been the ancestors of hereditary forest wardens who can be traced from the 12th century onwards. Richard 'Sturmid', for example, was almost certainly the ancestor of the Esturmys who kept Savernake by hereditary right until the 15th century. (fn. 37) It seems probable that the Crokes, hereditary wardens of Chute in the 12th century, were descendants of Croc the huntsman, who in 1086 held lands in the Chute Forest area. (fn. 38) Waleran the huntsman's lands in Wiltshire were mainly in the Groveley Forest area (fn. 39) and in what later became Clarendon Forest, (fn. 40) besides 16½ hides in Hampshire. (fn. 41) This Waleran may well have been the ancestor of Waleran son of William and of Walter Walerand, who were hereditary wardens of New and Clarendon Forests in the reigns of Henry I and Henry II. (fn. 42) Wulfgeat, another of the Conqueror's huntsmen, who had an estate at Milford near Salisbury, (fn. 43) was perhaps the predecessor of the foresters in fee of Clarendon Forest who held land there in the 13th century by service of keeping the vert and venison. (fn. 44)
Savernake Forest first appears on the 1130 Pipe Roll as 'the Forest of Marlborough': (fn. 45) the Wiltshire forest farmed by Ruald Croke in that year (fn. 46) was almost certainly Chute, (fn. 47) and possibly Chippenham and Melksham also. (fn. 48) The earliest trustworthy evidence as to the creation of the other Wiltshire forests is contained in verdicts of 1228, that they were 'ancient forest', (fn. 49) i.e. that they had been afforested before the death of Henry I. (fn. 50)
The king's justices began to visit Wiltshire to hear the pleas of the forest at least as early as the reign of Henry I. (fn. 51) Henry II in the course of his extensive forest visitation of 1175 visited Marlborough and Ludgershall, where he doubtless heard the pleas of the Wiltshire forests. (fn. 52) After 1236 (fn. 53) when there were two justices for the forests north and south of the Trent respectively, (fn. 54) and two separate forest circuits, the south-western group of forests in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, and Somerset naturally tended to be visited consecutively, although not always in the same order. (fn. 55)
From the 12th to the 14th centuries the interval between successive forest eyres grew longer. Between 1169 and 1185 the forest justices visited Wiltshire five times, and between 1197 and 1212 four times, at intervals of three to five years. From 1239 until 1270 there were five forest eyres: (fn. 56) the interval between them tended to be the same as that between general eyres, that is, about seven years. (fn. 57) Only two forest eyres were held in Wiltshire during the first seventeen years of Edward I's reign: the next began in 1330, after an interval of at least 40 years. (fn. 58)
In the 13th century the forest justices sat, in every recorded instance, at Wilton: (fn. 59) in 1330, however, they held their eyre at Salisbury. (fn. 60) As a general rule all forest pleas arising within the county were heard: thus cases relating to those parts of Chute and Selwood Forests which lay in Wiltshire were determined at Wilton or Salisbury, (fn. 61) while pleas relating to parts of those forests outside the county were heard at the Hampshire and Somerset forest eyres respectively. (fn. 62)
The later eyres, however, were concerned with pleas of a single forest or group of forests. In 1355 Thomas de Braose and his fellow justices sat at Salisbury to hear pleas of the Forests of Clarendon, Grovely, and Melchet in Wiltshire and Buckholt in Hampshire (fn. 63) —i.e. those forests administered by the Warden of Clarendon. (fn. 64) During the latter half of the reign of Edward III the forest eyre, as it had existed since the reign of Henry II, ceased to operate. Its work was now done by justices of the forests holding special inquisitions de statu foreste, generally each year. (fn. 65) The 'forest eyre', as revived in the following century, was a very different tribunal, with much less extensive powers, and the justices no longer conducted regular visitations. In 1487, for example, Sir John Ratcliffe and his colleagues held a 'forest eyre' at Salisbury for Clarendon and Melchet, (fn. 66) in 1489 at Devizes for Chippenham and Melksham, (fn. 67) and at Andover for Chute Forest in Hampshire, (fn. 68) in 1490 for Chute in Wiltshire, (fn. 69) and in 1491 for Savernake, probably at Marlborough. (fn. 70) Although 'forest eyres' were held in parts of England under Elizabeth I, Charles I, and Charles II, no chief justice of the forest appears to have held court in Wiltshire.
Amercements imposed in 1175 by Henry II and his justices for forest offences in Wiltshire amounted to £1,295, of which £348 16s. 5d. had been paid in by Michaelmas 1176. (fn. 71) The heaviest penalties naturally fell upon the magnates. Roger de Mandeville was amerced at £200, Geoffrey de Mandeville 50 marks, and Robert de Pont de l'Arche £100. Matthew Croke had to pay 40 marks (fn. 72) and forfeited the wardenship of Chippenham and Melksham Forests. (fn. 73)
In 1244 Henry III ordered a detailed investigation into encroachments upon the forest rights of the Crown. (fn. 74) The justices sat at Hungerford to make their inquiries regarding Savernake Forest, and their clerk enrolled long lists of forest offences presented by the verderers, foresters in fee, and a jury. (fn. 75) This was followed by a forest eyre in Wiltshire in the summer of 1246, and the exactions aroused great indignation. (fn. 76) A number of forest officers were deprived of their bailiwicks, including Adam of Purton, hereditary Warden of Braydon, (fn. 77) James of Pitton, Robert of Laverstock, and Richard of Milton, foresters in fee of Clarendon, (fn. 78) John of Wick, a forester in fee of Savernake, (fn. 79) and William Quentin, a forester in fee of Grovely. (fn. 80) For a time in 1250 the Wiltshire forests were placed under a single keeper, John Vernon, (fn. 81) but in most cases the offending foresters, or their heirs, were able to recover their bailiwicks within a few years by paying substantial fines to the Crown. (fn. 82)
The Wiltshire forest eyre rolls for 1257, 1263, 1270, and 1330 (fn. 83) record long lists of amercements, rarely more than 2s. for cutting wood without warrant, and ½ mark for taking the deer. Fines in fact varied according to the means of the offender rather than the gravity of the offence, and the justices were disposed to be lenient with poor men. (fn. 84) Collective amercements of the forest townships were frequent; as early as 1184–5 the vill of Ramsbury was adjudged to pay 100s. 'because it did not come to give its verdict regarding a stag', (fn. 85) which had been found dead. Trial by battle at the forest eyre was obsolescent in the reign of Henry II; in 1167–8 Ailric of Studley, accused by the Warden of Chippenham Forest of cutting oaks at night time, purchased remission of this procedure by a fine of 40 marks. (fn. 86)
From about 1287 onwards the forest eyre was supplemented and gradually replaced by other procedures, such as commissions of inquiry (fn. 87) and of oyer and terminer. (fn. 88) During the long reign of Edward III the Justice of the Forests south of Trent or his deputy frequently visited Wiltshire to hold inquiries 'regarding the condition of the forest'. (fn. 89) At their sessions offences against the vert and venison were presented by the forest warden or his deputy, the foresters, verderers, regarders, and a jury. At Chippenham in 1340 12 'good and free men dwelling within the forest bounds' and 12 others dwelling outside the forest were impanelled, (fn. 90) and at Calne in 1364 the jury consisted of 24 men holding land in free tenure within the forest. At the latter session sworn testimony was given before the deputy justice by the deputy warden of Chippenham and Melksham Forests, and by 3 foresters, 2 verderers, 12 regarders, and the jury. A certain Richard Rousman of Bereholt, 'lately a forester', was presented for having killed 2 does at Blackmore, a soar in 'le Frith', (fn. 91) which he carried away to Sodbury, and other venison offences, besides cutting in 'le Frith' and taking away 4 oaks worth 6s. (fn. 92)
Between 1361 and 1377 the Justice of the Forests south of Trent or his deputy visited Wiltshire every year. (fn. 93) The justice usually sat at Marlborough to hear presentments regarding Savernake Forest, at Salisbury for Clarendon, Melchet, and Grovely, at Chippenham or Calne for Chippenham, Pewsham, and Melksham Forests, at Minety for Braydon, at Andover for the Hampshire and Wiltshire divisions of Chute Forest, and at Bruton or Frome for the Somerset and Wiltshire parts of Selwood Forest. (fn. 94) Occasionally, however, the justice dealt with a group of forests at a single session; thus in August 1361 William of Wykeham sat at Marlborough to hear presentments regarding Braydon, Chippenham and Melksham, and Savernake Forests. (fn. 95) Subsequently the first three forests were often dealt with together at sessions at Calne or Chippenham. (fn. 96) The sessions were short, and the justice completed his circuit in a matter of weeks. Thus on 30 May 1369 Peter atte Wood, the deputy justice, began his circuit at Salisbury with an inquiry regarding Clarendon, Grovely, and Melchet Forests; by 16 June he had sat at Marlborough for Savernake, at Frome for Selwood, at Calne for Chippenham and Melksham, and at Minety for Braydon. (fn. 97) From the accession of Richard II onward, however, these general inquiries into the condition of the forest appear to have been discontinued, and the forest law was consequently less effectively enforced.
The holding of the regard was of course an important procedure preparatory to the forest eyre. In the 13th and 14th centuries six separate regards were held in Wiltshire, each by 12 regarders, i.e. in Braydon, (fn. 98) Selwood, (fn. 99) Chute, (fn. 100) Savernake, (fn. 101) Clarendon, Melchet, and Grovely, (fn. 102) and in Chippenham and Melksham Forests. (fn. 103) The regard was supposed to be a triennial inquiry, (fn. 104) but between 1224 and 1262 it appears to have been ordered to be held in Wiltshire only eight times—i.e. in 1224, 1229, 1235, 1243, 1253, 1255, 1259, and in 1262. (fn. 105) In at least three of these cases the regard was ordered to be held shortly before the forest eyre. (fn. 106)
The records of the regards enrolled at the forest eyres (fn. 107) show that despite the forest law the wastes were slowly being cleared and brought into cultivation, for the most part in small plots. Offenders were amerced by the justices for assart and purpresture, the land ordered to be seized for the king, and the enclosures to be thrown down. But the main purpose of the regard by the 13th century was to raise revenue; the land was usually handed back to the offenders or others on payment of a fine and an annual rent thereafter.
Such records of the local forest courts as survive show that the provisions of the Charter of the Forests of 1217 (fn. 108) were not strictly adhered to in Wiltshire. Swanimotes were held in Clarendon Forest in 1331–2 at the times ordained by the charter, namely on 10 June, 15 September, and 11 November, but these meetings appear to have been more than mere gatherings of the officers of the forest for the purposes of agistment. There is, indeed, no mention of agistment, and presentments of forest offences were made by the foresters, verderers, a jury, and representatives of the forest vills of Laverstock, Alderbury, and Pitton. Offenders were attached to appear at the next forest eyre for such trespasses as entering Clarendon Park at night to steal the king's sparrowhawks, and for obstructing the highway with a hedge and ditch. (fn. 109)
The warden's roll of 'attachments and inquisitions made concerning vert and venison' in Savernake Forest 1334–7 (fn. 110) records the proceedings at forest assemblies held at 'Morley' (Leigh Hill). The sessions were held just after Martinmas, the time of the November swanimote, or in July. Only one meeting is recorded for each year except 1337, when there were two. The Warden of Savernake and a verderer presided, and presentments were made by the deputy warden, foresters in fee, underforesters, woodwards, the twelve regarders, the agister, and four men and the reeve from each of the forest vills of Manton, Preshute, Elcot, (fn. 111) and Evesbury. (fn. 112) Offences all related to the cutting down of oaks, and offenders were bailed until the coming of the Justice of the Forest. In the middle of the 16th century, the ranger of Savernake Forest was still holding a forest court at Leigh Hill. (fn. 113)
Minor pleas were determined at the local forest court. In the reign of Edward III the Warden of Savernake claimed the profits of the swanimote, namely fines and amercements levied for default and for trespasses 'concerning hares, nets, coney-traps, badgers, foxes, wild cats and partridges, . . . the trespass of animals . . . dead wood . . . except during the fence month . . . and . . . the expeditation of dogs'. (fn. 114) The wardens of Clarendon and Selwood at about the same time likewise took all amercements levied for taking dead and dry wood and for strays in the king's demesnes, (fn. 115) and in 1390 the Duke of York, as Warden of Braydon, allowed his deputy to take 'the issues of the swanymotes'. (fn. 116)
At the beginning of Henry VII's reign trespassers were once more attached at the swanimotes to appear at the next forest eyre. (fn. 117) From 1486 until 1489 these courts were held at Conholt (fn. 118) in the Forest of Chute in Wiltshire. There were three sessions a year, namely, at the beginning of February, in June, July, or August, and about Martinmas. The warden, his deputy, and 2 verderers presided; presentments were made by the regarders, 3 foresters, and a jury of 12 regarding such matters as deer found dead and the unwarranted felling of trees and branches in the forest coppices. (fn. 119)
A number of rolls of the Braydon swanimotes have survived. The earliest is dated 1595, and there is an almost complete series from 1610 until 1623. (fn. 120) They show that in the reign of James I the swanimote was held in Braydon Forest once a year, in June or July. The two verderers presided, and the forest officers and jurors took the oath before them. These were the deputy warden, the ranger or his deputy, the 12 regarders, 4 under-foresters, the woodwards, those holding land in free tenure within the forest, (fn. 121) and from 2 to 4 representatives of each village enjoying common of pasture on the forest wastes. (fn. 122) The owners of woods, whose woodwards did not appear at the swanimote to be sworn, were fined, (fn. 123) as also were free forest tenants who did not attend. (fn. 124) In 1600 Brokenborough and Eastcourt (in Crudwell) were amerced for failing to send representatives, and were summoned to answer at the hundred court. (fn. 125)
Many of the cases at the Braydon swanimotes were concerned with rights of common of pasture on the forest wastes. In 1607 the agisters presented 89 persons for overburdening the forest pastures, to the injury of the vert, (fn. 126) and in 1610 the regarders accused the ranger and foresters of having taken down the inclosure of the Great Lodge lawn and turned cattle upon it, so that the deer were deprived of pasture and protection. (fn. 127) Other presentments were for killing the king's deer, (fn. 128) making illegal inclosures in the forest, (fn. 129) pasturing cattle within an inclosed coppice so as to injure the young trees, (fn. 130) felling trees, cutting branches, (fn. 131) and 'hewing a swarm of bees out of a tree'. (fn. 132) The foresters presented lists of persons for whom deer had been taken, (fn. 133) and the regarders reported the quantity of 'browsewood' cut to feed the deer in winter-time. In 1610 the regarders stated that since no deer-browse had been cut for many years, the deer had been forced in winter-time to seek food in 'the borderers' house grounds'. (fn. 134)
It is clear therefore that the 'swanimotes' of the Wiltshire forests were not purely administrative assemblies of forest officers as the Forest Charter laid down that they should be. They were in addition forest courts, with jurisdiction in minor forest pleas, and with power to attach major offenders until the coming of the Justice of the Forest. They compelled attendance of the forest inhabitants, despite the express provision of the Charter to the contrary.
By the beginning of the 17th century, however, the local forest courts had fallen into disuse in some Wiltshire forests. In 1601 the regarders of 'Pewsham and Bowood' (i.e. Chippenham Forest) complained that there was great disorder 'for want of a swanmote court'. (fn. 135)
Each royal forest, or group of forests, was kept by a warden. The wardenship of Savernake Forest has been a hereditary office throughout its history, (fn. 136) that of Braydon was held in fee until it was forfeited by the elder Despenser in 1326, (fn. 137) and the wardenship of Chute Forest was also hereditary until the death of Sir John Lisle in 1523. (fn. 138) Thomas Carey became the first hereditary warden of the Forest of Selwood in Wiltshire by a royal grant of 1342. (fn. 139) In all other cases the Wiltshire forest wardens held office by letters patent under the great seal during pleasure, or, more commonly after the 13th century, for life. (fn. 140) All except the Warden of Braydon farmed their offices, and paid a tithe to Salisbury Cathedral. (fn. 141) Perquisites claimed by the wardens included certain rights of taking wood in the forest (housebote and haybote, dead and windfallen wood, and the top and lop of trees felled) and cheminage, herbage and pannage rights, honey and nuts, the profits of minor pleas, escapes of cattle and the lawing of dogs, and the right to hunt such beasts as hares and foxes. (fn. 142)
Under the wardens were foresters in fee, who held their lands by serjeanty of keeping the wards or subdivisions of the forests. In the 13th and 14th centuries, for example, there were 4 foresters in fee in Savernake Forest, one each for the West Bailiwick, Bedwyn Brails, Southgrove, and Hippenscombe. (fn. 143) The Warden of Clarendon had 6 foresters in fee under him—3 for Clarendon Forest and Park, 1 for Melchet Park, and 2 for Grovely Forest. (fn. 144)
Subordinate foresters, some appointed by the Crown, some by the wardens and some by the foresters in fee, discharged the duties of gamekeepers, usually on foot. Violent attacks upon the foresters were not infrequent, (fn. 145) and the assistance of the Sheriff of Wiltshire (fn. 146) and even of the sheriffs of other counties (fn. 147) was invoked from time to time to assist them to keep the king's peace and enforce the forest law. There were also verderers, regarders, and agisters elected in the county court from amongst those who held land in free tenure in the forest. (fn. 148) Finally every owner of a wood within the forest metes was bound to appoint a woodward to keep vert and venison therein.
The juries of Wiltshire knights summoned in 1279 to make perambulations of the forests complained bitterly of infractions of the Forest Charter. (fn. 149) The foresters purchased their appointments, so that the wardens were said to appoint more than were necessary. (fn. 150) The jurors' estimates on this point, however, were conservative. They declared that the Constable of Marlborough on horseback with two of his serjeants had formerly sufficed to keep the whole of Savernake Forest, whereas in fact during the first half of the 13th century there were three foresters for the West Bailiwick alone. (fn. 151)
The foresters recouped themselves by all kinds of illegal exactions; for example, they collected lambs and made 'scotales'. (fn. 152) The serjeants of Devizes castle usurped the rights of the sworn foresters by entering Melksham Forest armed with bows and arrows (fn. 153) and taking security from persons accused of forest trespasses; they kept property seized in this way unless it were promptly redeemed. The foresters of Melksham sold the king's wood 'to the great injury of the lord the king and of the whole countryside'. (fn. 154) The Constable of Marlborough castle was accused of illegally hearing pleas of trespasses in Savernake. (fn. 155)
The perambulations and the struggle for disafforestment
In 1217 the Charter of the Forests had ordained that all lands and woods afforested by Henry II, Richard, and John outside the royal demesnes should be disafforested. (fn. 156) Two years later the bishops of Salisbury and of Bath and Wells, the Earl of Salisbury, William Brewer, then sheriff, and William de Neville were appointed commissioners to determine the bounds of the Wiltshire forests. (fn. 157) The perambulations made before them put extensive districts out of the forests; (fn. 158) the knights and freeholders of the county paid the Crown a fine of £100 for the confirmation of these perambulations. (fn. 159) They were revoked in 1224; (fn. 160) but some at least of the woods they disafforested were not reclaimed into the forest until 1244–50, when Robert Passelewe was the leading figure in the forest administration. (fn. 161)
In 1225 the Charter of the Forest was reissued, and Hugh de Neville and Henry de Cerne presided over a second series of perambulations in Wiltshire. (fn. 162) The juries of twelve knights who declared the forest bounds, disafforested all except the king's demesne woods; one even of these, Boreham Wood in Savernake Forest, was disafforested at this time. (fn. 163) The regents disputed the justice of the verdicts, but were compelled to accept them for the time being. (fn. 164)
In 1227 Henry III annulled the perambulations of 1225 on the grounds that they had disafforested royal demesnes (which was true at least in the case of Boreham Wood) and also lands disafforested by Stephen and reclaimed by Henry II. (fn. 165) In the following year the Wiltshire jurors, together with those from other forest counties, were summoned before the king and compelled, probably by threats of amercement and imprisonment, (fn. 166) to acknowledge their errors and revise their perambulations. (fn. 167) The bounds of the 'ancient forests' of Braydon, Chippenham and Melksham, and Savernake which were laid down in 1228 reafforested many districts put out in 1225; (fn. 168) they represent the actual extent of these forests during the next hundred years.
