Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Robin Hood's Village Project

The Robin Hood’s village Project is set to start in May 2014!

The village of Edwinstowe in Nottinghamshire is known as Robin Hood’s Village

Legends has it that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were married at St Mary’s Church in the village, and the name Edwinstowe is believed to mean the ‘Holy place of Edwin’ after King Edwin of Northumbria who died at the Battle of Hatfield in 633.

The village is also home to the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve and the world famous veteran Oak tree the Major Oak. At around 1,000 years old the Major Oak is the greatest of all the veteran oaks of Sherwood Forest . It is the legendary hiding place of Robin Hood, and is the most famous tree in all of England.

Funds are currently being raised through crowdfunding to support an archaeological project in Edwinstowe village.

The first £3000 raised through the Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project crowdfunding page in 2014 will be used to fund the project.

The project will look what life was like in Sherwood Forest at the time of Robin Hood.

It will also examine the development of the village over time, and is being run by Mercian Archaeological Services CIC in conjunction with the Edwinstowe Local History Society.

The project will involve local people and archaeological volunteers digging test-pits in gardens and at properties throughout the village.

Robin Hood and Maid Marian Statue in Edwinstowe Village

Please consider supporting the project via the online crowdfunding page-

and become part of the Future of Sherwood’s Past…

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project

Robin Hood shows his support for "The Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project" by Mercian Archaeological Services CIC

the Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project will be launching a brand new website in the next few days, and launching a number of exciting new funding campaigns and announcing a number of fantastic Community Archaeology projects in the heart of Sherwood Forest- so thank you to Robin Hood for rubber stamping things!

We were joined by Robin Hood aka Ezekial Bone 
of the National Award nominated @Nottingham Town Tour:

vote for Robin at

These photographs were taken yesterday as part of Mercian's promotion for the project and the upcoming news, and include many prominent members of groups undertaking work in the forest who support the project and its work... a fantastic community day in the forest with members of The Friends of Thynghowe, Warsop Path Group, Sherwood Forest TrustThe Jolly Bodgers of Sherwood Forest
The Public Information Research OrganisationViking Sherwood, some archaeological volunteers from the project, and the site owners of King John's Palace- the royal heart of Medieval Sherwood Forest

More info will be available through the project facebook page Archaeology and History of Medieval Sherwood Forest very very soon!

Exciting times in Sherwood Forest! thanks to all for your amazing support!



#TourismSuperstar #lovenotts #archaeology #communityarchaeology #mercianarch #sherwoodforest

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Wolf Hunters of Sherwood Forest

If you have an area of land designated for the protection of Deer for the Kings pleasure to hunt and to eat, then the last thing you want is to share it with other hungry predators.

Perhaps the most feared predator in the forest was the wolf.

There were wolves living wild and hunting in Medieval Sherwood Forest, and we know this because the records tell us of ‘wolf hunters’ employed to chase them.

The inquististiones post mortem (inquests after death) for Nottinghamshire for the year 1339 list amongst their number a Walter le Wolfhunte:

‘Walter le Wulfhunte held in his demesne as of fee on the day that he died a messuage* and a bovate* of land with appurtenances in Mammesfeldwodehouse in the county of Nottingham of the king in chief, by service of chasing wolves outside of the King’s forest of Shirewood, if any they found.’
(Blagg 1939)

This is a wonderful insight into the lesser known positions within forest administration - a man in the king’s manor of Mansfield Woodhouse being directly employed by the king to chase wolves.

It also tells us something of the landscape of the forest- one still wild enough to harbour wolves.

But most wonderful is the insight it gives us into the people of the forest. What kind of man was Walter the Woolfhunter? A grizzled ‘Davy Crockett’ style man of the woods, hardened and fearless running off into the night, whilst others run the other way?