In 1279 Edward I was compelled to allow new perambulations to be made. The Wiltshire jurors who appeared before Walter Scammell, Dean of Salisbury, and Matthew de Columbers, Warden of Chute Forest, complained of numerous infractions of the Forest Charter, denounced the extortions of the forest officers, and demanded extensive disafforestments. (fn. 169) The king was able to avoid putting these perambulations into effect, however, for the next 20 years. The bounds of the Wiltshire forests were once more declared on 4 June 1300 at Salisbury before John of Berwick, sheriff, and other commissioners. (fn. 170) Some of the verdicts of this time were wildly inaccurate (fn. 171) and they were all revoked in 1305. (fn. 172) Edward II confirmed them in 1316; (fn. 173) by June 1318 Selwood Forest in Wiltshire had so much diminished that the warden's farm was reduced from £10 a year to 13s. 4d. (fn. 174) But after the battle of Boroughbridge the forest law was again imposed on the disputed areas. (fn. 175)
At the beginning of Edward III's reign, however, the reduced bounds were finally accepted by the Crown. At the Salisbury forest eyre in 1330 (fn. 176) the forest officers and juries who declared the bounds of the Wiltshire forests followed closely the perambulations of 1300. All that remained under the forest law were scattered areas of royal demesne lands and woods, including lands and woods which in the past had been seized for assart, waste, or purpresture. (fn. 177) These areas were to be clearly delimited by digging pits along their boundaries. (fn. 178)
On his accession to personal power in October 1330 Edward III appointed Robert de Ufford as Justice of the southern forests. (fn. 179) He continued the forest eyre at Salisbury begun by his predecessor, but did not attempt to revoke the disafforestments made by him. In 1332 Ralph Bonyng was presented there for having made a purpresture in East Bedwyn, and enclosed it with a paling, hedge, and ditch. At the time when he made it, the purpresture was in Savernake Forest, so that Ralph had to pay a fine of 12d. But the court ordered that the enclosure was not to be levelled, because it had been put out of the forest by the perambulation. (fn. 180)
During the remainder of the reign there were frequent disputes about the status of the 'purlieus' or disafforested districts, (fn. 181) and occasionally a local dispute about the extent of the forest itself. (fn. 182) But the perambulations were not henceforth challenged in principle. In a law suit in 1590, for example, between the earls of Hertford and Pembroke regarding the bounds of Grovely Forest, the court held that the perambulation of 1300 and no other held good in law. (fn. 183)
The decline and disposal of the forests
From the reign of Edward III onward the forest laws and institutions languished. Savernake was granted away to Humphrey Duke of Gloucester: he held it from 1415 until his death in 1447, when it reverted to the Crown. (fn. 184) In 1477 Edward IV complained to the Warden of Savernake that 'the game in the said forest by many riotous and evil disposed persons of late hunting therein is greatly diminished', and threatened the offenders with 'grievous and sharp punishment'. (fn. 185) Henry VII made similar complaints at the beginning of his reign; the forest officers replied that local landowners and their armed followers openly defied their authority and threatened 'daily . . . to murder and slay' them. (fn. 186) The last forest eyres held in Wiltshire 1487–91 showed that the gentry had hunted the deer at their pleasure. (fn. 187)
After the death of Henry VIII the forests were again neglected. During the minority of Edward VI the Lord Protector Somerset secured for himself grants in fee simple of the forests of Savernake, Braydon, and Chute, (fn. 188) of which Savernake only was restored to the Seymour family after his execution for treason in 1552. (fn. 189) His successor, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, obtained a grant of Braydon Forest in fee tail, (fn. 190) which he in turn forfeited in the next year.
After a long period of neglect, James I attempted to revive the forest system and enforce the forest laws. (fn. 191) In 1607 the Attorney-General took proceedings in the Star Chamber against the foresters, underkeepers, regarders, and agister of 'Pewsham and Blackmore' Forests (fn. 192) for waste of game and timber, and for assault on Sir Henry Baynton, 'deputy justice in eyre in the Forest of Pewsham'. (fn. 193) In the previous year Sir Henry himself and his servants had appeared in the Star Chamber accused of taking deer and timber, removing boundaries, and illegally enclosing a park in the same forest. (fn. 194) Others were prosecuted in the Star Chamber for taking deer and rabbits in the forests of Braydon and Chute. (fn. 195)
In 1607 and again in 1612 royal commissions were issued to Otho Nicholson and others (fn. 196) 'to measure, perambulate and describe all our forests, parks and chases in Wiltshire, so that they may be delimited by the ancient metes and bounds . . . by the sworn evidence of respectable men of the county'. Inquiry was to be made as to all assarts, wastes, and purprestures 'and other lands and tenements of our soil within the aforesaid forests'; who were the tenants and occupiers, what title they had, the value of the land, whether it was arable, pasture, or wood, and what rent was paid. (fn. 197) Tenants of such lands claimed for the Crown as forest wastes found their titles challenged after a long period of undisturbed enjoyment. They were compelled, in some cases on pain of sequestration, to compound by paying large fines and annual rents thereafter. (fn. 198)
From 1618 onwards, however, the Stuarts began to sell outright their rights in the Wiltshire forests, which had become through neglect 'very chargeable and without profit or pleasure'. (fn. 199) They were disafforested, the woods sold, and the forest wastes leased, in many cases to disgruntled occupiers who had hitherto regarded the land as their own. By 1624 the disafforestment of Chippenham and Melksham had been completed. (fn. 200) In 1627 arrangements were made for the sale of Selwood Forest, (fn. 201) and the disafforestment of Braydon was begun about the same time. (fn. 202) In 1639 Charles I disafforested 'all that part of the Forest of Chute in Wiltshire, and Wakeswood in Hampshire', and granted the wastes and coppices to three gentlemen in fee farm. (fn. 203) By the Restoration Clarendon Park was all that remained of the Forest of Clarendon; the park wall had been broken down and the enclosed woods had dwindled to 60 acres. (fn. 204) When Charles II in 1664 disparked it and granted it to the Duke of Albermarle (fn. 205) he alienated the last remnant of the royal forests of Wiltshire.
Origins and bounds
The 'wood of Braydon', which is mentioned in a number of Saxon charters, (fn. 206) formed part of the great forest barrier of 'Sealwudu'. (fn. 207) A charter dated 796 refers to Purton as lying to the east of Braydon Wood, (fn. 208) and another of 1065 recites that 10 hides held by the abbey of Malmesbury in Wootton Bassett were 'within the wood of Bradon'. (fn. 209) The district was still densely wooded and thinly populated in Norman times. (fn. 210) In 1086 there were woods 3 leagues long and 3 wide in Brokenborough, (fn. 211) 2 leagues long and 2 wide in Purton and in Crudwell, (fn. 212) 2 leagues long and 1 wide in Wootton Bassett, (fn. 213) and other extensive woodlands in Lydiard Millicent and Lydiard Tregoze and in Ashton Keynes. (fn. 214)
There is evidence that Braydon had become a royal forest by 1135. (fn. 215) The forest law was certainly being enforced there in 1184–5, when Geoffrey the clerk was amerced at the Wiltshire forest eyre 'for a purpresture in the vill of Minety in the fee of the Abbot of Malmesbury'. (fn. 216) In 1189–90 the abbot had to pay ½ mark for a forest offence on his land at Brinkworth, and Purton was amerced for waste. (fn. 217) Similar forest amercements were imposed in 1200–1 upon 'the wealthier men of Cricklade', (fn. 218) and in 1209–10 upon the vills of Midgehall and 'Eaton abbess' (Water Eaton). (fn. 219) The earliest reference to the royal forest as such is in a royal charter of 1197, which speaks of 'the Forest of Minety'. (fn. 220)
The bounds of Braydon Forest which were set out in the perambulation of 1228 (fn. 221) held good for the next hundred years. They enclosed an area of some 46 square miles. The villages summoned to attend the forest inquisitions in the mid-13th century were —Calcutt, Chelworth, Leigh, Minety, Hankerton, Charlton, Garsdon, Brinkworth, Midgehall, Lydiard Tregoze, Lydiard Millicent, and Purton. (fn. 222) At the forest eyre of 1257, however, the Abbot of Stanley claimed that the village of Midgehall and his tenants there had 'never been accustomed to come at any summons of the foresters to the swanimote or any other inquisition'. Upon examination of the rolls of the previous eyre, his claim was allowed. (fn. 223) Amongst the woods in the forest in this period were 'la Frith' (Frith Copse in Lydiard Tregoze), (fn. 224) and Malmesbury Abbey's woods of Flisteridge, appurtenant to Crudwell manor, Angrove and Ridingwell, in which the abbey took housebote, haybote, firebote, and foldbote. (fn. 225) In the reign of Edward I the monks alleged that Flisteridge Wood had been afforested by King John. (fn. 226)
The forest bounds were bitterly contested during the 13th century. The 1225 perambulation (fn. 227) was followed in the main by the Braydon jurors in 1279. (fn. 228) The eastern boundary was declared to be the River Key. (fn. 229) Thus an area of about 11 square miles was claimed to be disafforested, including Purton, the Lydiards and Midgehall, and another district of about 3 square miles to the west, including Charlton, Garsdon, and Hankerton. (fn. 230)
The perambulation of 1300 (fn. 231) went still further, and reduced the forest to about 7 square miles between Derry Brook (fn. 232) and the River Key. These bounds were reaffirmed at the forest eyre of 1330, (fn. 233) when the forest officers reported that a number of woods had been disafforested. These included Hailstone Wood (fn. 234) held by the Abbot of Gloucester, Midgehall Wood, (fn. 235) formerly belonging to the Abbot of Stanley, (fn. 236) but held in 1330 by Queen Isabel, and the Abbot of Tewkesbury's wood of Ashton Keynes; (fn. 237) John de Clinton's and Robert Russell's woods of Lydiard Millicent, called 'Spersolt' (Sparcell), (fn. 238) William de Grandison's wood of Lydiard Tregoze, (fn. 239) and the Abbot of Cirencester's woods of Minety; the Earl Warenne's wood belonging to Aldbourne, (fn. 240) the Brochure (Brockhurst) Woods (fn. 241) held by Elizabeth Paynel and Eleanor de Keynes, and the Abbot of Malmesbury's woods belonging to his manors of Brokenborough, Charlton, Brinkworth, and Purton.
The Earl of Lincoln's wood, which both perambulations put out of the forest, (fn. 242) later passed to the dukes of Lancaster. It can be identified with the 'Duchy Woods', which a map of 1632 shows extending from 'Raven's Hurst' (Ravensroost) Wood eastward to Battlelake Farm, (fn. 243) and which were within the bounds until the disafforestment. (fn. 244)
In 1607 the 'ministers and officers' of Braydon met once again, to carry out James I's instructions to 'measure, perambulate and describe' it. (fn. 245) They assembled at Charlton Oak, (fn. 246) armed with copies of the 'record' and a 'survey and plot' made by one John Hexam. They proceeded to summon 'all the ancient men of the time near thereunto residing, the better to inform themselves of the true meets and bounds of the said forest'. The 'record' was clearly the perambulation of 1300, and they followed its bounds closely where they could identify them. (fn. 247)
Amongst the woods subject to the forest law in the 16th and early 17th centuries, however, there were a number outside the 1300 bounds. At the Dissolution Malmesbury Abbey held many woods in Braydon Forest, including Charlton and Braydon Woods, Stonehill (fn. 248) and Angrove Woods, (fn. 249) and Swatnage Coppice; (fn. 250) they were all granted in 1547 to the Duke of Somerset. (fn. 251) In 1573 evidence was given that the forest deer were protected by 'sundry keepers' in certain woods outside the bounds of the forest, in the Purton, Minety, and Brinkworth quarters. (fn. 252) Woodwards appeared at the Braydon swanimotes from 1595 to 1623 to answer for the woods of Brinkworth, Clinton, Purton, Minety, Charlton, Brokenborough, and Lydiard Tregoze; (fn. 253) amongst the other woods named are Callow or Gallows Wood, (fn. 254) Knapp Wood, (fn. 255) Brockhurst Wood, Cove Wood, (fn. 256) Keynes Wood, the Duchy Woods, and Poucher's Rag. (fn. 257) Presentments of venison offences were made in 1617, for example, committed in 'the purlieus of Sir Thomas Howard called Brinkworth woods' and in the purlieus of Lydiard Wood: (fn. 258) the use of the term 'purlieus' suggests that woods which had been disafforested were still at this time subject in some measure to the forest law. (fn. 259)
By the beginning of the 13th century Braydon Forest was administered by a hereditary warden. He was lord of the hundred of Staple, and held the manor of Chelworth by the serjeanty of keeping the forest and providing an esquire for the king's army. (fn. 260) His perquisites included pannage and the right to course the fox and hare in the forest. (fn. 261)
Thomas (I) de Sandford held this office in the reign of King John; he was succeeded by his four sons, Richard, Warner, Hugh, and Thomas (II), in turn. (fn. 262) On the death of the last-named without male heirs, the lordship of Staple hundred and Chelworth manor were divided, jure uxoris, between his nephews Adam of Purton and Hugh Peverell; the forest wardenship passed in 1241 to Adam as senior coheir. (fn. 263) He died in 1265–6, also without heirs male, (fn. 264) and the wardenship, together with three-eighths of the hundred and manor, was inherited by Robert (I) de Keynes, son of Adam's eldest daughter Margery and William de Keynes. (fn. 265)
In 1300 his son and heir, Robert (II) de Keynes, sold his forest office, together with the appurtenances, to Hugh le Despenser the Elder, reserving a life interest for himself. (fn. 266) But Robert (II) forfeited his interest by conveying it to Oliver de St. Amand without the king's licence, which was necessary in respect of a royal serjeanty, (fn. 267) (fn. 268) and in 1309 Despenser obtained seisin of the wardenship and lands.
After Despenser's execution in 1326 the wardenship of Braydon ceased for a time to be a hereditary office. Queen Isabel was granted for her life the manor of Chelworth with its appurtenances, including 'a messuage and a carucate of land in Chelworth, with the hamlet of Calcutt and the bailiwick of the forest of Braydon, with the hundred (of Staple) pertaining thereto'. (fn. 269) After her downfall in 1330 a succession of court officials was appointed to the wardenship, during pleasure or for life. (fn. 270) In June 1344 William de Keynes brought an unsuccessful suit in the King's Bench for the recovery of the hereditary forest office and lands which had been held by his brother Robert (II) de Keynes. (fn. 271)
In 1390 Richard II granted the wardenship to his uncle Edmund, Duke of York, the Duchess Isabel his wife, and Edward Earl of Rutland their son, for their lives in survivorship; the Forest office was expressed to be an appurtenance of the manor of Chelworth, which Edward III had granted the duke in tail male. (fn. 272) He appointed as his deputy warden his esquire William Worston, and allowed him 'the issues of the "swanymotes" and all the profits and commodities'. (fn. 273)
In 1547 the forest, together with Vastern Parks, (fn. 274) was granted to the Duke of Somerset in fee simple, in reversion after the death of Queen Catherine, who then held them for life, (fn. 275) and, after his downfall, to the Earl of Warwick 'in chief in tail male'. (fn. 276) After the reversion of the forest to the Crown, the warden received £6 1s. 8d. a year, and an additional 40s. as woodward or keeper of the woods of the forest', together with 'brosinge and wyndfall woodd'; (fn. 277) his fees were paid out of the issues of the manors of Vastern and Wootton Basset. (fn. 278)
Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, was Warden of Braydon Forest from 1610 until 1623; (fn. 279) his second son and namesake, Viscount Andover, was 'lieutenant' in March 1623. (fn. 280) They appear to have been the last to hold that office. During the period 1595– 1623 the officers of Braydon included, besides the warden or 'lieutenant', a deputy warden, (fn. 281) a ranger and deputy ranger, 2 verderers, 12 regarders, 3 agisters, 4 subforesters—one each for Cricklade, Charlton, Brinkworth, and Purton Walks (fn. 282) —and a woodward for each wood within the forest. (fn. 283) The ranger and subforesters or keepers were appointed by the 'lieutenant'. The ranger had the Ranger's Lodge, (fn. 284) land called 'Pleck', (fn. 285) a fee of £20 a year from the Crown and an additional allowance of a like sum for firewood and other commodities. (fn. 286) In 1628 Sir Robert Hyde was granted £200 compensation for loss of this office upon the disafforestment of Braydon. (fn. 287)
Rights and privileges of subjects
Henry III frequently relaxed the forest laws in favour of religious and charitable foundations. In 1231 he excused the hospital of St. John at Cricklade from paying cheminage in Braydon Forest on cartloads of firewood, charcoal, and timber. (fn. 288) There were also about this time certain houses within the forest which had been given to the hospital of St. Bartholomew at Gloucester for the accommodation of sick and poor people. These were adjudged to be purprestures at the forest eyre of 1246, but the king ordered that they should remain undisturbed. (fn. 289)
Some favoured subjects enjoyed the right of hunting the lesser beasts of the forest; in 1328 Malmesbury Abbey obtained the right of free warren in all its demesne lands of Purton and Braydon within the forest. (fn. 290) Royal gifts of venison were frequent; in 1400, for example, Henry IV granted 4 does yearly in season to the men of Cirencester for their good service in capturing the earls of Kent and Salisbury and other rebels, and to the women of the town he gave 6 bucks yearly during his pleasure. (fn. 291)
A few magnates were allowed the exceptional privilege of having parks within or adjoining the forest. In 1230 Alan Bassett was permitted to make Vastern Park (fn. 292) by inclosing with a hedge and ditch his wood of Vastern, which was outside the forest, and 3½ acres of his wood of Wootton Bassett within it. He an his heirs were to hold the park quit of waste, regard, and inspection by the foresters: (fn. 293) it was thus to be virtually exempt from the forest law. His son and heir, Philip Bassett the Justiciar, in 1267 obtained licence for his life to have a deer-leap at his 'Old Park' of Vastern, now declared to be within the bounds of Braydon Forest, and another at his 'New Park' of Wootton Bassett. (fn. 294) By 1293 Vastern Park had passed into the possession of Hugh le Despenser the Elder, who obtained leave to enlarge it by inclosing 30 acres of adjoining woodland within the forest bounds. (fn. 295) In 1320 he was permitted further to enlarge it to the north and north-west by inclosing 300 acres of woodland within the forest appurtenant to Midgehall manor, and another 300 acres of waste appurtenant to Brinkworth manor, granted him by the abbeys of Stanley and Malmesbury respectively. (fn. 296) In 1334 the agistment of the 'Little Park' of Vastern from 25 March until 1 November was assessed at 40s. a year, and of the 'other park' £10; no agistment was permitted for the remainder of the year. (fn. 297) In 1365 Vastern Great Park was further augmented by the inclosure of a field called 'Parkfield', belonging to Wootton and Vastern manors, and containing 120 acres of 'land, meadow and pasture'. (fn. 298)
The manor and the Great and Little Parks of Vastern, together with the wardenship of Braydon Forest, and the woodwardship of the duchy woods in the forest, were amongst the possessions of Richard Duke of York declared forfeit in December 1459; (fn. 299) in 1461 they became possessions of the Crown. The parks were kept for a time by the wardens of Braydon Forest; thus in 1469 Sir John Greville was appointed for life to be 'rider of the king's Forest of Braydon and master of the king's game within his parks of Vastern'. (fn. 300) But during the Tudor period they were alienated. In the reign of Edward VI they were granted to the Protectors successively: (fn. 301) in 1555 Queen Mary granted to Sir Francis Englefield the manor and town of Wootton Bassett, with 'the Great and Little Parks of Vastern (and) all manner of deer and wild beasts and liberty of park in the said parks'. (fn. 302)
There was a park at Lydiard Tregoze in the reign of Henry III: in 1256 the king gave Robert Tregoze 3 bucks and 8 does from Braydon to restock it. (fn. 303) In 1270 John Tregoze obtained a royal licence to inclose and impark his wood called 'Shortgrove' (fn. 304) within the forest, after an inquisition had established that it covered 20 acres 'by the forest perch', was half a league distant from the 'great covert' of the forest, and was not frequented by the king's deer. (fn. 305)
Henry III made occasional gifts of live fallow deer from Braydon Forest for the stocking of private parks outside it. In 1235 he gave the Abbot of Malmesbury 2 bucks and 10 does to stock his park of 'Cowfold' (Cole Park), (fn. 306) and in 1236 Fulk fitzWarin received a similar gift for his park of 'Halweston' (Hailstone). (fn. 307) Margery, widow of Roger fitzPayn, was given 2 bucks and 6 does in 1241 to stock her park of Poole Keynes. (fn. 308)
Disputes regarding common rights in the forest occurred from time to time. Malmesbury Abbey, for example, claimed that Flisteridge Wood was exempt from the regard; it sought moreover to exclude all commoners' beasts from Michaelmas to Martinmas for the preservation of the mast, and impounded pigs found there during that period. The men of the Earl of Hereford's manor of Oaksey in 1278 asserted their right to pannage in the wood during this period of the year, and used extreme violence to maintain it; but the dispute was eventually settled in favour of the abbey. (fn. 309) The forest officers were not always prepared to allow the exercise of common rights claimed by landowners and their tenants; (fn. 310) in 1386 an inquiry was ordered as to whether the Abbot of Tewkesbury and the tenants of his manor of Ashton (Keynes) by Chelworth had common of pasture in Braydon Forest. (fn. 311)
From the time of Henry III, by view of the woodward and bailiff of Aldbourne, the lord of the manor of Wanborough had housebote and haybote in the wood in Braydon Forest belonging to Aldbourne manor; (fn. 312) he might, however, take wood for repairs only, and not for any new building. In return he was responsible for mowing the meadows of 'Stonyham' and 'Dockham' (fn. 313) in Aldbourne. (fn. 314) Edward III allowed the monks of Cirencester to fell in their wood of Minety a reasonable allowance of timber for the repair of their houses in Cirencester and Minety, provided that they sold none and did not take the king's deer. (fn. 315) In 1384 Edmund, Earl of Cambridge, was granted licence to cut and sell branches once a year in his wood in the forest appurtenant to his manor of Chelworth. (fn. 316)
The 13th and 14th century regards record the gradual clearance of the forest wastes. In 1263, for example, the regarders presented that Geoffrey the shoemaker had occupied a piece of virgin land at Purton 3 perches long and 1 perch wide. He had built a house upon it and inclosed the rest with a hedge and ditch, without warrant. The forest justices amerced him and ordered the house and inclosure to be thrown down, (fn. 317) but it was usual to gain remission of the latter penalty by payment of a fine. The regards of 1257 and 1270 (fn. 318) show many other similar instances of encroachment upon the forest wastes at Purton, Wootton Bassett, Lydiard Tregoze, Chelworth, Brinkworth, Minety, Leigh, Stert, (fn. 319) Cove, (fn. 320) and Bentham. (fn. 321)
Braydon under Elizabeth I and the early Stuarts
Commissions were issued during the reign of Elizabeth I to check abuses in the forest, especially the unauthorized cutting of timber and underwood. (fn. 322) In 1573 depositions were taken at Malmesbury and Cricklade; evidence was given that the inhabitants of the villages of Chelworth, Purton, Lydiard Millicent, Lydiard Tregoze, Brinkworth, Little Somerford, Garsdon, Milbourne, Hankerton, Brokenborough, Charlton, Oaksey, Minety, and Ashton Keynes attended the swanimotes, and had common of pasture for their cattle within the forest bounds. (fn. 323) The Braydon swanimote rolls 1595–1623 show that Leigh, Eastcourt and Ballard's Ash, (fn. 324) Cricklade, Purton Stoke, Lea and Cleverton, and Cloatley were also summoned to attend the forest court. (fn. 325) It appears, however, that there was considerable reluctance to discharge this duty under the forest law. In 1600 18 of the 23 'free tenants within the forest' were fined 6d. each for non-attendance. (fn. 326) In 1612 10 villages sent no representatives to the swanimote, (fn. 327) and in 1617 there were 7 in default. (fn. 328) Ballard's Ash and Brokenborough defaulted so frequently (fn. 329) as to suggest that they challenged their duty to attend. In 1600 presentment was made that the men of Wootton Bassett, Eastcourt, and Woodbridge had no common rights in the forest. (fn. 330)
A report of May 1613 (fn. 331) shows that the Crown was seriously considering the disafforestment of Braydon, which was at this time not more than 4 miles in length and 2 in breadth. The wastes and woods were partly Crown and partly duchy land. The woods had been leased at a low rental: the Crown woods, mostly oak, had been 'almost destroyed' by lopping and topping by the lessee, Lord Danvers, who took the dead oaks for himself. The 'borderers', or landowners adjoining the forest, pastured sheep on the adjacent commons, and fed their cattle on the forest wastes, so that the king was put to a 'yearly charge' to provide provender for the deer. The report affirmed that £30,000 might be raised by disafforestment and by inclosure of the forest woods and wastes: the 'borderers' were willing, so it was said, to 'sever their own commons from the forest at their own charges' and to pay both fine and rent for this privilege.
In July 1627 commissioners, including Sir John Bridgman, Chief Justice of Chester, and John Essington, keeper of the king's woods in Wiltshire, were appointed to survey, disafforest, and partition Braydon. They summoned a general meeting of the lords of the manors, freeholders, and others claiming rights within the forest and the adjoining purlieus, and impanelled a jury to answer the articles of their commission. Their return, made in the following year, (fn. 332) declared that the extent of the forest since the 1300 perambulation was 4,047 acres, including Poucher's Rag (224 a.) (fn. 333) belonging to Sir John Hungerford, Keynes Rag (350 a.) (fn. 334) belonging to Sir Giles Bridges, and 932 acres, of which 611 were enclosed, belonging to the manors of Chelworth. The remaining 2,541 acres, including the Duchy Rag (226 a.), (fn. 335) belonged to the king, as also did certain other woods adjoining the forest, measuring a further 1,498 acres. The commissioners proposed that 339 acres should be set aside as compensation for loss of common rights and for the making of highways, leaving 3,700 acres of royal demesne which might be leased. But the lords of the manors would not agree to pay fines for disafforestment, and for the partitioning of the woods and wastes: as for the commoners, one witness declared that the inclosure of the forest would be 'the utter undoeinge of many thousandes of poore people, that now have rights of common . . . within the forest, and do live thereby'. (fn. 336) The commissioners had been instructed to reserve 1,000 acres to make a royal park, and 50 acres more to provide food for the deer, but they reported that this was impracticable because of the 'mean value' of the soil of the royal demesne in the forest. A further commission was issued in 1632 to divide the land between the grantees. A 17th-century map of Braydon (fn. 337) appears to be that prepared by the commissioners, but the partition was never carried into effect. (fn. 338)
Even before this the king had entered into arrangements to lease all his land in and adjoining the forest to 'improvers' who were to clear, inclose, and convert it into arable and pasture. (fn. 339) The premises and land demised included the Great Lodge with its gardens, Slyfield (fn. 340) and Hatton Lodges, (fn. 341) the lands known as 'Plecke' (fn. 342) and 'Lawnde', (fn. 343) the Old Coppice, (fn. 344) Little Sandridge, Ravenshurst, (fn. 345) and 'Whitepeers' (White Spire), (fn. 346) and 'Maremore' (fn. 347) coppices, the Duchy Rag, and the Duchy, Frith, (fn. 348) and Exchequer Woods. (fn. 349) The lessees were Philip Jacobson, a Dutch jeweller living in London, and Edward Sewster. They were granted all the game and timber and also a licence to operate ironworks. The partners agreed to pay the Crown £20,000 for the lease: the 'eight or ten thousand pounds' which the king owed Jacobson 'for jewels' was to be set off against this sum. (fn. 350) But Sewster died shortly afterwards, and in 1636 a new lease for 60 years at an annual rent of £450 was granted to Jacobson, Roger Nott of London, who was Sewster's trustee, and to James Duart, merchant. (fn. 351) Nott held in trust 294 acres in Purton and Cricklade including 'Bernewood' and a close of pasture called Duchy Marsh in Purton (fn. 352) all of which were in or near Braydon Forest. (fn. 353)
The king covenanted to obtain before 1 April 1629 decrees in the Exchequer and Duchy Courts extinguishing the rights of the commoners, and so assuring quiet possession to the lessees. Proceedings were taken by the Attorney-General against the lords of the manors of Leigh, Lydiard Tregoze, Wootton Bassett, Garsdon, Lea, Cleverton, Mil bourne, Ashton Keynes, Abingdon Court, Cloatley, and Grittenham, and a number of small-holders in Chelworth. He argued that since their lands had been long disafforested they were not entitled to commonage. Finally in 1630 the Court of Exchequer decreed Braydon to be disafforested. The king might inclose the land and woods therein as his own proper soil, and all rights of common were extinguished. A hundred acres were set aside as compensation for these rights, and 150 acres for highways. (fn. 354) The Crown was later obliged, however, to make further concessions. In 1631 the Court of Exchequer ruled that Poucher's Rag, and Keynes Rag, although within the bounds of 1300, were outside the royal demesne: as also were 212 acres on Common Hill, (fn. 355) adjoining Chelworth, and 84 acres 'in lanes and greens in Chelworth reputed to belong to the freeholders and tenants of Chelworth'. Only those who held land within the bounds of 1300 were entitled to compensation out of the Crown lands in the forest. One hundred and fifty acres were allotted to freeholders and tenants within these limits, and 100 acres in Purton Stoke, and 25 acres in Leigh to compensate the poor of those places for the loss of their common rights. (fn. 356)
After the disafforestment of Braydon the Crown lessees and the lords of manors in and adjoining the forest proceeded to inclose their lands and to exclude all except their own tenants from pasturing cattle upon them. The loss of common rights naturally caused widespread discontent: in some places the work of inclosure was interrupted by violence. In 1635 Jacobson was four years in arrear with his rent: his possession had been disturbed by riots in which hedges and fences had been pulled down. Threats to pull down the Great Lodge and assault the labourers had brought the sheriff on the scene, and some of the rioters had been arrested and imprisoned. (fn. 357)
As a result of this popular opposition, the villages adjoining the forest obtained allotments of common land as compensation for the loss of common rights. The Earl of Berkshire, for example, had inclosed the wastes of his manor of Garsdon, but after an action in the Court of Exchequer he agreed 'for quietness sake' to allow the copyholders and leaseholders of the manor a third of the wastes. (fn. 358) Milbourne Common and Somerford Common (fn. 359) seem to have been given to the freeholders of Milbourne and Little Somerford in compensation for the loss of common of pasture on the forest wastes. (fn. 360) The Parliamentary Survey of 1651 mentions 'the commons of Cleverton, Garsdon and others which at the disafforestation thereof were allotted unto them', and shows the progress made in inclosing and converting the former forest wastes into farm holdings. (fn. 361)
Chippenham and Melksham
The royal forests of Chippenham and Melksham, like other forests, appear in the records under various names, which display no apparent consistency even during the same period of time. (fn. 362) The whole forest district was administered as a unit by a single warden, (fn. 363) and was described in the perambulation of 1228 by a single series of bounds: (fn. 364) it is referred to in the 12th-century Pipe Rolls as 'the Forest of Chippenham'. (fn. 365)
But by the 13th century the northern and southern wards, each kept by a subordinate forester, (fn. 366) were often distinguished as 'the Forest of Chippenham' and 'the Forest of Melksham' respectively. (fn. 367) In the second half of the century 'the wood of Pewsham' in Chippenham Forest (fn. 368) began to be described as 'the Forest of Pewsham', (fn. 369) which name was later frequently applied to the whole northern ward. (fn. 370) By the beginning of the 17th century this area was sometimes called 'the Forest of Pewsham and Bowood', (fn. 371) just as in Tudor times 'the Forest of Blackmore' had become an alternative for the older name of Melksham. (fn. 372) The whole forest area was in the time of James I described as 'the Forest of Chippenham, alias Pewsham, and Blackmore, alias Melksham'. (fn. 373)
From time to time other woods within the forest bounds were referred to as though they were separate forests; (fn. 374) thus 'the Forest of Cowfold' was mentioned in 1217. (fn. 375) Cowfold Wood was situated between Bowerhill and Seend: (fn. 376) it got its name from the inclosed pasture, or cowfold, belonging to the king nearby. (fn. 377)
The bounds of Chippenham and Melksham Forests which were declared in 1228 (fn. 378) held good during the next hundred years. They were the rivers Avon and Marden on the west and north, Summerham and Semington Brooks on the south, and 'the king's highway between Calne and Rowde' on the east. These bounds enclose an area of about 33 square miles.
The soil of the western part of this district consists largely of the Oxford and Kimmeridge Clays; (fn. 379) it was heavily wooded in early times. (fn. 380) Domesday records that the royal manors of Chippenham and Melksham each contained woods 4 leagues long and 4 broad. (fn. 381) The forest cover, however, became progressively lighter on the Corallian and Lower Greensands to the east, as witness the Domesday entries for Bromham, Calne, and Rowde. (fn. 382) It is significant that the popular demand for disafforestment, as expressed in most of the perambulations, related largely to these less heavily wooded districts. (fn. 383)
Amongst the vills within the forests which answered at the forest eyres 1257–70 (fn. 384) were Chippenham, Stanley, Studley, Calne, Melksham and Woodrow, (fn. 385) Seend and Rowde, and others which have long disappeared—Nethermore, (fn. 386) Ashor Nash, (fn. 387) Whetham, (fn. 388) and Woolmore. (fn. 389) Villages adjacent to but outside the forest metes were free from corporate responsibilities under the forest law, after 1215 at least. (fn. 390) In 1251 the foresters and verderers called together 24 vills (fn. 391) to investigate a venison trespass in Chippenham Forest. But at the eyre of 1257 (fn. 392) the justices held that only Chippenham, Stanley, Studley, Calne, and Whetham were liable for their failure to appear. It was proved that Sheldon, Allington, (fn. 393) East Tytherton and Tytherton Lucas, (fn. 394) Kellaways, (fn. 395) Langley Burrell, Biddestone, Lower Whitley, Beversbrook, Cherhill, Quemerford, Blackland, Calstone Wellington, Stockley, Heddington, Little Horton, and Lackham (fn. 396) were outside the bounds of the forest. The justices ordered their names to be deleted from the roll, and the verderers to answer for their erroneous presentment. Amongst the woods within the forests at this period were those belonging to the manors of Sheldon, (fn. 397) Cherhill, (fn. 398) Compton Bassett, (fn. 399) Poulshot, (fn. 400) Melksham, (fn. 401) and Woodrow, (fn. 402) and to 'the hamlet of Lowden', (fn. 403) the king's wood of Rowde (fn. 404) and the Abbess of Lacock's wood of Stroud. (fn. 405)
It appears, however, that during the reigns of Richard I and John the extent of the forest jurisdiction was wider than the bounds of 1228. In 1189–90 the Abbot of Malmesbury was amerced at the forest eyre for waste in Bremhill, (fn. 406) and Lacock for 'old waste' 1198–9; (fn. 407) in 1200–1 Chittoe was amerced for 'old waste' and Biddestone and Calstone Wellington 'for default', (fn. 408) and in 1207–8 Bromham, Compton Bassett, and Bishop's Cannings were likewise mulcted 'for default'. (fn. 409) It seems probable that vills outside the bounds were at this period liable in respect of woods within them. Compton Bassett had such a wood, (fn. 410) and it is probable that Bishop's Cannings had to answer for woodland in Chittoe, which was a detached portion of Bishop's Cannings parish (fn. 411) within the 1228 forest bounds.
The perambulations of 1225, 1279, and 1300 followed roughly the same bounds, and claimed that the forests should be reduced to two detached portions of the ancient royal demesne—Chippenham and Pewsham in the north comprising about 8 square miles, and Melksham in the south about fourteen. (fn. 412) The 1225 perambulation, however, extended Melksham Forest to the south-east so as to include all the woodland and fields of the royal manor of Rowde and the two 'groves' of Devizes. (fn. 413) The 1279 perambulation (fn. 414) listed a number of woods held by subjects which ought to be disafforested. In Melksham these included Foxhanger Wood belonging to the Prior of Monkton Farleigh, (fn. 415) Burdon's Wood (or Rhotteridge Wood), (fn. 416) the wood belonging to the Bishop of Salisbury's manor of Chittoe (now represented by Spye Park), a wood which had formerly belonged to the Earl of Salisbury, (fn. 417) William Bluet's wood appurtenant to his lands in Lackham, (fn. 418) and the Abbot of Battle's wood in Bromham. (fn. 419) In Chippenham there were the Abbot of Stanley's wood in Stanley, and the woods belonging to Alan Bassett's manor of Compton Bassett and the Earl of Essex's manor of Cherhill.
It seems clear that from the reign of Edward III the forest limits of 1300 were observed. In 1330 the foresters, verderers, and regarders of Chippenham, Pewsham, and Melksham reaffirmed the metes and bounds of 30 years earlier. (fn. 420) An extent made in 1333 of Rhotteridge Wood described it as 'adjoining Melksham Forest'; (fn. 421) it was within the 1228 bounds, but just outside those of 1300. (fn. 422) At the forest eyre of 1489 five townships only were represented— Chippenham, Melksham, Stanley, Studley, and Seend. The hundreds of Chippenham and Melksham were represented by juries, but those of Calne and of Potterne and Cannings are recorded as having sent no one. (fn. 423)
Officers and profits
From the late 12th century until the 16th century the Constable of Devizes Castle normally had the custody of Chippenham and Melksham Forests, (fn. 424) which were clearly the most important sources of supply for the repair and maintenance, (fn. 425) and, in time of war, the munition of the castle. (fn. 426) The castle, in its turn, sometimes provided the gaol in which poachers were lodged until they could obtain their release on bail by payment of a fine. (fn. 427)
Between 1263 and 1270 the Constable and Bailiffs of Devizes took 249 oaks 'for the works of the castle', and 30 dry oaks for the constable's hearth. (fn. 428) Tallies of the number of trees felled were kept by the constable and by the foresters and verderers as a check upon unnecessary destruction of the vert. (fn. 429) Dry and leafless oaks taken from Chippenham Forest provided lime for further building operations. (fn. 430) The forest revenues provided funds. In 1377 the Prioress of Amesbury was ordered to pay to the constable the rents of assarts collected for the king, amounting to £18 14s. annually. These were to be used for the repair and maintenance of the walls, turrets, and buildings of the castle and of the enclosure of the king's park there. The Parson and Mayor of Devizes were to supervise payment. (fn. 431) The agistment dues were sometimes used in the same way. (fn. 432)
After a great gale money was raised by the sale of windfallen wood. In March 1223 the Constable of Devizes was ordered to arrange for the sale of fallen trees in conjunction with 'two law-worthy men from each of the vills of Chippenham, Melksham and Calne'. (fn. 433) At the forest eyre of 1263 it was reported that 198 oaks in Cowfold Wood had been sold for £77 0s. 6d. (fn. 434)
Like all the other forests, Chippenham and Melksham supplied large numbers of fallow deer to provide the court with venison; in 1285, for example, the warden was ordered to assist a royal huntsman to take 100 does. (fn. 435) Timber and firewood were regularly ordered for the king's purposes. (fn. 436)
Certain 'forbidden lawns' or forest pastures were reserved for the king's cattle; he had, for example, an inclosed 'cowfold' in Melksham Forest, between Bowerhill and Seend. (fn. 437) For animals turned out on the forest wastes and woods, otherwise than by right of common, pannage and herbage dues had to be paid to the king's agisters. In 1252 the 'agisters of the defence of the Forest of Melksham and Cowfold paid into the king's wardrobe at Clarendon 5s. 1d. of the issues of the pannage'. (fn. 438) A former Constable of Devizes was pardoned in 1281 for 100s. which he owed the king 'for pannage taken and herbage sold in the king's Forests of Chippenham and Melksham'. (fn. 439) The king also had the profits of itinerant forges for the smelting of iron in these forests. (fn. 440) In 1294 Edward I granted a licence to the abbot and monks of Stanley Abbey to smelt ore on their demesne lands within the forest. (fn. 441)
The kings of England from Edward I to Henry VIII assigned to their queens in dower the forests of Chippenham and Melksham, with all their revenues, together with the castle and town of Devizes and the manor of Rowde. (fn. 442) In the 14th and 15th centuries the queen received the fines and amercements levied by the justices appointed to hear and determine pleas of her forests. (fn. 443) She also appointed the constable and foresters, though the appointments were subject to confirmation by the king. (fn. 444)
The constable farmed certain of the forest revenues. In the 12th century he paid 60s. a year—54s. into the Treasury and 6s. tithe to the canons of Salisbury (fn. 445) —but in the following centuries the amount was frequently varied. (fn. 446) In 1380 Sir Nicholas de Sharnesfield—as constable and warden—was required to pay £85 a year for the castle, town, and park of Devizes, the manor of Rowde, and 'the Forests of Melksham, Chippenham and Pewsham'. Expressly reserved to the Crown were the vert and venison, purprestures and assarts, and all fines, ransoms, and amercements of tenants of the castle, town, forests, and manor. Sir Nicholas was to pay the wages of the porter at the castle, the parker, and the forester. (fn. 447)
At the 13th-century forest eyres the constable accounted for herbage dues, receipts from sales of windfallen wood, honey, and nuts, and for fines paid at the attachment courts for cutting wood without warrant and for allowing stock to stray in the forest. The Earl of Warwick's receipts for 1259–63 amounted to £22 13s. 7d. (fn. 448) In Tudor times, however, the wardens were paid an annual fee; Sir Edward Baynton in 1534 received £17 13s. 7d. as warden of the forests, steward of Devizes and Rowde, 'paler' of Devizes castle, and keeper of Devizes park. (fn. 449)
The office of constable-warden was frequently given to eminent persons who could have devoted little time to the personal discharge of their forest duties. (fn. 450) Hence the appointment of a 'lieutenant' or deputy-warden became usual. (fn. 451)
From the end of the 13th century onward mention is made of 'the bailiff and chief mounted forester'. (fn. 452) Alexander of Buckingham, who held this office in 1300, (fn. 453) was appointed during the royal pleasure, to be subordinate to the Justice of the Forests south of Trent and to the Constable of Devizes; his bailiwick was valued at 6d. a day. (fn. 454) In 1600 the chief forester was allowed £6 annually, and the dead and rotten trees, towards the maintenance of his subordinates. (fn. 455) In the 15th century a 'ranger' began to be appointed; (fn. 456) in Tudor times he, like the warden and 'lieutenant', was allowed to take an oak annually from each forest bailiwick. (fn. 457)
There were of course a number of subordinate foresters on foot; six were present at an inquisition held at Studley before the Justice of the Forest in 1285. (fn. 458) In the 14th century some foresters on foot were appointed by the king, or by the queen if she held the forests in dower. One of these kept the bailiwick of 'Bers and Bowood (fn. 459) in the Forest of Pewsham and Chippenham', (fn. 460) and another 'Frith (fn. 461) and Blackmore in the Forest of Melksham'. (fn. 462) The constable also appointed underforesters, (fn. 463) and sometimes his 'serjeants of Devizes castle' unlawfully attached forest offenders. (fn. 464) By the Tudor period, however, there were two foresters or 'quarter-keepers' only; one each for Pewsham and Melksham. They were allowed one day's cutting apiece of 'shrowdes' (leafy branches cut as fodder for the deer) about Lady Day each year, in addition to a money payment of £6. (fn. 465)
During the 13th century there were disputes between the forest officers and the steward of the royal manor of Melksham (fn. 466) over the issues of the demesne woods. The foresters were on two occasions remainded by the king that their only responsibility in those woods was for the safe keeping of vert and venison. The steward was to have all the profits of the woods, and was to maintain there two 'foresters of the vill', (fn. 467) who presumably discharged the duties of woodwards.