Grizzled and fearless as he may have been… wolves were probably not a daily occurrence. On his days off from wolf hunting Walter was also liable to be called to the kings service as a forest official:

The same 'Walter de Wulfuntte de Mammesfeldewodehouse' appears in an earlier record. Here he is serving as a regarder (a forest official dealing in the boundaries of land) at the 1287 forest Eyre to testify in cases of assarts (clearing of woodland for arable) against people living in the forest of Sherwood.

The medieval text is in Latin, Walter appears alongside a group of selected men to testify as to what they know, and they include:

Regardum de Brokestowe factum et presentatum per regadatores subscriptos videlicet per- ( the regard for Broxtowe presented and signed by the regarders…)

Jordanum de Sutton (Jordan of Sutton), galfridum de strelli (Geoffrey of Strelley), Henfricum de Mammesfeld clericum (Henry of Mansfield a cleric), adam le palmer de nottynghammia (Adam Palmer* of Nottingham), thomas de ridewalle (Thomas of Ridewall), robertum de lyndeby (Robert of Lyndby), radulphum clericum de Mammesfeld (Ralph a Cleric of Mansfield) , Willelmum de bredon de eadem (William of Breedon of the same place- (from Mansfield)), Hugonem de sneynton de Sutton(Hugh of Sneinton from Sutton), hugonem filium walteri (Hugh the son of Walter), walterum le wlfuntte de Mammesfelewodehouse, (Walter the Wolfhunter of Mansfield Woodhouse) et matthew Attewlee de eadem (Matthew Attewell from the same place (Mansfield Woodhouse)), regaratores iuratos. Qui dicunt super sacramentum suum:-

(From the Sherwood Forest Book (Boulton 1964)).

The post of Wolfhunter lived far beyond Walter its most famous occupant:

A 'Sir Robert Plumpton held one bovate of land in Mansfield Woodhouse, called "Wolf-hunt land," by service of winding a horn, and chasing or frightening the wolves in the forest of Sherwood' in 1432 in the reign of Henry VI. (Robert White, Worksop, The Dukery, and Sherwood Forest, (1875)).

These wolfhunters must have been formidable characters, fearless and strong who carried out their roles within he forest administration- mostly annonymous to us due to their usual absence from the records. 

These few chance survivals in the documentary record offer us a rare and wonderful opportunity to see into the lives and livings of some of the characters of Medieval Sherwood Forest.

*messuage: house or dwelling.  
*bovate: amount of land tillable by one ox in a ploughing season
*palmer: interestinlgy the surname palmer is believed to be from pilgrimage. A person would bring a palm back home as proof of having visited the holy land.

the Saxons of Sherwood Forest

The oldest documented mention of 'Sherwood Forest' comes from a charter dating from 958AD granting Scrooby and Sutton cum Lound in north Nottinghamshire from the Crown to the Archbishop of York.

This charter lists a 'Scirwuda' (Shire Wood) as a boundary mark of the land granted to the Archbishop.

This reference is often used to suggest that there was a common wood of the shire in the 10th century in Nottinghamshire that belonged to the people and was shared by them.

The story then goes that the evil Normans came along and took the shared forest away, for the exclusive use of the king.

As nice as this idea is, there is no clear reference to a forest, or any such shared wood of the shire in Nottinghamshire before the conquest of 1066.

Plus it is not possible to tie the 10th century Scirwuda in the north of the county, with the Royal Hunting Forest that bore the name Sherwood from the late 12th century onwards.

The northern boundaries of Sherwood Forest lay 10 miles south of the location of the wood called Scirwuda.

So although we cannot directly date Sherwood Forest back to pre-conquest times it is possible to learn something of the people of the Sherwood Forest area at the time of the Norman Conquest and before.

One possibility is that the Forest boundary recorded in the 13th century was a reflection of the original forest boundary (see Castles and Sherwood Forest entry for more details).

It is likely that the forest was created in the years following the Norman conquest, around 1066.

So who were the people who lived in the area that was- or was to become Sherwood Forest, in the years around the Norman conquest?

Sadly we cannot know the names of the simple farmers and workers of the land- but the names of some of the landowners from the time of the conquest are recorded in the Domesday book for Nottinghamshire.