There were elected for Chippenham and Melksham Forests in the 13th and 14th centuries four verderers, (fn. 468) twelve regarders, (fn. 469) and an agister. (fn. 470) The regarders continued to make presentments about cutting browsewood and felling trees until the final disafforestment. (fn. 471)
There is a solitary record of a swanimote held in the forest on 9 June 1489. (fn. 472) Thomas Barber, forester of Melksham, presented venison trespasses committed in Woolmore, 'le Frith' and Blackmore during the previous two years; he reported that he had attached the offenders to answer at the forest eyre, except in one case in which they had used violence against him. Sir Robert Baynard was presented by the forester of Pewsham for making a road beyond the 'old water of Avon', which was injurious to the beasts of the forest. Sir Robert was also accused of having allowed his hedges and fences between his pasture of 'Blackersgill' (fn. 473) and the forest to 'lie open', so that his beasts and those of others entered 'the king's coppice called "le Flete" (fn. 474) and ate and destroyed the branches and underwood there'. Both foresters reported the number of deer which had died of 'murrain' in their bailiwicks.
Rights of subjects
In the 13th and 14th centuries the king made frequent gifts to magnates, local religious houses and others of venison, timber, and firewood; (fn. 475) in 1236, for example, the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury were given '20 good oaks . . . in Chippenham Forest, dispersed in different places, . . . to make their stalls in Salisbury Cathedral'. (fn. 476) Henry III showed especial favour to the nunnery of Lacock by making a number of gifts of lime, (fn. 477) timber and firewood from Melksham and Chippenham Forests. (fn. 478) In 1260 the abbey was granted quittance of cheminage in all the king's forests in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, (fn. 479) and in the following year the abbess was granted the right of free warren in her manor of Lacock, (fn. 480) which was partly within the forest. (fn. 481)
Royal charters exempted woods and lands held by subjects from many of the restrictions of the forest law. In 1227 Stanley Abbey was granted 'Old Fleet Moor' (fn. 482) and a wood, which, from the bounds recited in the charter, may be identified with Close and Derry Woods. (fn. 483) The abbey was to hold them in free alms, quit of waste and regard, with the right to inclose them with a hedge and ditch low enough to enable the king's deer to enter and leave: the 'venison' was expressly reserved to the king. The monks were allowed to make hedges and ditches between the king's wood of Chippenham and their arable, but acquired by the charter no rights of common in the forest. (fn. 484) In 1290 the abbey obtained royal licence to inclose their wood called 'La More' within the metes of Chippenham with a small ditch and low hedge. (fn. 485) It was found by inquisition that this would be to the advantage of the forest, inasmuch as the pasture previously fed upon by the abbey's beasts would henceforth be better kept, and so worth more for the king's deer. But the inclosure would be disadvantageous to the men of Chippenham manor, who had previously had common for their beasts in the wood. (fn. 486) In 1294 the monks were granted licence to dig and smelt iron ore in their lands within the forest and to carry the iron away. (fn. 487) They also had the right to dig stone in their quarry at Bycombe. (fn. 488) and in the king's quarry in Pewsham. (fn. 489)
Hugh le Despenser obtained a charter in similar terms in 1305 enabling him to inclose his wood of Cowfold. (fn. 490) and the waste adjoining it. (fn. 491) The inclosure had become a park by 1341, (fn. 492) and may be identified with the estate known as Seend Park. (fn. 493) A royal grant in 1260 to Lacock Abbey of 40 acres of wood in Melksham Forest was in even more generous terms. The wood was exempted from waste, regard, supervision by the forest officers, and 'all else pertaining to the forest'. The inclosure of the wood might be made high enough to prevent the deer from entering, provided that, if they did enter through a gap in it, they should still be the king's deer, to take when he wished. (fn. 494)
The lords and tenants of the manors of Melksham, (fn. 495) Woodrow, (fn. 496) Cherhill, (fn. 497) Poulshot (fn. 498) and others had customary rights in certain forest woods— they could take a reasonable quantity of wood for repairing their houses (housebote) and for fencing (haybote) under the supervision of the foresters. They also enjoyed rights of common of pasture on the forest wastes. (fn. 499) There was a protracted dispute in the 13th century about these common rights between the foresters and the tenants of Melksham manor. In 1229 it was decided that they were to have common for their cattle in 'half of Melksham Forest', (fn. 500) and at the forest eyre of 1263 they successfully claimed that they had been accustomed to have 'common of pasture for their sheep throughout the whole Forest of Melksham, as well within the covert as without'. (fn. 501) A royal charter was produced at the same eyre, granting to the abbey of Stanley and seven of its tenants in 'Nethermore' (fn. 502) and 'Hazeland' (fn. 503) free pasture for their sheep, pigs, and all other animals throughout the whole Forest of Chippenham, including the forbidden inclosure called 'La Berse'. (fn. 504)
The regards of Chippenham and Melksham record the gradual occupation of the forest wastes. At the forest eyre of 1263, for example, 32 small purprestures, ranging from 32 to 88 square perches, were 'arrented to the use of the king at 2s. annually to be levied from the vills of Woolmore and Woodrow'. (fn. 505) In 1270 William Potter of Lacock was presented for having illegally inclosed and cultivated 1½ acre at 'Ash'. (fn. 506) The Abbot of Stanley had to answer for ½ acre at his 'grange of Loxwell', (fn. 507) and 21 acres at 'Hatfield', (fn. 508) for which he was able to produce a royal charter as his warrant. Wigan of Cherburgh, lord of the manor of Seend, (fn. 509) had occupied 2 acres at Seend, William de la Roche 3 acres at Whetham, (fn. 510) and Ralph of Bowden ½ acre of pasture at Bowden. (fn. 511) John de la More had inclosed ½ acre of pasture at Sandridge 'out of the king's demesne'. (fn. 512)
In 1300 and 1302 John de Crokesley and William Trussell, commissioned by Edward I to sell licences to assart the forest wastes, (fn. 513) visited Chippenham and Melksham to survey the wastes and to lease parcels of them to purchasers. (fn. 514) The grantees paid a fine for entry varying from 1s. to 4s. an acre, and an annual rent of 3d. to 6d. an acre to the Sheriff of Wiltshire. The assarts might be inclosed with a hedge and ditch low enough for the king's deer to get in or out, and they might be brought into cultivation, but the tenants were to acquire thereby no rights of common in the forest. The lands arrented were measured by the foresters, verderers, and regarders by the special 'forest perch' of 20 ft. (fn. 515) Many parcels of waste were 'usurped and appropriated in the Forests of Melksham and Pewsham by colour of the arrentations', so that an inquiry was held at Woolmore in 1305 and fresh grants enrolled. (fn. 516)
Assarts in Chippenham Forest totalling 211 acres were granted in fee farm to Stanley Abbey, including 78½ acres at 'Ash', (fn. 517) 30 acres in 'Bycombe near Loxwell grange', (fn. 518) 11 acres 'in a place called Wardley (fn. 519) between the covert of Bowood and the abbot's close', 14 acres 'between the covert of the forest and the stream of Pewe' (fn. 520) south of the Chippenham Devizes highroad, and 30 acres on the other side of the road near the abbey itself. The monks paid a fine of £36 1s. 6d. for entry into these lands. (fn. 521) Parcels of waste in Chippenham Forest leased to other tenants totalled 184 acres; some were as small as 1½ rood. They included 40 acres at Horslepride, (fn. 522) near Chittoe, and other plots at Wardley, Bycombe, Ash, and Whetham. (fn. 523)
In Melksham Forest Hugh le Despenser was granted 472 acres of waste in fee simple, including 182 acres 'under the vill of Seend . . . between Cowfold wood and Bowerhill', and 220 acres in Cowfold. (fn. 524) Alexander of Buckingham the forester obtained 10½ acres 'at Woodrow in the angle of Melksham Forest towards Lacock', (fn. 525) and there were 20 other assarts totalling 342 acres. Fines for entry totalled £63 17s. 4½d., and the annual rents £10 12s. 10d. (fn. 526)
In 1314 a similar commission sat at 'Wardley in the Forest of Pewsham', and made their arrentations 'by view and testimony of the foresters' and a jury. They granted to John Bluet, warden of the forest, 138 acres at Horslepride, 'with free entry and issue for all beasts going from the nearest highway and returning'. (fn. 527) Lacock Abbey secured 30 acres at Ash 'near Horslepride', and Stanley Abbey 16 acres 1 rood at Loxwell. Six other assarts, totalling 85 acres, at Ash and elsewhere, were leased to other tenants. (fn. 528)
In 1341 a survey was ordered of 'the waste land called "The Clears" (fn. 529) and "Roundwood"', which Queen Philippa, who then held the forests in dower, wished to assart. (fn. 530) The rents of 19 assarts on the Melksham wastes, totalling 64s. 4½d. a year for 122 acres 7 roods, were subsequently assigned by her as 'parcels of the manor of Rowde' to the Constable of Devizes, to make up his farm of the manor. (fn. 531)
At the Devizes forest eyre in 1489 Sir Robert Baynard claimed for himself and his heirs 'the whole water of Avon between the Forest and his manor of Lackham, which is without the said Forest', (fn. 532) viz. from Rowden (fn. 533) to Rey bridge. (fn. 534)
James I and the forests: revival and final disposal
The commissioners appointed by James I to survey the forest wastes of Chippenham and Melksham (fn. 535) began their sittings at Twyford (Hants) in January 1607, and took the sworn evidence of a jury. (fn. 536) They sat again at Devizes later in the year. (fn. 537) They compiled long schedules of parcels of land which the king claimed as his 'proper soil', unlawfully occupied within the ancient forest bounds.
All these lands lay within the 1300 bounds of the forests. (fn. 538) In Melksham Forest, for example, there were 'a farm of 2 messuages, 2 cottages, 733 acres . . . of meadow, pasture and woodland, assart land and purpresture' in Woolmore, (fn. 539) and 'one messuage, 6 cottages, 215 acres . . . of meadow pasture and woodland . . . in several parcels and in several places inclosed . . . in Woodrow'. (fn. 540) There were also 48 acres of woodland at Craysmarsh, (fn. 541) 9 acres of pasture at Blackmore Croft, (fn. 542) 27 acres of pasture called 'Cocke Reynardes or Reynolds', and 'a pasture called Reynolds or Reynors'. (fn. 543)
In Chippenham Forest were scheduled 'the waste near Horslepride Gate between the king's wood called Old Coppice and a piece of waste called Loxwell Heath' (fn. 544) and 'Aldermore Coppice in Nethermore'. (fn. 545)
The rents at that time paid for the 'assarts' in Melksham Forest totalled £3 14s. a year, but their actual annual value was assessed at £110 1s. Those who had hitherto considered themselves to be the owners of the lands were compelled to agree to pay a fine of £160 for a grant thereof in socage, at rents commensurate with their assessed value, (fn. 546) 'with power to plough their grounds and fell their woods'. The king was to 'discharge the purchasers of all incumbrances except leases and the covenants in the same'. The 'particular yearly old rents' (paid by lessees under existing leases) were to be continued, and the 'purchasers' were to be 'discharged of the mesne profits' (fn. 547) —i.e. they were not to be accountable for the previous period of illegal occupation.
Ambrose Dauntsey, lord of Melksham, had to pay a fine and an annual rent of 12d. for all the purprestures made by him and his predecessors 'in his own proper soil—that is, in making great ditches and high hayes, erecting cottages, &c. without the king's license . . . to the damage of the king and the prejudice of the forest'. (fn. 548)
Two other commissioners sat for the same purpose at Chippenham in June 1612. A jury of 12 reported a further list of 'assart lands of the lord king's soil situated in the forest', including 50 acres of Close Wood. (fn. 549) The regarders of 'Pewsham and Bowood' Forests between 1614 and 1616 presented that leases of a number of forest coppices had been granted 'out of His Majesty's Exchequer'; a Mr. Dyer, who had leased 'Rangers' Haye Coppice' (fn. 550) in Pewsham Forest, had since felled 'firewood trees and timber trees' in 16 acres to the value of £25. (fn. 551)
Proceedings were taken in the Court of Exchequer by the Attorney-General against those landowners who refused to compound. In 1607 Robert Baynard had to answer in respect of 'Blackwell's Ham Meadows . . . held by him, but claimed for the Crown as belonging to Chippenham Forest', (fn. 552) and in the following year Sir James Mervin for lands appurtenant to Compton Basset. (fn. 553) Sir James, together with Sir Anthony Mildmay, Lady Stapleton, and others, had to pay fines totalling £754 6s. 8d. and annual rents of £3 10s. 2d. for 590 acres of assarts in Chippenham and Melksham Forests. (fn. 554) In 1611 Lady Stapleton, George Lynn, and Thomas Kirkham were defendants in a similar action 'relative to Close Wood and other lands held by them'; (fn. 555) they were adjudged to pay a fine of £36 6s. and an annual rent of 1s. for 50 acres of assarts, (fn. 556) doubtless on the evidence of the jury before the Chippenham commission in 1612. (fn. 557)
In 1614 Otho Nicholson, one of the commissioners of 1607, obtained a Crown lease of waste land appurtenant to the manor of Bromham, to inclose and 'improve' it. This led to an action in the Court of Exchequer against the lord of the manor, Sir Henry Baynard, in which Sir Francis Bacon, as Attorney-General, claimed the waste for the Crown 'as belonging to the Forest of Melksham alias Blackmore'. (fn. 558) Sir John Dauntsey, Henry Sadler, and Ambrose Dauntsey were defendants in a similar action in 1619 regarding 'Parkers and other lands in Wiltshire'. (fn. 559)
In 1613 a number of defendants had to answer 'for intrusion into the right of common of the pasture grounds of Rowde Hill, belonging to the Crown as part of the Forest of Melksham'; (fn. 560) in 1616 the Crown challenged John Fordham's claim to commonage in 'Frith pasture'. (fn. 561)
By 1618 the king had decided to sell his forest rights outright; in September the Archbishop of Canterbury and others were authorized to 'disforest' the Forests of 'Chippenham and Blackmore'. (fn. 562) In March of the following year Sir John Ernley, John Pym, 'Receiver-General . . . in Wiltshire', William Storkman and Robert Creswell, Surveyor-General of the king's woods south of Trent, were instructed to lease lands on the former forest wastes and to sell the woods. The commissioners were to enlist the aid of the forest officers and the inhabitants of the neighbourhood in drawing up a schedule of lands 'fit to be demised'. Rights of common were to be investigated, and the trees to be sold were to be counted and valued. Inquiry was to be made 'by depositions of witnesses as by jury or otherwise' as to any 'wastes, spoils or trespasses committed within the said forest since 1 March 1616'. A certificate of all these matters was to be returned to the Exchequer. (fn. 563)
Accounts of moneys received up to 25 March 1623 show that 66 tenants agreed to pay fines totalling £902 9s. 4d. for 2,132 acres of the former forest wastes: the mesne profits amounted to £1,368 12s. 6d. and the annual rents £902 18s. 4d. (fn. 564) The individual holdings varied from a number of large inclosed fields held by a substantial landowner to the tiny plots of 'squatters'. Sir Thomas Sackville had to agree to pay £260 17s. 4d. mesne profits, a fine for entry of £144, and an annual rent of £144 for an 'estate for three lives' in 'the Great Lodge (fn. 565) with divers parcels of land thereunto adjoining (amounting to 221 acres) called the Lodge Close, the Ball, (fn. 566) the Pew Close, (fn. 567) Lawne Close, the Fleet (fn. 568) and Nocketts Hill Close, (fn. 569) together with 3 cottages built upon the highway (fn. 570) without the hedge of the said grounds'. (fn. 571) Sir Thomas evidently regarded the assessment as exorbitantly high, for he was later able to obtain form the king a lease at the reduced rent of £14 a year. (fn. 572) At the other end of the scale William Toby paid a fine of 12d. and a yearly rent of the same amount for 'a cottage and a garden plot upon the waste adjoining upon Queenwood'. (fn. 573)
The following other holdings were located within the 1300 bounds of Chippenham Forest—100 acres at 'Rooknest', (fn. 574) a number of plots upon Red Hill (fn. 575) and on Nocketts Hill, (fn. 576) 2 acres at Bremhill, a plot 'close by the Forest Gate' (fn. 577) and one between Bowood Park and Loxwell Heath, (fn. 578) 80 acres in 'Poundslaund and Poundsclose' (fn. 579) and 25 acres 'upon the Ridges'. (fn. 580)
Within the corresponding bounds of Melksham Forest were plots in 'the Great Frith' and in 'Lower Frith', (fn. 581) 23 acres in Prickmoor, (fn. 582) a lodge and 110 acres adjoining on Sandridge Hill, (fn. 583) 100 acres upon Rowde Hill, (fn. 584) and a cottage and an acre at 'Sladers Maple'. (fn. 585)
Amongst other revenues accounted for were £116 3s. 4d. raised by 'the agistment made in Pewsham Forest of such grounds . . . as were in His Majesty's hands before they could be let out' and £43 13s. 4d. from a like source in Melksham. (fn. 586) The sale of timber in Melksham Forest between 1618 and 1620 produced £452 4s. 10d. and in Chippenham, £123 17s. 8d.; the landowners in Chippenham Forest paid in addition £524 9s. 2d. for the timber standing on their 'severall grounds'. (fn. 587) What remained of the 'forest and lands' was granted in 1623 to Christopher Villiers, Earl of Anglesey, in fee farm at an annual rent of 20 marks. (fn. 588)
'Bowewood or Pewsham New Park' alone was reserved to the Crown. (fn. 589) Instructions were given in 1619 'for the heightening of the park pale with a rail for the keeping of red deer, and for building the lodges and making two great ponds there' (fn. 590) so that it might be made 'fit for His Majesty's disport against his coming into those parts'. The park was enlarged by the purchase and inclosure of adjoining land: the Earl of Castlehaven received £832 13s. 4d. for 82 acres in Queenwood and Bassett's Moor. (fn. 591) and Henry Parson sold to the king 10½ acres 'of meadow lying without the perambulation of the forest called Ryemore or Danielsmore'. (fn. 592)
A survey made in 1653 reported that Bowood Park, 'late parcel of the possessions of Charles Stewart, late king of England', was 958 acres in extent, and contained 10,921 trees. (fn. 593) It was leased by Charles II in 1661 to the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Orlando Bridgman, at an annual rent of £30, for the lives of his daughters-in-law Mary, wife of John Bridgman, and his sons Orlando and Francis. (fn. 594)
The disafforestment of Chippenham and Melksham and the leasing and inclosure of the forest wastes brought about the usual hardships by depriving the poor of their common rights. John Aubrey quotes this 'rhythme' on the subject— When Chipnam stood in Pewsham's wood, Before it was destroy'd, A cow might have gone for a groat a year, But now it is denyed.
He continues: 'The metre is lamentable, but the cry of the poor more lamentable. I knew several that did remember the going of a cow for 4d. per annum. The order was, how many they could winter they might summer; and pigges did cost nothing the going. Now the highwayes are encombred with cottages, and the travellers with the beggars that dwell in them.' (fn. 595)
Selwood in Wiltshire
Origins and extent
The royal forest of Selwood was a remnant of the much more extensive 'Sealwudu' of Saxon times. (fn. 596) It lay partly in Somerset and partly in Wiltshire: the two parts were separately administered for most of their history, (fn. 597) and it is with Selwood in Wiltshire only that this account is concerned.
This forest covered the south-western corner of the county, which still contained large woodlands at the time of Domesday. Westbury's woodland was 3 leagues long and ½ league wide, and supported 29 swine-herds: (fn. 598) in Warminster 13 swine-herds found their occupation in woods 2 leagues long and 2 wide. (fn. 599) Maiden Bradley (fn. 600) and Stourton (fn. 601) each had woods I league long and 1 wide; those of Steeple Ashton (fn. 602) and Monkton Deverill (fn. 603) were 2 leagues long and ½ league wide; in East Knoyle. (fn. 604) and in West Knoyle (fn. 605) the woods were ½ league long and as much wide, and there were two woods of this extent in Zeals. (fn. 606)
The forest is referred to in the Pipe Roll of 1176 as 'the Forest of Westbury'; (fn. 607) reference to 'the Forest of Selwood in Wiltshire' does not appear in the Close Rolls until 1235. (fn. 608) Townships which answered at the forest eyre 1187–90 were Heytesbury, (fn. 609) 'Knoyle', (fn. 610) Westbury, (fn. 611) and (? Great) Cheverell. (fn. 612) There is no evidence that the last-named was ever within the forest bounds; it seems probable, however, that there was a wood appurtenant to it in Selwood. (fn. 613)
Inquisitions in 1272, (fn. 614) 1280, (fn. 615) and 1281 (fn. 616) affirmed that the Abbess of Romsey's woods of Steeple Ashton and Edington (fn. 617) were arbitrarily afforested by Alan de Neville, Henry II's Chief Justice of the Forest. The knights and other freeholders of Wiltshire subsequently paid a fine of £100 for the perambulation of 1219, (fn. 618) which put these woods out of the forest. But Robert Passelewe, Justice of the Forests south of Trent 1244–50, reclaimed them into Selwood once more. (fn. 619)
The perambulation of 1228 (fn. 620) declared that the 'ancient forest' (fn. 621) included the four royal manors of Westbury, Warminster, Heytesbury, and Mere, with their woods and all appurtenances. Only the southeastern bound of the forest was given, and that in a form difficult to identify in its entirety. It ran from 'Steeple Knoyle' (Milton) (fn. 622) to the county boundary along 'the highway to Shaftesbury' (Shaftesbury Lane). (fn. 623)
The 13th-century forest eyre rolls, (fn. 624) however, show that the following villages and hamlets were represented at forest inquisitions—(? West) Knoyle, Chaddenwick, Mere, Zeals, Stourton, Monkton Deverill, Hill Deverill, Brixton Deverill and Longbridge Deverill, Norton Bavant, Maiden Bradley, Horningsham, Sutton Veny, Heytesbury, Bishopstrow, Warminster, Corsley, Whitbourne, Upton Scudamore, Chapmanslade, Westbury, Bratton, Penleigh, Brook, Hawkridge, Heywood, North Bradley, Southwick, West Ashton, Semington, Littleton, Great Hinton, Hilperton, and Keevil, and the now vanished villages of Baycliff, (fn. 625) East Ashton, (fn. 626) Trowle, (fn. 627) and Newnham. (fn. 628) There were woods held by subjects within the forest appurtenant to Westbury, 'Deverill', Horningsham, Heytesbury, Holt, Stourton, Zeals, 'Knoyle', Hawkridge, 'Lye' (Westbury Leigh), (fn. 629) Chaddenwick, Warminster, Heywood, and Littleton. (fn. 630) Forest woods mentioned by name (fn. 631) include Norridge Wood, (fn. 632) Nor Wood, (fn. 633) Shaw (or Slow) Wood, (fn. 634) Roddenhurst Wood, (fn. 635) Southleigh Wood, (fn. 636) Sleight Wood, (fn. 637) and Fairwood. (fn. 638) Other places subject to the forest law were Bidcombe, (fn. 639) Crockerton, (fn. 640) Keevil, (fn. 641) and Paxcroft. (fn. 642) On the other hand 'the liberty of Chicklade', probably including Chicklade Wood, was outside the forest in 1258. (fn. 643)
A list of places in Selwood before 1322 (fn. 644) contains not only the places mentioned in the forest eyre rolls, but a number of others also. On the northern and north-western edge were included Rode, (fn. 645) Langham, (fn. 646) Midford, 'Hanging Stoke' (Limpley Stoke), (fn. 647) Westwood, Rowley, (fn. 648) Bradford (on Avon), (fn. 649) Pomeroy, (fn. 650) Wingfield, and Whaddon; and along the eastern fringe, Keevil Wick, (fn. 651) Steeple Ashton, 'Chapel Ashton' (Rood Ashton), Edington, Melbourne, (fn. 652) 'Stoke Parva' (Erlestoke), (fn. 653) Kingston (Deverill), and 'Upton Knoyle'. (fn. 654) A third group of villages around Warminster and Westbury included Smallbrook, (fn. 655) Bugley, Sambourne, Thoulstone, Chalcot, (fn. 656) Short Street, Dilton, Dilton Marsh, Bremeridge, (fn. 657) Cutteridge, (fn. 658) Honeybridge, (fn. 659) and Middleton. (fn. 660) The bounds of Selwood in Wiltshire in the 13th and early 14th centuries were, therefore, the county boundaries on the west and south; (fn. 661) the River Avon and Semington Brook on the north; (fn. 662) and on the east a line drawn roughly north-north-east from Shaftesbury Lane to Semington Brook so as to include Heytesbury, Edington, and Keevil. (fn. 663) The area of the forest was thus about 165 square miles.
The perambulation of 1300 (fn. 664) declared that the whole of Selwood in Wiltshire should be disafforested, except the woods of Heytesbury, Warminster, and Westbury, belonging to Warin Mauduit, Walter de Paveley, and the Priors of 'Stynynton' (fn. 665) and Farleigh. The wood of Westbury was said to be outside the regard. (fn. 666) A later perambulation made in Edward III's reign was more explicit: it left in the forest John Mauduit's woods of Warminster adjoining Roddenbury, (fn. 667) Margaret of Buddlesmere's wood of Southleigh (fn. 668) with the hamlet of Whitbourne, the Prior of Farleigh's wood, Reynold de Paveley's wood of Westbury 'below the fair oak', (fn. 669) that part of the vill of Westbury Leigh on the west side of Biss Brook with the hamlets of Penleigh, Dilton Marsh, Chalcot, 'Brekweye' (? Berkeley (fn. 670) ), and Bremeridge, and that part of the vill of Chapmanslade that was in Westbury hundred. (fn. 671)
In the reign of Edward III, therefore, Selwood in Wiltshire was reduced to a small area not more than two miles wide, lying along the Wiltshire-Somerset border from Roddenbury Hill northward to Rudge, with Southleigh Wood as an outlier. The total area was not more than 14 square miles—less than onetenth of its former extent. (fn. 672) Leland wrote in 1540: 'The Forest of Selwood as it is now is 30 myles in compass and streachith one way almost into Warminster and another way unto the quarters of Shaftesburi, by estimation a ten myles'. (fn. 673)
Outside these bounds landowners were able to secure the usual privileges of ownership. Thus in 1428 a royal licence was granted to John of Stourton to inclose and impark in his manor of Stourton 1,000 acres of land, meadow, pasture, and wood, which were outside the forest. (fn. 674)
The Somerset portion of Selwood formed part of the bailiwick of the hereditary warden of the Somerset Forests, (fn. 675) but Selwood in Wiltshire had its own warden. The earliest named is one Walter FitzOsmund, who in 1176 farmed 'the Forest of Westbury' for 10s. annually. (fn. 676) His successors during the 13th and early 14th centuries were appointed during pleasure or for life. (fn. 677) The warden's farm was several times increased by Henry III and Edward I—to 20s. in 1251, (fn. 678) to 10 marks in 1273, (fn. 679) and to £10 in 1306. (fn. 680) But in 1318 it was reduced to 13s. 4d. after the reduction of the forest area by the perambulations. (fn. 681)
In 1342 the wardenship was granted to Thomas Carey in fee; the appointment was to take effect after the death of Reynold of Kingston, who then held the office for his life. (fn. 682) Thomas's second son John obtained licence in 1372 to convey it to Roger of Stourton and his heirs. The perquisites of the wardenship at this time were the stumps of trees felled, and the amercements for taking dead and dry wood and for escapes of animals; these perquisites were valued at 3s. 4d. more than the annual farm of 13s. 4d. There were no others because the king had 'neither soil nor wood' in Selwood. (fn. 683)
In 1380 Roger of Stourton granted the wardenship to Thomas of Hungerford the elder in tail male. (fn. 684) He in turn conveyed it in 1395 to his son and heir, Walter of Hungerford, in tail, (fn. 685) and on Walter's death in 1449 the wardenship passed to his son and heir Robert, Lord Hungerford. (fn. 686) It seems likely that the office continued to be held by his descendants until the attainder and execution of Sir Walter (III) Hungerford (fn. 687) about 1540. (fn. 688) By the end of Elizabeth I's reign the wardenship had passed to the earls of Pembroke. Henry, Earl of Pembroke, died in 1601 seised of 'the office of Warden of the Forest of Selwood, and the manor of Barton (Marlborough), in the counties of Somerset and Wiltshire'. (fn. 689)
Under the Warden of Selwood Forest there were a number of sub-foresters: (fn. 690) an inquisition in 1278 named 5 of these. (fn. 691) Twelve regarders presented the rolls of the regard at the forest eyre, (fn. 692) and there were 4 verderers. (fn. 693)
In the 13th century pleas of Selwood in Wiltshire were heard at the same forest eyre as those of the other Wiltshire forests. (fn. 694) But in the reign of Edward III the Justice of the Forests south of Trent, or his deputy, dealt with both the Somerset and the Wiltshire parts of Selwood at a single 'view of the forest' held in Somerset. Peter atte Wood, for example, held inquisitions 'regarding the condition of the Forest' of Selwood in both counties at Bruton (Som.) on 15 June 1362 (fn. 695) and on 19 February 1364, (fn. 696) and at Frome (Som.) on 30 June 1366 (fn. 697) and again on 19 June 1367. (fn. 698)
In 1373 Edmund Flory, Warden of Selwood in Somerset, was appointed 'surveyor' of the vert and venison in Selwood in Wiltshire also. He was to attach trespassers in the latter and hand them over to the Warden of Selwood in Wiltshire, who in turn was to present the attachments before the Justice of the Forest or his deputy at their 'views of the forest'. (fn. 699)
It appears, therefore, that after the drastic reduction of Selwood in Wiltshire to a comparatively small area on the Somerset border, in which the king had 'neither soil nor wood', (fn. 700) it tended to be administered as an appendage of Selwood in Somerset. The Crown seems very largely to have neglected it from the reign of Richard II to that of Elizabeth I.
Rights of subjects
In some woods within Selwood held by subjects the restrictions of the forest law were mitigated by the king's favour. An inquisition held at Trowbridge in 1278 returned that the abbess and nuns of Romsey held in Selwood the woods of Heywood and Slowgrove, (fn. 701) which were within the regard, and where there was 'large cover' and 'no access of deer except occasionally by accident'. To help them meet their debts the king had granted the nuns licence to sell wood and underwood in these woods to the value of 20 marks. They might also sell 'high wood' to the value of 100s. in Broker's Wood (fn. 702) and Kingshay: (fn. 703) these two woods, also belonging to Romsey, were in the forest but outside the regard. (fn. 704)
To have a private park within the royal forest was an exceptional privilege. In the reign of Henry III Adam de Grenville inclosed his park of Southwick (fn. 705) and Geoffrey de Zeals his park of Zeals (fn. 706) without royal warrant. They were called to account, probably at the forest eyre of 1246; (fn. 707) but later in the year the king allowed both parks to remain. (fn. 708) In 1248 Walter de Dunstanville obtained a similar retrospective licence for the park made by his father by inclosing his wood in 'Little Ashton' (? Rood Ashton Park). (fn. 709)
The assarting of the forest wastes is recorded from the 12th century onwards. The monks of Farleigh in 1227 obtained a royal grant of 40 acres of assarts in 'the Forest of Westbury' which the Empress Maud had made in 'Havedinghehull' (Huntenhull Green), (fn. 710) and ½ acre in Penleigh. (fn. 711) In 1248 Henry III granted to the abbey of Bec 4 acres in 'Woodcombe', (fn. 712) and ½ acre in Westbury, quit of waste and regard, which their proctor in England had caused to be assarted in Selwood. (fn. 713) At the forest eyre of 1257 the regarders presented assarts at Zeals, Bidcombe, and Norridge, and purprestures at Crockerton, Roddenhurst, Southwick, Littleton, Paxcroft, and Warminster. (fn. 714) At the two subsequent eyres in 1263 and 1270 similar presentments were made for Keevil, Stourton, Horningsham, Whitbourne, and Hill Deverill. (fn. 715) The smallest of these encroachments was ½ perch, and the largest 27 acres.
A long period of silence is broken by the record of a steward's tourn held at Trowbridge in 1586, at which inquiry was made into encroachments in Selwood. (fn. 716) The chief offender was reported to be Lord Audley, who had inclosed a number of coppices in the manor of Westbury Mauduit in which the local inhabitants had been accustomed to have common of pasture for their cattle. These were Stormore, (fn. 717) Holt, and Fairwood coppices (fn. 718) and Holman Hill, totalling 400 acres. Lord Audley had inclosed 40 acres for his 'several pasture' and cut down the timber growing on it. His enclosures had 'stopped the highway leading towards Bristol': the lanes left between them were so narrow that Her Majesty's subjects could not 'pass through without great danger of spoiling themselves and their horses', nor could the commoners' cattle pass 'without great danger of perishing in the myrie and founderous places of the said lanes'. Amongst other persons presented was John Lambe, who had assarted 'a great part of the said forest called Priors Hill' (fn. 719) and had 'inclosed a great quantity of waste ground on which there is no wood growing'.
Finally in 1627 arrangements were made for the sale of Selwood and Neroche (Som.) Forests to raise £20,000 for the fleet (fn. 720) on its return from the ill-fated expedition against the island of Rhé. Of this sum, £1,901 remained unpaid by 1629. (fn. 721) The contract between the commissioners for the disafforestment of Selwood and 'the lords and commoners of the manors within the forest' divided 'the several wastes and commonable lands within the forest' into three parts. One-third went to the Crown, one-third to 'the lords and owners of the soil', and the remainder was 'appropriated to the several commoners having right of common for depasturing their cattle'. (fn. 722) The forest wastes were granted out in common socage, discharged 'from all forest laws, rights, and privileges of forest, with liberty of free warren and power to convert the same into meadow and pasture'. (fn. 723)
Origins and extent
The 'wood of Safernoc' is referred to in a Saxon charter of a.d. 934. (fn. 724) Domesday Book records extensive woodlands in this region. There were two woods in Bedwyn, 2 leagues long and 1 league wide; there was also a 'grove' ½ league long and 3 furlongs wide. (fn. 725) Ramsbury's woodland was 16 furlongs long and 4 wide, (fn. 726) and Clatford's ½ league long and as much wide. (fn. 727) In Huish the wood was 1 league long and 4 furlongs broad, (fn. 728) and in Mildenhall ½ league long and 3 furlongs broad. (fn. 729)
By the 12th century this region had become a royal forest. It first appears on the 1130 Pipe Roll as 'the Forest of Marlborough', (fn. 730) but was called 'the Forest of Savernake' at least as early as the beginning of Henry II's reign. (fn. 731)
In the 12th and early 13th centuries the northern boundary of the forest seems to have extended to the Kennet and beyond. (fn. 732) In 1184–5 the men of Axford were amerced in 20s. at the forest eyre 'for waste', (fn. 733) and the vill of Ramsbury 100s. 'because it did not come to give its verdict regarding a stag'. (fn. 734) In 1198–9 Lockeridge had to pay 10s. 'for new and old waste', (fn. 735) in 1208 Baydon owed a mark 'for default', (fn. 736) and in 1209–10 amercements were imposed upon Winterbourne Monkton (fn. 737) and 'Huniton abbess' (? Little Hinton). (fn. 738) Similar entries regarding Pewsey in 1208 (fn. 739) and Burbage in 1210 (fn. 740) afford evidence as to the south-western boundary of the forest at this time.
The perambulation of 1225 (fn. 741) disafforested 'all woods save (the king's) demesne woods in the Forest of Savernake'. (fn. 742) Amongst those put out of the forest was Boreham Wood, (fn. 743) claimed by Henry de Luny and Thomas of Kennett, who at once proceeded to cut and sell the timber. But Geoffrey (II) Esturmy, who became Warden of Savernake on 23 December 1226, (fn. 744) reclaimed Boreham as a demesne wood. (fn. 745) The entire perambulation was annulled in 1227. (fn. 746)
The bounds declared in the following year (fn. 747) were much more favourable to the interests of the Crown. There were disafforested 'all those woods and lands' north of a line running along the Marlborough road from Hungerford as far as 'William of Puthall's well', (fn. 748) thence 'over the hill' to Stitchcombe, and so westward up the River Kennet. The remainder of Savernake Forest was not delimited, but was stated to be and to remain 'ancient forest'. (fn. 749)
The northern boundary of the forest remained substantially unchanged for the next hundred years. The other bounds are known from a series of perambulations which have survived in 15th-century copies, (fn. 750) and which appear to have been made in 1237 and in 1244. (fn. 751) These bounds enclose an area of about 90 square miles (fn. 752) extending into Berkshire on the north-east. The borough of Great Bedwyn, although within the bounds, was exempt from the forest law, (fn. 753) and the villages of Milton Lilborne and Fyfield were just outside the forest. (fn. 754)
Later in Henry III's reign the southern half of Hippenscombe bailiwick was transferred by an award of the Justice of the Forests south of Trent from Savernake to Chute Forest, following a dispute between the two forest wardens. (fn. 755) After an unsuccessful attempt to have the award reversed at the Dorset forest eyre in 1257, (fn. 756) the Warden of Savernake finally accepted it in 1259. (fn. 757) In consideration of a fine of 25 marks paid by Avice de Columbers, the Warden of Chute, he agreed that henceforth the Savernake portion of Hippenscombe should be bounded on the south by a line drawn from 'Cowdeangate' (Woodside) (fn. 758) along the southern ditch of Fosbury Camp (fn. 759) to 'the Stretegate' (the gap in Grim's Ditch at Scot's Poor). (fn. 760)
The three forest eyre rolls 1257–70 agree closely with the perambulations as to the extent of the forest jurisdiction in the middle of the 13th century. The following villages and hamlets sent four men and the reeve to the forest inquisitions (fn. 761) —West Overton, Clatford, Huish, Manton, Oare, Wootton Rivers, Milton Lilborne, (fn. 762) Easton, Burbage, Crofton, Marten, Chisbury, 'East Bedwyn' (Little Bedwyn), East Shalbourne, 'Buggesgate' (Bagshot), (fn. 763) Oxenwood, Tidcombe, Fosbury, Ham, Lower Spray, and 'yngefflod' (Inglewood). (fn. 764) There were represented also villages which have now disappeared—West Shalbourne, (fn. 765) Shaw in Alton, (fn. 766) West Wick, (fn. 767) Puthall, (fn. 768) Wolfhall, (fn. 769) Sandbourne Sturmy or West Sandbourne, (fn. 770) 'Hillwork', (fn. 771) and North Standen (Berks.). (fn. 772)
Amongst the woods in Savernake Forest which appear on the forest eyre rolls are Chutecroft Wood, belonging to Standen manor, (fn. 773) and Burwood, (fn. 774) belonging to Chisbury, Ham, West Shalbourne, and Little Bedwyn. (fn. 775) There were also 'Okette' (? Noke) Wood, Stype Wood, and other woods in 'the Frith' (fn. 776) belonging to Chisbury, (fn. 777) Langhanger Wood in Tidcombe manor, (fn. 778) Bury Wood on Martinsell Hill, (fn. 779) belonging to Fyfield, (fn. 780) and Hillwork Wood, (fn. 781) shared between Oare, Huish, and Draycot Fitzpayne. (fn. 782) Other forest woods were Shaw Wood, (fn. 783) 'Shortashley Wood' (fn. 784) and Botley Wood (fn. 785) in 'East Shalbourne', (fn. 786) 'Horsecroft' and 'Radenham' Woods in Ham and West Shalbourne, (fn. 787) Oakhill Wood in Fosbury, (fn. 788) and Leigh Hill Copse (fn. 789) and other woods belonging to Burbage. (fn. 790) The forest proceedings also mention Blackstype Wood, (fn. 791) Henley Wood (fn. 792), Bowden's Grove, (fn. 793) the Abbess of Wilton's wood belonging to her manor of North Newnton, (fn. 794) the Prior of St. Margaret's wood outside Marlborough, (fn. 795) the Prior of St. Swithin's osier-bed at Lockeridge, (fn. 796) and woods belonging to Milton Lilborne, East Kennett, Preshute, Alton Barnes, and Manningford. (fn. 797)
A 14th-century list of 'vills, woods, and groves' within Savernake Forest before the disafforestments of 1330 (fn. 798) included Durley, Bewley, (fn. 799) Stokke, (fn. 800) East and West Harding, (fn. 801) Wilton and Wexcombe, East and West Grafton, East Wick (fn. 802) and West Stowell, the northern part of Pewsey, including 'Avonford' (Avebrick), (fn. 803) Kepnal and 'Hyde Wood', (fn. 804) 'part of Froxfield with the parson's wood called "Westleye"', (fn. 805) and Collingbourne Kingston north of the 'Whiteway'. (fn. 806) Among the woods listed were Shortgrove, (fn. 807) Millcote (Milkhouse Water), (fn. 808) Haw Wood, (fn. 809) and Tottenham Wood. (fn. 810)
The perambulations of 1300 (fn. 811) were confirmed very closely by those made at the forest eyre of 1330. (fn. 812) Savernake Forest was reduced to comparatively small areas of royal demesne lands and woods, totalling about 16 square miles. (fn. 813) In addition, certain contiguous lands and woods without the bounds remained in the forest because they were in the king's hands 'by reason of ancient waste' (fn. 814) or because they were assarts and purprestures leased from the Crown. (fn. 815) These included Boreham Wood, belonging to Shaw, (fn. 816) Manton Copse, (fn. 817) Timbridge Down, (fn. 818) 'Smallcrofts', (fn. 819) 50 acres of purprestures 'at "la Wydinreche", under the covert of the forest to the north of Wootton Rivers', (fn. 820) and a place called 'la Bury' on Martinsell . . . which remained afforested, and the bounds of which were 'plain to see by a great ditch which runs all around the summit of Martinsell Hill'. (fn. 821) All these places were remnants of the West and Farm bailiwicks. (fn. 822) Outside the bounds of Southgrove (fn. 823) there remained within the forest three purprestures 'rented of the king's land, viz. Fulham, (fn. 824) Langham, and Spleckham'. (fn. 825) The reduced bounds of the forest were in 1330 delimited by 'newly dug pits'. (fn. 826)
There remained within the forest after the perambulations the villages of Manton, Preshute, Elcot, (fn. 827) and Newburystreet, (fn. 828) with their pasture and lands, and 'the king's three tenants at Evesbury' (Isbury), (fn. 829) who were 'of the king's ancient demesne belonging to the king's Barton next Marlborough'. (fn. 830)
In the reigns of Edward IV and Henry VII, however, the wardens of Savernake made an unsuccessful attempt to restore the ancient bounds of their bailiwick. Nineteen townships were summoned to the forest eyre held at Marlborough in 1464, (fn. 831) and far-reaching claims were made by John (II) Seymour, the warden, at the next eyre in 1477. (fn. 832) In June 1485 he obtained letters patent setting out 'the bounds of the Forest of Savernake before the perambulation of Henry III': (fn. 833) at the forest eyre of 1491 he took his stand upon them, claiming that the Farm and West bailiwicks stretched from the Ridgway and Pewsey in the west to the outskirts of Hungerford in the east. (fn. 834)
The proceedings at the eyre, (fn. 835) however, were not confined to places within the bounds of 1300 and 1330. The underforester of the Farm bailiwick presented venison trespasses committed in Cobham Frith and Little Frith, (fn. 836) 'Holt Leaze', (fn. 837) 'Havering Heath', (fn. 838) where there was a deer-park inclosed with palings, (fn. 839) the 'Parson's Woods', (fn. 840) 'the Shouyll' (Showel Bottom), (fn. 841) 'Toppynham' (Tottenham Copse), (fn. 842) Oxlease, (fn. 843) 'Stockwood', (fn. 844) and 'between Asshelade (Ashlett) and Bagden'. (fn. 845) The underforester of the West bailiwick reported similar offences in 'Chychanglys' (Pumphrey Wood), (fn. 846) 'Chichangles Peketheket' (? Pickrudge), (fn. 847) 'the Redde Rygge', (fn. 848) which was 'the chief lawnd in the . . . forest', (fn. 849) in 'Swyneslade', (fn. 850) Huish Wood (? Gopher Wood), (fn. 851) Littlewood, (fn. 852) Clatford Dene, and Clatford Wood. (fn. 853) The underforester of Panterwick (fn. 854) presented offences in Evesbury, (fn. 855) and the underforester of Iwood (fn. 856) in Mottisfont Coppice (fn. 857) and in Iwood itself.
In the reign of Edward the Confessor a royal huntsman, Alvric, held of the king Burbage with Cowesfield, (fn. 858) and 1½ hide in Harding; (fn. 859) he also held Rainscombe of Wilton Abbey. (fn. 860) Little is known of the manner in which the king's hunting rights were protected before the Conquest; (fn. 861) it is certain, however, that by 1086 Alvric's lands had passed to Richard Sturmid or Esturmy, (fn. 862) the ancestor of the Esturmys or Sturmys who were hereditary wardens of Savernake down to the 15th century. (fn. 863) In 1130 Henry (I) Esturmy paid an annual farm for 'the Forest of Marlborough'—£4 1s. to the Exchequer, and 9s. forest tithe to the canons of Salisbury: (fn. 864) he may have been Richard's son.
By the 13th century the Esturmys held in chief 'the manor of Burbage, with its members of Durley and "Cowesfield Esturmy", by serjeanty of finding one armed esquire in the king's army in Wales, and keeping the bailiwick of the king's forest of Savernake'. (fn. 865)
Shortly after the forest eyre in 1332 Henry (V) Esturmy laid formal claim to the rights and perquisites of his wardenship of Savernake Forest. (fn. 866) The foresters in fee (fn. 867) were subject to his authority. On the death of one of them the warden was entitled to the forester's 'equipage, saddle, bridle, sword, and horn'; (fn. 868) he took possession of his bailiwick and accounted for the issues until the heir paid relief and obtained a royal grant of seisin. (fn. 869)
In the woods of the Farm bailiwick (fn. 870) the warden claimed housebote and haybote, dead wood, fallen without the use of a cutting weapon, during the three weeks before Christmas, Easter, and Michaelmas, windfallen wood 'and all the top and lop of timber cut for the king or given away by him'. He claimed pasture in the woods for all his domestic animals, except 'two-toothed sheep' and goats, throughout the year, and for his pigs except in the fence month, free of pannage and herbage dues; after-pannage from Martinmas to Candlemas, and the pasture of a 'corner of the heath beyond the covert' (? on Timbridge Down). (fn. 871)
The profits of the swanimote or attachment court of Savernake belonged to the warden—i.e. fines and amercements levied for default and for trespasses 'concerning hares, nets, coney-traps, badgers, foxes, wild cats and partridges . . . the trespass of animals . . . dead wood throughout the whole year, except during the fence month . . . and . . . the expeditation of dogs'. He had power to impound stray cattle, to take eyries of hawks, honey, nuts, and hips after the regard, and to hunt hares, foxes, wild cats, and badgers throughout Savernake Forest; and the right to take cheminage and the toll for digging sand in the Farm bailiwick only. (fn. 872)
A later warden, Sir John (III) Seymour, also made a formal claim to the perquisites of his office at the forest eyre in 1491. These included 5s. annually from the vill of Easton for one tree trunk, and a sheep or 12d. from every sheep-fold of the queen's barton. (fn. 873)
During the minority of heirs to the Savernake wardenship, the king usually appointed the Constable of Marlborough to keep the forest. (fn. 874) The continuity of tenure of the hereditary wardens was interrupted for short periods for other reasons also. Geoffrey (I) Esturmy was disseised in the reign of Richard I for adherence to the king's brother John, and had to pay 500 marks in 1196–7 to recover his office. (fn. 875) In 1342 Sir Henry (VI) Esturmy was replaced by Simon Simeon, one of the king's yeomen, because he had seized and held the West bailiwick in defiance of the Crown; (fn. 876) he recovered the wardenship in 1359 on proof 'that he was unjustly removed from office by the malice of his enemies'. (fn. 877) Henry IV in 1403 granted the forest in fee to his son Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester; (fn. 878) the latter replaced Sir William Esturmy in 1417 by his steward, Walter Beauchamp, but reinstated him in 1420. (fn. 879)
Sir William Esturmy died in 1427 without heirs male. His younger daughter Maud had married Roger Seymour of Hatch Beauchamp, and the wardenship of Savernake passed to their son John, born in 1403. (fn. 880) He in his turn forfeited the office, probably in 1460, for adhering to the Lancastrian cause. In 1461 Thomas Beauchamp was appointed by Edward VI to keep 'the manor, town, and lordship of Marlborough, together with the Forest of Savernake', for 20 years at an annual farm to be agreed between him and the treasurer: provided always that Beauchamp's farm was to be raised if anyone else was prepared to pay more. (fn. 881) Sir John, however, had recovered the wardenship before his death in December 1464. (fn. 882)
His great-great-grandson Edward Seymour, the Lord Protector, in 1547 obtained a royal grant in fee simple of the forest of which he was already hereditary warden. (fn. 883) After his arrest in 1551 on charges of treason and felony, the forest, with his other possessions, was forfeited to the Crown. It was, however, restored by Queen Mary to his son, Sir Edward (II) Seymour, later Earl of Hertford, as a hereditary possession, (fn. 884) and his descendants have retained the wardenship to the present day. (fn. 885)
Savernake Forest in the 13th and 14th centuries was divided into five wards or bailiwicks. The Farm bailiwick was under the direct authority of the warden, (fn. 886) but the others—the West bailiwick, Bedwyn Brails, Southgrove, and Hippenscombe (fn. 887) —were each kept by a forester in fee.
The West bailiwick extended from 'Warckwee' (fn. 888) on the west to 'Braydon valley' (fn. 889) on the east, and from 'Falestone' (fn. 890) in the south to 'Nikerpole' (fn. 891) in the north. In 1198 it was kept by John of Wick, who held ¼ carucate in East Wick, worth 5s., 'by serjeanty of the forest'. (fn. 892) During the 13th century, however, the West bailiwick was divided between two foresters in fee. From 1244 until 1316 one moiety was held by William of Bovcliff (fn. 893) and his two namesakes, who succeeded him in turn. (fn. 894) They held by grand serjeanty in Bovcliff in East Wick a virgate worth 13s. 4d. a year, (fn. 895) situated between the forest covert and Martinsell Hill. (fn. 896) For this they kept their moiety of the forest bailiwick, worth 12s. 8½d. a year, (fn. 897) and paid an annual farm of 26s. to the Constable of Marlborough. (fn. 898) The foresters in fee of the other moiety paid a like farm and found two under-foresters to help them keep the vert and venison. (fn. 899) By these services they held in East Wick a virgate called 'Wrencheslond . . . under the covert of Iwood', (fn. 900) consisting of three crofts, an acre of wood, and an acre of meadow. (fn. 901) Their land and half-bailiwick were valued at 100s. at some time between 1256 and 1259. (fn. 902)
Before the end of the 13th century William of Harding acquired the latter moiety (fn. 903) probably by marriage, (fn. 904) and before his death in 1330 he had purchased William of Bovcliff's half also. (fn. 905) He thus became forester in fee of the whole of the West bailiwick, (fn. 906) paying an annual farm of 52s. to the Constable of Marlborough, and finding three underforesters at his own expense. (fn. 907)
Sir Robert de Bilkemore, (fn. 908) husband of William of Harding's daughter and heir Anstice, was sworn in as his successor at the Salisbury forest eyre in 1330: (fn. 909) but Henry (V) Esturmy, the warden, who had seized the West bailiwick, refused to hand it over even when an action of novel disseisin was brought against him in 1334. (fn. 910) As a result, both wardenship and forestership in fee were seized by the Crown, and were kept by Simon Simeon, king's yeoman, from 1342 until 1355. (fn. 911) Sir Robert had recovered the West bailiwick by 1361, (fn. 912) but by 1370 it had passed again, and permanently, into the possession of the warden. (fn. 913)
The perquisites were similar to those enjoyed by the warden in the Farm bailiwick (fn. 914) —housebote and haybote, (fn. 915) and dead wood in the king's demesne woods for nine weeks in the year; free pasture 'in the king's demesne of Braydon as far as "Wydenreche"' (fn. 916) and on the west of 'Mereway as far as Drayston', (fn. 917) herbage dues from the villeins of Elcot and Manton and certain others, and after-pannage; and 'the right to have one man carrying sand from the said forest yearly for ever, and to have all the fern in the bailiwick throughout the year, except in the fence month'. (fn. 918)
The foresters in fee of Bedwyn Brails (fn. 919) during the 13th and 14th centuries held certain lands in chief in 'the king's demesne . . . in Harding (fn. 920) . . . by service of keeping Bedwyn woods, called Bedwyn Brails'. (fn. 921) They paid an annual farm of 8s. at Marlborough castle, (fn. 922) and owed suit every 3 weeks at 'the king's court at Morley (Leigh Hill) in the Forest'. (fn. 923) The foresters in fee of Southgrove (fn. 924) held in chief lands in West Grafton by serjeanty of finding a man to keep the king's wood of Southgrove and paying an annual farm of 10s. at Marlborough castle. (fn. 925) The foresters in fee of Hippenscombe (fn. 926) during the same period held in chief lands in Oxenwood by keeping the bailiwick of Hippenscombe and paying an annual farm of 20s. at Marlborough castle. (fn. 927)
By the 15th century there was a Ranger of Savernake Forest; (fn. 928) in the next century, since the warden and his 'lieutenant' were Seymours and persons of great consequence, the day-to-day administration of the forest seems to have devolved almost entirely upon him. (fn. 929)
There were also underforesters who discharged the duties of gamekeepers. Eleven are named in 1334, (fn. 930) of whom three kept the West bailiwick. (fn. 931) In 1464 six appeared at the forest eyre—one each for the Farm and West bailiwicks, Panterwick, Iwood, Hippenscombe, and Southgrove. (fn. 932) There were four verderers for Savernake Forest, (fn. 933) twelve regarders conducted the regard, (fn. 934) and a single agister collected the herbage dues. (fn. 935)
Crown and subject
Savernake Forest in the 13th and 14th centuries was 'necessary for the frequent repairs of the castle and town' of Marlborough, (fn. 936) for which it supplied timber (fn. 937) and money from the forest revenues. (fn. 938) The constable played an important part in the forest administration. The forest officers paid their farms (fn. 939) and other moneys to him. (fn. 940) There were complaints in 1279 that the constable's serjeants were illegally attaching offenders in Savernake Forest, and that he himself was hearing forest pleas, contrary to the Charter of the Forest. (fn. 941) In 1382, during an Esturmy minority, the constable received a royal grant for life of 'the oversight of the Forest of Savernake and the warren of Marlborough, with housebote and haybote therein for his stay in the castle'. (fn. 942)
From the 13th to the 16th centuries Savernake Forest and its revenues were regularly assigned to the queens of England in dower. (fn. 943)
Many magnates enjoyed hunting rights outside the royal forest: the Bishop of Salisbury's chase of Ramsbury, for example, lay north of Savernake on the other side of the Kennet. (fn. 944) There were also private parks within the forest, established by the king's leave. In 1246 Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, obtained licence to inclose and impark his wood of 'Bauteley' (Slings Firs, Berks.) (fn. 945) in his manor of Hungerford, (fn. 946) and in 1260 Matthew de Columbers received a grant in similar terms for his wood of Chisbury, which was 'outside the regard of the forest and far from the covert'; his park was to be 'quit of waste, regard and view of the . . . forest officers'. (fn. 947)
Owners of woods within the forest took housebote and haybote under the supervision of the foresters, (fn. 948) who exacted payment therefor. Patrick of Chaworth, for example, lord of the manor of Berwick St. James and holder of fractions of knight's fees in Standen and Oakhill (fn. 949) in the middle of the 13th century took housebote and haybote worth 4s. four times a year in 'Southwood grove' (Southgrove). (fn. 950) These restrictions appreciably diminished the value of subjects' woods. William Russell (d. 1311), for example, held a 40-acre wood in Little Bedwyn worth only 12d. a year because it was in Savernake Forest. (fn. 951) Some woods were exempt from the regard; Henry Huse of Standen manor, for example, had the right to take in his wood of Chutecroft, which lay outside the regard, 'reasonable estovers for his manor . . . without view and payment to the king's foresters'. He exceeded his rights, however, by making gifts and sales of timber in the wood where the deer had 'great repair and access', so that in 1270 the wood was ordered to be seized by the forest justices. (fn. 952)
The men of the townships adjoining Braydon (fn. 953) enjoyed by custom the right to 'enter the forest in search of dead wood and bracken' ('woodleave' and 'fernleave'); in 1340 the regarders complained that the oaks and underwood suffered damage as a result. (fn. 954)
Special privileges were enjoyed by a number of religious houses. These included the right to collect carefully defined amounts of dead wood for fuel. The priory of St. Margaret, Marlborough, was allowed in the first half of the 13th century to take a cartload of wood daily for this purpose, (fn. 955) and the hospital of St. John, Marlborough, at about the same date could have as much as a man could gather daily in his hands and carry back to the hospital. (fn. 956) At the forest eyre of 1330 it was reported that the abbots of Hyde were accustomed to take 200 loads of fuel annually from the forest, for which they paid 14s. 'stocksilver'. This was evidently an irregular practice, for it was ordered to cease. (fn. 957) Thorns from the forest were granted for hedges and there were frequent grants of timber for building. (fn. 958) Sometimes a house would receive a grant of an area of woodland within the forest with freedom of access. The priory of Easton, of which the Wardens of Savernake had the advowson for nearly two centuries, had in about 1250 50 acres of such woodland (? Priory Wood). (fn. 959)
In 1270 Matthew de Columbers sought exemption from the 'lawing' of his dogs and those of his men of Chisbury manor. A jury reported that Matthew himself and his ancestors had always enjoyed that privilege in Chisbury. His men, however, were bound to have their dogs 'lawed': they had to pay 3s. every third year for any dog not expeditated, but this rarely happened. Chisbury was within the regard, but so far from the forest covert that the jurors thought that no harm would be done by a grant of exemption. (fn. 960)
In 1332 'the poor tenants of the Barton of Marlborough, Manton, Elcot, Preshute, Wick, and Wootton' (Rivers) omitted to lay formal claim to their right of common pasture in the forest (fn. 961) and were consequently deprived of these by the warden. (fn. 962) Rights of common of pasture on the forest wastes were granted by the king, and, with his consent, by forest landowners. In the reign of Henry III the Warden of Savernake granted the brethren of Easton Royal 'full common of pasture for their beasts of every kind, in Savernake'. (fn. 963) The free men of Hungerford claimed herbage and pannage in the wood of Bauteley (Slings Firs, Berks.) by virtue of an alleged grant of Simon de Montfort. (fn. 964) In 1270 the king granted the Prior of St. Margaret's, Marlborough, the right to pasture 16 oxen and 4 cows in the forest wastes, outside the lawns. Should their beasts stray upon the lawns, the brethren were not to pay any fine for 'escape', but the beasts were to be 'driven back into the pasture of the forest and so remain'. (fn. 965)
The forest eyre rolls record the gradual clearance of the wastes. In 1246, for example, the Abbess of Wilton had to answer for an assart of 19 acres at Rainscombe (fn. 966) in her manor of North Newnton: but she was pardoned 'at the instance of the forest justices'. (fn. 967) Amongst the assarts presented in 1270 were plots ranging from ½ acre to 9 acres in Langhanger Wood in Tidcombe, in 'the king's demesne next Iwood', at Chisbury, Shaw, Lockeridge, and Little Bedwyn, and 4 acres of inclosed pasture on Burbage Heath. (fn. 968)
Royal licences to assart and cultivate woods and wastes within the forest were not infrequent. In 1206 the warden, Henry Esturmy, paid a fine of 100 fat fowls for leave to assart 10 acres of 'Cullfield woods', (fn. 969) and Henry III in 1248 granted to the Abbot and monks of Bec an acre in 'Goldedon', (fn. 970) quit of waste and regard, which their proctor in England had assarted. (fn. 971) Richard Fugram obtained leave in 1281 to cut down and cultivate his wood of Holme, (fn. 972) which contained 40 acres 'by the forest perch'; it was not a resort of the king's deer, because it was 'three leagues away from the adjoining woods belonging to the king in the same forest'. (fn. 973)
In 1302 and the following years such licences were issued on a larger scale. John of Havering was granted in fee simple 421 acres in 'Little Farm' (fn. 974) and 'King's Heath', (fn. 975) at an annual rent of £7 10s. 4d., payable to the Sheriff of Wiltshire. To obtain access to these lands, John was to 'inclose them on that part towards the foreign lands there lately disafforested (fn. 976) with a great dyke 6 feet high and 7 broad, and with a hedge', making the crest of the dyke so that the king's deer could not get out of the enclosure, but could enter without hindrance. (fn. 977) William of Harding, forester in fee of the West bailiwick, obtained 225 acres in Iwood, at 'la Wydinreche' north of Wootton Rivers, (fn. 978) in 'la Bers' near 'Lewkesley', (fn. 979) and at Martinsell Camp, 'going round by the great dyke', at a rent of 75s. 5d. (fn. 980) In 1307 Hugh de Hampslape was granted 34½ acres of forest waste, to inclose and cultivate, 'between Camberway and Hadley and at Flitgrove' (fn. 981) at 11s. 6½d. rent; and a strip 2 perches wide on the west side of Hippenscombe wood, along which he could drive his beasts northward from his land near Hadley to water at Ashmere. (fn. 982)
Chute in Wiltshire
Origins and extent
Chute Forest lay partly in Hampshire and partly in Wiltshire. It is first mentioned in 1156 as 'the Forest of "Witingelega" (fn. 983) and the brails of Andover and "Digerley"' (Doiley or Doyley, Hants). (fn. 984) Reference to 'the Forest of Chute' first appears in 1215, (fn. 985) though parts of it were occasionally during the 13th century given distinguishing names, such as 'the Forest of Ludgershall'. (fn. 986) A 14th-century inquisition referred to 'the forest of Chute in the hundred of Andover, which extends partly into Wiltshire'. (fn. 987)
Domesday records that in this area Collingbourne Ducis had a wood I league long and as much broad, and rights in 'a third part of the wood called "Cetum"' (Chute). (fn. 988) The woodland appurtenant to Amesbury was 6 leagues long and 4 broad; (fn. 989) it is probable that part of this at least was in the Chute Forest area. (fn. 990) In Ludgershall the woodland was ½ league long and 2 furlongs wide, (fn. 991) in Shaw (fn. 992) a league long and a furlong wide, (fn. 993) and in Standen (fn. 994) 3 furlongs long and a furlong wide. (fn. 995)
The Pipe Rolls supply some evidence of the extent of the forest jurisdiction during the 12th century. In 1184–5 the Abbot of Hyde was amerced in 2 marks for waste in Collingbourne Ducis, (fn. 996) and the Abbot of Glastonbury I mark for a like offence in Idmiston in 1189–90. (fn. 997) In 1198–9 the hundred of Amesbury had to pay 6s. 7d. for a trespass of the vert, two separate parts of Amesbury 20s. each, and Winterbourne Earls 20s. for waste. (fn. 998) The now vanished hamlet of Biddesden (fn. 999) was amerced 'for default' at the forest eyre of 1200–1. (fn. 1000)
The 1228 perambulation gave no bounds for Chute in Wiltshire: the jurors merely described it as 'Ellis Croc's bailiwick (fn. 1001) in Wiltshire', and declared that' it was 'ancient forest'. (fn. 1002) A 14th-century document, however, sets out 'the metes and bounds of the Forest of Chute in Wiltshire as they were in the time of Henry III'; (fn. 1003) these are very extensive indeed, and inclose an area of roughly 98 square miles. On the east they were declared to run along the county boundary, where the Wiltshire part of Chute adjoined the Hampshire part of the forest. On the south the boundary was the Roman road from Old Salisbury to Winchester, and on the west, the Avon as far as Upavon. The northern bounds were the same as those given for contiguous Savernake Forest by the perambulations of 1237–44, (fn. 1004) thus providing a clue to the date of the original Chute perambulation.
The places named in the 13th-century forest eyre rolls, however, are all situated in the north-east corner of the area described by this perambulation. (fn. 1005) The townships required to appear at forest inquisitions were 'Collingbourne Abbatis' (Collingbourne Ducis), (fn. 1006) 'Tidworth of Alan la Zuche' and 'Tidworth Hose' (North Tidworth), (fn. 1007) Chute, (fn. 1008) 'Farnham' (Vernham Dean, Hants), (fn. 1009) and the vanished villages of Biddesden, (fn. 1010) Conholt, (fn. 1011), and Harrowfield. (fn. 1012) Trespasses of vert and venison were reported in Collingbourne Wood, (fn. 1013) in 'the hay of Chute', (fn. 1014) and 'the king's chase of Hippenscombe', (fn. 1015) on Ludgershall moor, (fn. 1016) in Widgerley, (fn. 1017) in Shoddesden (fn. 1018) 'between Coalridge and Woodcroft', (fn. 1019) and in the woods belonging to Hurstbourne Tarrant (Hants), (fn. 1020) and the manor of Standen. (fn. 1021) Assarts were recorded at Ashridge (fn. 1022) which were 'outside the demesne and outside the regard', and purprestures at Shaw, Conholt, Chute, and Woodcroft. (fn. 1023) It appears, therefore, that by the middle of the 13th century the forest law was enforced in a much smaller area than that defined by the perambulation.
A perambulation made in 1300, (fn. 1024) however, reduced the forest to the limits of 'the king's demesne wood of Chute', which was practically co-terminous with the modern parish of Chute Forest. Outside these bounds, the manor of Ludgershall, with the woods adjacent, remained subject to the forest law as part of the ancient demesne of the Crown. (fn. 1025) Ludgershall woods were declared to be in the custody of the constable, and no other officer of the Crown might intrude therein. In 1330 the jurors also gave the bounds of the bailiwick of Hippenscombe in Chute Forest. These embraced some territory which had formerly been part of Savernake. (fn. 1026)
Several woods held by subjects were expressly disafforested in 1330—Whittle Copse and other woods forming part of Collingbourne Wood, Conholt Wood, (fn. 1027) Cathanger Wood, (fn. 1028) the Prioress of Amesbury's wood called 'Woodcroft', belonging to her hamlet of Biddesden, (fn. 1029) and John de Lisle's wood belonging to his hamlet of Chute.
This drastic reduction of the forest area was put into effect at the beginning of Edward III's reign: (fn. 1030) a Wiltshire inquisition returned on 12 September 1331 that the Forest of Chute was 'almost disafforested'. (fn. 1031)
The Crokes, who were hereditary wardens of Chute Forest in the 12th century, (fn. 1032) appear to trace their ancestry back to Croc, huntsman of William I and William II. He seems to have been a person of some consequence at court, and to have exercised authority in a number of royal forests. (fn. 1033) His particular connexion with Chute Forest is suggested by the fact that in 1086 he held in chief lands in North Tidworth, (fn. 1034) South Tidworth (Hants), and in Crux (or Croc's) Easton (Hants). (fn. 1035) The Hampshire lands were held in the 12th and 13th centuries by Matthew Croke and by his son and heir Ellis: (fn. 1036) it is possible that Croc the Huntsman may have been their predecessor in the custody of Chute Forest also.
Croc had a son Rainald: (fn. 1037) it seems probable that he was the Rainald or Ruald Croke who in 1130 farmed an unnamed Wiltshire forest, (fn. 1038) or his father and namesake. The first hereditary Warden of Chute Forest who can be positively identified, however, is Matthew Croke, who paid an annual farm of 60s. from the beginning of Henry II's reign: (fn. 1039) he may have been Ruald's son or grandson.
On the death of Ellis Croke in 1215, Michael de Columbers, who had married his daughter and heir Avice, paid a fine of 100 marks for having the wardenship in fee. (fn. 1040) His widow succeeded him as warden in 1235; (fn. 1041) at some time before 1241 she successfully claimed the southern half of the bailiwick of Hippenscombe from the Warden of Savernake. (fn. 1042) At the time of her death in 1259 the wardenship of Chute in Wiltshire and Hampshire was valued at 60s. a year; the farm, now only 10s., was paid to the Sheriff of Wiltshire and accounted for by him. (fn. 1043)
Matthew de Columbers, son and heir of Avice, granted his forest office in 1281 to his niece Nichola and her husband, John (I) de Lisle. (fn. 1044) Appurtenant to the bailiwick at this time were a 'ruinous house' at Woodhouse (Hants), (fn. 1045) where the foresters were received, some acres of arable, and a free tenant. (fn. 1046) The wardenship was held by John de Lisle's male descendants in the direct line until the death without issue of Sir John Lisle about 1523. (fn. 1047) The disafforestments of 1330 (fn. 1048) naturally reduced the value of the office. Up to the time of his death in 1345 Bartholomew de Lisle held it jointly with his wife Elizabeth in tail, by the serjeanty of keeping the forest at their own expense. Bartholomew's portion was declared to be worth nothing beyond the expense involved. (fn. 1049)
His descendant, Sir Nicholas Lisle, was accused of numerous misdeeds at the forest eyre held at Andover in 1490 and at a swanimote in 1497. He and his servants, it was said, had 'dayly' made 'chase and rechase' so that the deer could not 'lye in rest': one of his foresters had taken within his bailiwick two 'stalls of bees with their wax', worth 5s. As a result Sir Nicholas was removed from office in 1490 and replaced by his deputy, Roger Cheyne. Nicholas later replied that these charges were made by 'malicious and evil-disposed persons'. He laid formal claim to be restored to his office, held by him and his ancestors by payment of the annual farm of 10s. and by finding seven foresters at his own cost 'to walk and keep the forest'. His perquisites included the forest lodge at Finkley (Hants), the yield of an acre of coppice wood set to sale, and all wood felled and not carried away before the fence month. (fn. 1050) He was pardoned and reinstated in the wardenship in 1500. (fn. 1051)
On the death of his son, Sir John (VII) Lisle, c. 1523, without issue, the office of warden ceased to be hereditary. Lord Sandys was appointed to succeed Sir John in 1524. His perquisites included the entrails of all deer slain in the forest, and a doe in summer and a young doe in winter in each of the bailiwicks of Finkley, Doles, Digerley (Doiley), and Chute in Hampshire, and in Chute in Wiltshire; he was to have all the forest lodges except the Woodhouse. (fn. 1052) His successor, William Wroughton, who became in 1542 'Lieutenant or Chief Forester' of Chute Forest, had in addition the right to take two does a year in the bailiwick of Hippenscombe, all attachments of animals and windfallen wood in the forest, and the right to hold a 'wood courte'. (fn. 1053)
The last warden or ranger of Chute Forest was Sir John Philpot, who was in 1626 given authority to preserve the game in the forest 'and within seven miles compass of the same'. (fn. 1054) After the disafforestment in 1639 (fn. 1055) Sir John received from the king a grant of lands worth £600 in compensation for his loss of office. (fn. 1056)
The warden of course maintained a number of subordinate officers. Matthew de Columbers in 1270 had at least one forester, a clerk, and a man-at-arms. (fn. 1057) In the reign of Henry VII Sir Nicholas Lisle maintained seven foresters at his own expense. (fn. 1058) These included his deputy warden, and three foresters for Chute in Wiltshire, namely, one for the 'West Baily', one for the 'East Baily', and one for Hippenscombe. (fn. 1059) In 1568, however, mention is made of 'keepers' for the 'West Walke' and the 'East Walke' only. (fn. 1060)
There were two verderers for Chute in Wiltshire, (fn. 1061) and usually twelve regarders. (fn. 1062) In 1270 the regarders reported to the forest justices that they had been prevented by the keepers of the royal manor of Ludgershall from holding the regard in the 'demesne hays' of the manor. (fn. 1063) William de Valence's bailiffs had also excluded them from his manor of Collingbourne. (fn. 1064) At the forest eyre held at Amesbury in 1490, eighteen regarders were named, of whom thirteen took the oath, and two agisters. (fn. 1065)
Rights of subjects
There were a number of private parks in Chute. For example, when Avice de Columbers, the warden (see above, p. 425), forfeited to the Crown onethird of Collingbourne manor as a fine for a forest offence, Henry III granted it in 1253 to William de Valence, with licence to inclose and impark the wood belonging to it. (fn. 1066) In 1256 de Valence obtained leave to have a deer-leap at his 'park of Collingbourne'. (fn. 1067)
Rights of common in the forest were sometimes disputed. It was stated at the forest eyre of 1270 that the king's chase of Hippenscombe, in the Wiltshire part of Chute, ought to be 'in defence'—i.e. all grazing animals should have been excluded— from Michaelmas until the end of Hokeday. The warden, however, farmed the herbage dues and the right to allow oxen and horses to be agisted there during that period. The Earl of Gloucester's men of Wexcombe nevertheless claimed common of pasture in the chase. When the foresters seized their beasts, the earl's bailiffs sent their beadles to retake them from the warden's manor at Chisbury, and bring them back to the earl's park. The men of Wexcombe were unsuccessful in their claim, and the earl's bailiff, present at the eyre, had to pay a fine of 40s. for their trespasses. (fn. 1068)
In 1591 'part of Chute Forest in Wiltshire and Wakeswood in Hampshire' was leased to John Thorneburgh of Hamfell (Lancs.) for 80 years. (fn. 1069) His son, Edward Thorneburgh of Shoddesden (Hants), unsuccessfully petitioned the king in 1610 'for a grant in fee simple of the decayed Forest of Chute in Hampshire and Wiltshire, leased to him and his father . . . by the late Queen, at so high a rent that it has been the overthrow of an ancient house'. (fn. 1070)
The revival of the forest law under the early Stuarts (fn. 1071) does not seem to have affected Chute in Wiltshire. In March 1639 Charles I disafforested 'all that part of the Forest of Chute in Wiltshire and Wakeswood in Hampshire'. He granted the wastes and coppices to Sir Henry Ludlow, Edward Manning, and Henry Kelsey and their heirs in socage at an annual fee-farm rent of £68 11s. 9d. The grantees were to enjoy the right of free warren in the disafforested areas. They paid £750 into the Exchequer and covenanted to pay £770 more within four months. (fn. 1072)
Finally the Duke of Albemarle received a grant in 1661 from Charles II of Finkley Walk (Hants) 'with the timber in Chute Manor, and leave to disforest coppices, and have free warren in the Forest of Chute'. (fn. 1073)
Clarendon and Melchet
Origins and extent
At the beginning of Henry III's reign the Warden of Clarendon kept a group of royal forests in the south-eastern corner of Wiltshire, extending eastward into Hampshire. These were the Forests of Clarendon or Penchet (fn. 1074) and Melchet in Wiltshire, (fn. 1075) and Buckholt in Hampshire. (fn. 1076) Within the forest bounds were the royal parks of Clarendon (fn. 1077) and Melchet.
All these were referred to collectively as 'the Forest of Clarendon'. (fn. 1078) This forest was in origin a northern extension of the Hampshire New Forest created by the Conqueror and Rufus: (fn. 1079) the two forests were kept by the same warden until 1216. (fn. 1080) Domesday records that lands in the manor of Downton, and in Winterbourne Earls, Laverstock, and Milford near Salisbury were in the king's forest, (fn. 1081) which in all probability extended then, as later, as far as the River Bourne. (fn. 1082)
The south-eastern corner of the county was wellwooded and so a suitable region for royal forests. The woodland of Winterslow in 1086 was a league long and ½ league broad, (fn. 1083) and there was in the manor of Downton a wood 1½ league long and ½ league broad. (fn. 1084) Melchet Wood must also have been extensive, for the manors of South Newton and Washern, (fn. 1085) both belonging to Wilton Abbey, had identical rights in it, namely, pannage for 80 swine, 80 cartloads of wood for fuel, and housebote and haybote. (fn. 1086)
The records of the forest eyres afford evidence of the extent of the forest jurisdiction during the 13th century. In 1198–9 Old Salisbury was amerced at ½ mark, and Winterbourne Earls 2 marks for waste of their woods, (fn. 1087) and in 1209–10 Winterslow was amerced for a like offence. (fn. 1088) In 1207–8 the now vanished villages of Melchet (fn. 1089) and Bentleysworth (fn. 1090) were fined for default. (fn. 1091) Among the villages represented at Wiltshire Forest inquisitions in the mid-13th century (fn. 1092) were East and West Winterslow, Pitton, Laverstock, and Milford near Salisbury, Farley, Alderbury, Whaddon, East and West Grimstead, West Dean and Landford, the now vanished villages of Cowesfield, (fn. 1093) Alderstone, (fn. 1094) and Whelpley, (fn. 1095) and a few villages now in Hampshire, West Tytherley, (fn. 1096) Plaitford, (fn. 1097) and West Wellow. (fn. 1098) Clarendon Park at this time inclosed 'lawns' or pastures as well as woods. (fn. 1099) Other woods appearing on the forest eyre rolls of 1257–70 include Rodsley Wood, (fn. 1100) Westwood, (fn. 1101) Houndwood, (fn. 1102) and Bentley Wood, (fn. 1103) and the woods of Pitton, East Winterslow, Grimstead, Farley, and 'Hayles' Wood in Alderbury, (fn. 1104) in the northern ward of the forest. In the southern ward there was the royal demesne wood of Melchet, (fn. 1105) Mean Wood, (fn. 1106) Landford Wood, (fn. 1107) Blackwell Wood, (fn. 1108) Brickworth Wood, (fn. 1109) and the woods of Plaitford, (fn. 1110) Alderstone, (fn. 1111) Wick, (fn. 1112) Whelpley, (fn. 1113) and Wellow. (fn. 1114)
A 14th-century perambulation gives the bounds of Clarendon and Melchet Forests as they were at the death of Edward II, (fn. 1115) and probably during the previous century also. The western bound of Clarendon followed the Rivers Avon and Bourne from Bodenham Bridge to Ford in Laverstock: the north and south bounds proceeded in a general easterly direction to the Hampshire boundary. (fn. 1116) Within these metes ten woods only were 'within the regard': they included the king's demesne wood of Penchet, Westwood, Houndwood, Bentley Wood, Priors Wood, (fn. 1117) and Rodsley Wood, Nightwood, (fn. 1118) Stonygore Wood, (fn. 1119) and 'Archers Wood'. (fn. 1120)
Melchet Forest according to this perambulation occupied the south-eastern corner of the county: it was co-terminous with Clarendon Forest on the north. (fn. 1121) Fourteen woods only were within the regard, including the king's demesne wood and the 'foreign wood' of Melchet, (fn. 1122) Mean Wood, Landford Wood, Blackwell Wood, Wellow Wood, Privett Wood, belonging to Abbotstone (Whiteparish), (fn. 1123) and 'Loveras' Wood, pertaining to the manor of Cowesfield. (fn. 1124) Langley Wood, belonging to the Bishop of Salisbury, (fn. 1125) was within the forest, but exempt from the regard.
The perambulations of 1219 (fn. 1126) and 1225, (fn. 1127) which are in general agreement, demanded a substantial reduction of the forest area. Bentley Wood, said to have been afforested by Henry II, was to be disafforested. (fn. 1128) A number of woods belonging to subjects were said to have been added to the Forest of 'Penchet or Clarendon', and were to be exempt from the regard henceforth: these included Rodsley Wood, (fn. 1129) the wood belonging to Winterbourne Dauntsey, and Odo of Grimstead's Wood. (fn. 1130) The wood of West Winterslow, otherwise called the West Woods, was to remain in the forest. (fn. 1131) It was also stated that foresters should not take security from forest offenders outside the inclosure of Clarendon Park. (fn. 1132)
In Melchet Forest the jurors declared that Melchet Park remained 'within the regard of vert and venison'. (fn. 1133) They alleged that Alan de Neville, Henry II's Chief Justice of the Forest, (fn. 1134) 'broke the park of Melchet' and 'caused the deer to go out'. On this pretext he afforested the countryside around as far south as 'the road from Wellow Ford (fn. 1135) to Fobwell', (fn. 1136) but subsequently accepted a fine for the disafforestment of the woods in this area. (fn. 1137) The country south of this road, and of the county boundary between 'Fobwell' and the Avon near Cadenham, was to remain forest, with the exception of the woods of the Bishop of Winchester and of Gilbert de Lacy. The deer in these woods belonged to the king, but they remained outside the regard. (fn. 1138)
The perambulations made in 1300 (fn. 1139) declared that there were two woods outside the bounds of Clarendon which were in the king's hands, and which therefore remained in the forest even though afforested after 1154. These were 'Schireneswood' (fn. 1140) belonging to Winterbourne Earls, and 'Rowlesgof' Wood (fn. 1141) belonging to Winterbourne Dauntsey.
These three groups of perambulations reflect the general clamour for disafforestment rather than the true history of the forests: (fn. 1142) nevertheless some at least of their demands were accepted by Edward III. (fn. 1143) At the end of his reign the Justice of the Forests south of Trent required burgesses of Salisbury to undertake certain forest offices in Clarendon Park, but as a result of a petition to the Parliament of 1377, it was established that 'the officers and ministers of the forest' had no authority beyond the bounds of the park. (fn. 1144)
At this time the Avon still formed the boundary between Clarendon Forest and Britford manor. In 1375 the lady of the manor, Elizabeth, widow of William de St. Omer, successfully claimed 'half the water of the Avon . . . with the rights of mills, fishery, &c. without any hindrance from the officers of the forest'. (fn. 1145)
The villages of Laverstock, Milford, Winterslow, Pitton, and Alderbury sent representatives to the swanimotes held in Clarendon Forest 1486–7, (fn. 1146) and Landford, Plaitford (Hants) (fn. 1147) and Bramshaw (Hants) to the corresponding forest courts in Melchet Forest. (fn. 1148) At the forest eyre held at Salisbury in 1487 there were also present the bailiffs and juries of the hundreds 'within and around' the forests, namely, Cawdon and Cadworth, Dole and Swanborough for Clarendon Forest, (fn. 1149) and Frustfield, Alderbury, and Underditch for Melchet. (fn. 1150) For Clarendon Forest there were the three foresters of Bentley Wood, Chickard's Gate, (fn. 1151) and 'Whitings', (fn. 1152) and the four woodwards of Hound Wood, Nightwood, Penchet, and 'Luce Wood'. (fn. 1153) For Melchet Forest there appeared the woodward of Langholt (fn. 1154) and 'the forester of Melchet in Hampshire'. (fn. 1155)
Evidence as to the bounds of Melchet in the middle of the 16th century is afforded by a grant of May 1552 to the Earl of Pembroke 'of Earldom lying next the Forest of Melchet in the fields and parishes of Whiteparish, Landford and Plaitford'. (fn. 1156) The name has survived in the name of woods called the Earldoms, Earldoms Lodge, and Earldoms Farm in Landford. (fn. 1157)
A lawsuit in 1619 regarding common rights in Melchet led to the investigation of the bounds of the forest by a commission. (fn. 1158) Among the places mentioned by different deponents as being on the boundaries were—Dean Hill, Mean Wood, 'Gatmoorepond', (fn. 1159) Dunwood and Dunwood Lake, (fn. 1160) 'Burchwood', (fn. 1161) 'Deadmansford', (fn. 1162) Landford Wood (fn. 1163) and Langley Wood, and 'Tymbrel Lane'. (fn. 1164)
According to a survey made in 1650 the palings of Clarendon Park then inclosed 4,293 acres. There were five divisions, each with its under-keeper and 'In-Lodge'. The Ranger's Division included the Ranger's Lodge, and Waterway, Beechy Maples, Gilbert's and Goodale Coppices. Within Theobald's Division there were the Queen's Manor Lodge, the ruins of Clarendon Palace ('all that tenement or gatehouse called the King's Manor'), and Catt's Grove, Old Park, Home, and Seven Road Coppices. Fussell's Division contained Fussell's Lodge and four coppices—Sheriffswood, Carverel, Fair Oak, and Warner's. In Palmer's Division was Palmer's Lodge and Pitton, Stony Dean, Netley, Beechy Dean, Margaret de Crandon (Crendle Bottom), and Grim's Ditch Coppices. Hunt's Division included Hunt's Lodge, the house called 'the Dog Kennel' and Long, Canon, and Little Hendon Coppices. The bounds of the park pale given in the survey correspond to those of the modern parish of Clarendon Park. (fn. 1165) A supplementary survey declared the Outlodge district, in Pitton parish on the east side of the park, 'to be within the regard of the disafforested forest of Paunsett alias Panshett, and to be no part . . . of . . . Clarendon Park'. (fn. 1166) The survey shows that there had been extensive cutting of trees and underwood, both by order of the parliamentary trustees, and also by way of unauthorized 'wast and spoyle'. (fn. 1167)
Until the reign of Henry III the Forest of Clarendon was part of the bailiwick of the wardens of the Hampshire New Forest, (fn. 1168) who paid an annual farm for the two forests—£22 10s. into the Exchequer, and 50s. tithe to the canons of Salisbury. (fn. 1169) Walter Walerand, for example, who kept both forests from 1156 at latest until about 1200, (fn. 1170) was succeeded by William de Neville, who had married Isabel, his elder daughter and coheir. (fn. 1171)
After his death John of Monmouth, husband of Cecily, Walerand's younger daughter and coheir, successfully claimed the wardenship of the New Forest in his wife's right, and received seisin of it in 1217. (fn. 1172) He claimed the wardenship of Clarendon also: the Council decided in his favour in 1223, (fn. 1173) but reversed its decision in the following year. (fn. 1174) Henceforth the wardens of Clarendon Forest held office during the king's pleasure. (fn. 1175)
Their bailiwick embraced the Forests of Clarendon or Penchet, Melchet, and Buckholt in Hampshire: (fn. 1176) after 1236 it included the Forest of Grovely also. (fn. 1177) Henry de Bun in 1236 farmed the forests for £20 annually, with an allowance of 60s. 10d. 'for the custody of the king's houses at Clarendon', (fn. 1178) to which Clarendon Forest was appurtenant. (fn. 1179) By the 14th century, however, the wardens no longer paid a farm for their bailiwick, which was valued at 40 marks a year. (fn. 1180)
In 1355 the Earl of March successfully claimed the perquisites of his office as Warden of the Forests of Clarendon, Melchet, Grovely, and Buckholt. He took all amercements levied for unlawfully taking dry wood and for strays in the king's demesne, cheminage and afterpannage, and the dues for the lawing of dogs. All stray animals impounded and not claimed within a year and a day were his: he took 'housebote sufficient for the houses assigned to his bailiwick', 'all old hays made round the king's coppice' when they were removed, windfallen wood, the lop and top of trees felled, and nuts and honey found in the forest. He took the profit of Whitemarsh Meadow (fn. 1181) in Clarendon Park, and of Kingsmead (fn. 1182) outside the park, 'for the sustenance of his horses and other animals'. When a forester in fee died, the warden took by way of heriot his 'best riding-horse, and a saddle with bridle, a cloak, cap and sword, leggings with spurs, a horn, a bow and barbed arrows, and his dog called a "bercelet"'. Lastly, the warden had '"infangthef" with chattels forfeit in the manor of Clarendon', and the right 'to make execution touching this in the park where of ancient time it hath been accustomed to be done'. (fn. 1183)
In 1553 the Earl of Pembroke and the Lord Herbert, his son and heir, were granted for their lives in survivorship 'the office of warden and keeper of the Forest and Park of Clarendon and the Forests and chases of Penchet, Buckholt and Melchet in Wiltshire and Hampshire, and the keeping of the game, woods, barns, and hay, and the mastership of the hunt there, also of the offices of launder of Clarendon Park, and lieutenant of the conies within the said park and the taking of them with dogs, nets, and other engines'. (fn. 1184) These offices continued to be held by the Earls of Pembroke until the Commonwealth. (fn. 1185) They had 'the rule and appointment of lieutenants, foresters, rangers, launders, warreners, walkers, palers, stewards of courts and swanimotes, and other officers in the park and laund of Clarendon and forests . . . except the office of Ranger and Forester of Melchet'. (fn. 1186) The warden was entitled to the whole of the herbage and pannage of Clarendon Park; he might either stock it with his own cattle or let the agistment to others. At the felling of any of the 21 coppices of the park he took 2 acres of the best wood for his own use—a right worth £20 a year. The farm of the 'conie berryes' in the park realized £200 a year. The warden's deputies kept the five 'inne lodges' and the 'outlodge' of Clarendon, (fn. 1187) with their houses, offices, and barns. The fees and perquisites belonging to these lodges, including grazing rights, venison, wages, firewood, and lodgings, were worth over £400 a year. (fn. 1188)
In the 13th and 14th centuries there were, under the warden, three foresters in fee for Clarendon Forest and Park, and one for Melchet Park. Robert of Laverstock, one of the three foresters for Clarendon in the first half of the 13th century, and his successors held in chief a house, some land and rent in Laverstock, 'Winterbourneford' (Ford), (fn. 1189) and Alderbury, by service of finding one forester on foot to keep Clarendon Forest. (fn. 1190) The foresters in fee of Pitton during the 13th century held property in chief within the forest at Pitton, and also at Broughton (Hants) in Buckholt Forest. They held these lands by paying an annual farm of 20s. to the 'bailiff' (i.e. the warden) of Clarendon, and providing a forester on horseback and two on foot to keep Clarendon Forest, and a riding and a walking forester to keep Buckholt Forest. (fn. 1191) By the reign of Edward II, however, their holding at Pitton had been reduced to 20 acres, and for this they had to find only one forester to keep Clarendon Park. (fn. 1192)
Richard of Milford, the third forester in fee for Clarendon in the first half of the 13th century, and his successors held in chief in Milford 2 messuages, a water-mill and some land. They were bound to find one forester on foot for the Forest and Park of Clarendon. (fn. 1193) They had pasture in the forest for all their beasts, except sheep and goats, 'housebote and haybote in reason by view of the "bailiff" and verderers', and two dead oaks yearly. (fn. 1194)
The foresters in fee of Melchet Park held in chief lands and rents in Bemerton, and 6 acres of wood and rents in East Grimstead, parcels of the manors of Grimstead and Plaitford. They paid an annual farm of 40s. through the Warden of Clarendon for all the issues of Melchet Park except vert, venison, and pannage exceeding 6s. 8d., and they found one man to keep it at their own expense. (fn. 1195) By the 16th century, however, the Forest of Melchet was kept by a ranger. William Purdey and William his son were appointed to this office in survivorship by Henry VIII in 1521, and Richard Audley and Henry Audely his son in survivorship in reversion after William Purdey the son, in 1550. The rangers were not subject to the authority of the wardens of Clarendon: their fees were paid them by the Sheriff of Wiltshire. (fn. 1196) Under them there were two foresters and two woodwards. (fn. 1197)
By the beginning of Henry VII's reign there was a ranger and a deputy ranger for Clarendon also, a launder and his deputy, who saw to the agistment of the 'lawns' in the park, six foresters, four woodwards, and two 'palers', who kept the park inclosure in repair. (fn. 1198)
From the 13th century onwards there were two verderers for Clarendon Forest and two for Melchet. (fn. 1199) Twelve regarders presented one regard for all the forests in the group—described in 1270 as 'Clarendon, Melchet, Bentley Wood, and Grovely'. (fn. 1200) The answers to articles of inquiry sent to the regarders of Melchet Forest in 1576 show that the warden should not take windfallen and dead trees as his perquisites until they had been marked by the regarders' sealing axe. The men he appointed to cut firewood and 'browsewood' for the deer in winter were bound to appear before the regarders to be sworn. The regarders were also responsible for the agistments of the 'Queen's coppice', (fn. 1201) and they impounded pigs for which dues had not been paid. (fn. 1202)
The assarting of the forest woods and wastes went on in Clarendon and Melchet as elsewhere. At the forest eyre in 1270, for example, an assart of 20 acres was reported at 'Colemore', (fn. 1203) and numerous others of 2 acres or less at Farley, Landford, Whelpley, (fn. 1204) Plaitford (Hants), (fn. 1205) and West Wellow (Hants). (fn. 1206)
By the reign of Elizabeth I the interest of the Crown in the forest had dwindled. In 1577 Richard Audley, chief Ranger of Melchet, obtained a royal licence to inclose the forest, having induced the tenants of the adjoining manors of Plaitford, Whiteparish, Sherfield English (Hants), and Landford to surrender their rights of common pasture therein. His successor, Sir John Daccombe, removed the deer about 1610; part of the land became arable, and part pasture, and the remainder a rabbit warren. The Park and Forest of Melchet finally passed out of the hands of the Crown when James I granted them in 1614 to Sir Lawrence Hyde at the annual rent of £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 1207)
Clarendon was not long to remain a royal possession. A project was considered about 1637 to provide a royal 'park of red deer', since Clarendon Park and Grovely Forest contained fallow deer only. (fn. 1208) Finally, however, Charles I mortgaged Clarendon Park to Lord Hatton and others for £20,000. (fn. 1209)
A survey made in 1650 declared that it contained about 500 deer and 15,000 oaks; many trees had recently been cut down and marked for the navy. (fn. 1210) Subsequently the Commonwealth Parliament sold Clarendon Park 'to pay the arrears of the soldiers'. The Ranger's Division was assigned to the Earl of Pembroke as compensation for the suppression of his office of Warden and Ranger of the Park. (fn. 1211) The park wall was broken down and much of the timber felled. (fn. 1212)
After the Restoration the eight commissioners reported that it would be inadvisable to reimpark Clarendon: (fn. 1213) this was not surprising, since one of them, Thomas Hawles, a neighbouring landowner, had leased some of the park lands from the Earl of Pembroke. (fn. 1214) Their declared reasons were that the cost of rebuilding the park wall would be too great, that the reduction of the woodland within the park from 1,000 acres to 60 would make it necessary to feed the deer on hay, and that land worth £1,200 a year would be lost to agriculture. (fn. 1215) Against this it was argued that although the park had been much 'spoiled and wasted', there were still many coppices left: furthermore Clarendon was 'an ancient royal residence, and a place where Parliaments had been held'. (fn. 1216)
But the calls on the king's bounty were too great for considerations such as these to prevail. In 1663 £20,000 was repaid to the mortgagees of the park, (fn. 1217) and in the following year Charles II disparked Clarendon and granted it to the Duke of Albemarle with all the timber, except that required for the king's use. The fee-farm rents, amounting to £447 7s. 7¼d. a year, were likewise assigned to the duke. (fn. 1218)
Origins and Extent
In prehistoric times an almost continuous belt of 'damp-oak' forest must have stood upon the Claywith-Flints that covers the underlying Chalk from South Newton westwards to Pertwood. (fn. 1219) Grovely Wood, which even today is more than four miles long, was a part of this great belt of woodland. By 1086 it had become a royal forest, the only Wiltshire forest mentioned by name in Domesday. (fn. 1220) The villages on the Wylye and the Nadder, which enclose the area, had little or no woodland, (fn. 1221) indicating that the almost uninhabited forest area was outside the usual economic organization.
During the greater part of the 13th and early 14th centuries Grovely Forest was bounded on the north, east, and south by the Wylye and Nadder, and on the west by Teffont Evias and Wylye villages; (fn. 1222) it was thus about 20 square miles in area. The townships represented at forest inquisitions in the middle of the 13th century were Hanging Langford, Little Langford, Great Wishford, Ditchampton, Ugford, Burcombe, Barford St. Martin, Baverstock, Dinton, Teffont Evias, and Teffont Magna. (fn. 1223) Presentment was made in 1257 of a forest trespass committed at the east end of the now vanished vill of Hurdcott. (fn. 1224)
According to a perambulation made in 1219, (fn. 1225) and two perambulations of the 14th century, (fn. 1226) only three woods were within the regard, namely, the king's demesne wood of Grovely, Wick Wood belonging to the Abbess of Wilton, (fn. 1227) and the Abbess of Shaftesbury's wood of 'Rogesle'. (fn. 1228) All other woods belonging to subjects west of Powten Stone (fn. 1229) were outside the regard, so that the owners, it was alleged, might take timber in them at will 'without view or permission of the foresters'. (fn. 1230) The deer, however, belonged to the king within the forest metes, saving wainage (i.e. the yield or profit of their cultivated land) to the 'knights and free tenants and their men of Wilton'. (fn. 1231)
The 12th-century Pipe Rolls confirm that the forest jurisdiction had been exercised over a wider area at that time. In 1184–5 the Prior of Winchester and the Abbess of Wilton were amerced at the forest eyre for waste of their respective woods of Bishopstone and South Newton, (fn. 1232) and Ansgerus priest of Ebbesborne Wake in 1186–7 for not having his dogs lawed. (fn. 1233) In 1189–90 'the Prior of Winchester's vill of Stockton' had to pay ½ mark for waste, and Geoffrey Hussey a like sum for a similar offence in Dinton. (fn. 1234) In 1198–9 the hundred of Dunworth was amerced 2s. for a vert offence. (fn. 1235) By the reign of John, however, the forest bounds had already begun to contract; in 1203 William of Eynesford paid 60 marks and a palfrey for the disafforestment of his manor of Stockton and for having a warren there. (fn. 1236)
The perambulation made in 1300 declared the western boundary of Grovely to run north-east from Baverstock through Powten Stone to 'Wylyesford' (E. of Little Langford), thus reducing the forest area to about 7½ square miles. Only the king's demesne wood of Grovely remained forest, and all the woods of subjects were disafforested. (fn. 1237) These reduced bounds were reaffirmed by the jurors of 1330. (fn. 1238)
Even after Edward III accepted the perambulations, (fn. 1239) there were still occasional disputes over the extent of the forest jurisdiction. At the forest eyre held at Salisbury in 1355 (fn. 1240) 'the town of Wilton was ridden by the regarders as within the regard and the bounds of Grovely Forest'; subsequently the forest officers distrained the burgesses to attend the Grovely swanimotes and levied cheminage in the town. The townspeople protested, and it was finally established by inquisition in 1374 that they were not bound by custom to attend 'any swanimote or forest court'; the forest officers might by ancient forest law take cheminage only at 'the Staples' (or 'the Steps') at the west end of Wilton town. (fn. 1241) The preservation of the deer within the diminished bounds of Grovely Forest continued to constitute a grievance during the 14th century. Thus one-quarter of the 160 acres of arable in Barford St. Martin, which Sir Henry Peverel held at his death in 1362, was declared to be of no value, because it was overrun by the king's deer from the forest. (fn. 1242) At the 'pleas of the forest or park of Clarendon' held at Salisbury in 1487, the bailiffs and juries from the hundreds of Dunworth, Heytesbury, and Amesbury were summoned to make presentments for Grovely Forest. (fn. 1243)
The forest seems to have been alienated by one of the later Tudors, for Henry, Earl of Pembroke, died in 1601 seised of it in socage. (fn. 1244)
At a Grovely swanimote held in March 1603 a jury drawn from Great Wishford and Barford St. Martin declared that the forest then consisted of fourteen coppices. (fn. 1245) Seven lay north of 'Grim's Dyke' (fn. 1246) in Great Wishford, (fn. 1247) namely Ashgoe, Hadden and Ebsbury, (fn. 1248) 'Bemerell' (Bemerhills), (fn. 1249) Stotfield, 'Pollinstone' (Powten Stone), (fn. 1250) and 'Radneth' (Rodnell. (fn. 1251) The others lay south of the dyke in Barford St. Martin, namely, Shortengrove, Himsel, Appledoe, Chilfinch and Thornhills, (fn. 1252) Sandgates, (fn. 1253) and Rowden. (fn. 1254) The combined areas of these fourteen coppices correspond to what was formerly the extraparochial district of Grovely Wood, now (1957) included in the parish of Barford St. Martin.
The same jury presented the customs within Grovely of the manors of Great Wishford and Barford St. Martin. The lord of the manor, freeholders, and tenants of Great Wishford had common of pasture and pannage for all their animals throughout the forest at all times, except that 'cattle of two teeth' and goats and pigs above one year old were excluded during the fence month. The lord of the manor, freeholders, and tenants of Barford St. Martin had common rights in the forest south of 'Grim's Ditch'. Commoners had the right to 'drive' the forest once a year and to impound unauthorized cattle. They might gather dead wood, take boughs at certain times, and fell one load of wood each annually. The ranger gave them a buck every year 'for their feast'. The inhabitants of Great Wishford laid claim to these rights on Whit Tuesday every year when they danced in procession to Salisbury Cathedral, and there repeated the words 'Grovely, Grovely, and all Grovely'. (fn. 1255) The inhabitants of Barford St. Martin likewise went to the cathedral on the same day, but they made their claim with the words 'Grovely, Grovely, Grovely'.
The jury also declared that the inhabitants of Berwick St. James, Stapleford, Stoford, South Newton, Chilhampton, Ditchampton, and Wilton were accustomed to take wood and ferns in Grovely Forest, without any lawful authority. The woodward was ordered to prevent this in future. As a result of such depredations, and the woodward's neglect, the coppices 'had gone much to decay', and the deer were unable to find sufficient food. (fn. 1256)
The foresters in fee
At the time of Domesday the king's foresters in fee of Grovely Forest held 1½ hide there, worth 30s. (fn. 1257) The first of them to be mentioned by name was Roger the Forester, who at the beginning of Henry II's reign paid an annual farm of 10s. (fn. 1258) By the 13th century there were two of them, and 'Grim's Ditch' was the dividing line between their respective bailiwicks. (fn. 1259) By 1236 at latest they were both subject to the authority of the Warden of Clarendon Forest. (fn. 1260)
The forester in fee who kept the northern ward of the forest held in chief by that service in Great Wishford a messuage, lands, and rents. (fn. 1261) His annual farm was 20s., of which a tithe had been granted to Salisbury Cathedral by Henry II, and the remainder to the priory of Maiden Bradley in free alms by Henry III. (fn. 1262) His perquisites included housebote, haybote, and firebote from the underwood, under the supervision of the warden, and pasture for all his cattle except sheep and goats. (fn. 1263)
The forester in fee who kept the southern ward held in Barford St. Martin a messuage and lands. (fn. 1264) He paid an annual farm of 9s. into the Exchequer and 1s. by way of forest tithe to Salisbury Cathedral. (fn. 1265) His perquisites included dead wood, ferns, housebote and haybote, and pasture in the forest for all his animals except goats and except during the fence month, and fuel for the oven which he operated there. (fn. 1266)
By 1603 the lords of the manors of Great Wishford and Barford St. Martin were foresters in fee of Grovely north and south respectively of the Grim's Ditch. Their duty was to keep the deer out of the fields. Their perquisites included the right shoulder and the skin of every deer killed, and a certain number of loads of wood annually. (fn. 1267)