They are the names of the local ruling elite who would suffer by losing their lands in the change of power that came with the Norman Conquest.

Most of the landowners listed lost their posessions to the incoming Normans by the time that Domesday Book was written in 1086.

The following is a list of the towns and villages of the Forest, and the names of the original 'Saxon' landowners where they get a mention:

Nottingham: Earl Tosti (brother of Harold Godwinson who was King of England until the Battle of Hastings) owned land and buildings in the town. 

Hugh son of Baldric was its sheriff.

In 1066 King Edward the Confessor held Manors and jurisdiction over land including: Mansfield, Arnold, Sneinton, Warsop, Budby and Edwinstowe,

The other listed landlords are as follows:

Annesley: Leofnoth,

Basford: Alwin, Aswulf, Alfeah, Aelfric and Algot,

Blidworth: the Archbishop of York (Ealdred),

Bulcote: Young Swein,

Bulwell: Aelmer and Godric,

Burton Joyce: Swein,

Calverton: Aelfric,

Caythorpe (Alwoldestorp): Athelstan,

Clipstone: Osbern and Wulfsi,

Clumber: Aethwold and Ulfkell,

Colwick: Godric, Aelfric and Bugg,

Gedling: Toki and Dunstan,

Gunthorpe: Morcar, 

Lambley: Ulfketel,

Lenton: Wulfnoth,

Ollerton: Alfwold and Wada,

Pappplewick: Aelfric, Alfsi and Alric,

Perlethorpe: Thurstan and Wulfmer,

Radford: Aelfric, 

Rufford: Ulf,

Stoke Bardolph: Toki,

Warsop: Godric, Leofgeat and Ulfkell,

Woodborough: Ulfkell, Aelfric, Wulfgeat, Wulfric and Alfsi,

(Ref: all names compiled from Morris 1977)

These names sound ancient and archaic (but also poetic and beautiful) to us now.

That is compounded by the fact that the names that replaced them at the Norman Conquest are so much more familliar to us.

Henry, John, Richard, William, Stephen, were all names of the Norman and Angevin kings who ruled between them from 1066 to 1272. 

All these names were French.

Edward I, crowned in 1272 was the first English King since 1066 to carry an English name.

In Nottinghamshire these name would be replaced powerful Norman landowners including a Roger or two, an Alan, a William, a Walter, three Ralphs, and a handful of Gilberts, to name a but a few...

Although we can't know the characters or the actions of these English rulers- dispossed by the conquest, their names and the names that replaced them do indicate the dramatic cultural shift that took place with the Norman Conquest- at the level of the local ruling class as well as at the top of society.

This change of authority and culture had a great impact on English Society as a whole.

Locally it would bring with it the Laws of the Forest that would have a huge impact on the landscape and the people of this area. 

The area that would become Medieval Sherwood Forest.

(More on the Normans of Sherwood Forest, and more on the earlier Saxons of Sherwood Forest (the names behind the place names), coming soon).

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Sherwood Forest in the 'Current Archaeology' Magazine

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC are very proud to be in the February edition of Current Archaeology Magazine- the UK's best selling Archaeology magazine... Page 11 Issue 287... 'Hunting King John's Palace in Sherwood Forest'... covering some of our work for the Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project.

Not bad eh?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Sherwood Forest in the in the Castle Studies Journal- a national academic journal

Andy Gaunt of Mercian Archaeological Services and James Wright of's Paper on Kings Clipstone in Sherwood Forest:

‘A palace for our kings’ - A decade of research into a royal residence in the heart of Sherwood Forest at Kings Clipstone, Nottinghamshire - James Wright Archaeology & History of King's Clipstone, Nottinghamshire & Andy Gaunt Mercian Archaeological Services CIC
In the national journal of the Castle Studies Group:

Castle Studies Group - Journal 27 2013-14

The paper discusses all the most recent archaeological research undertaken at the site with details of the most recent findings from Mercian Archaeological Services CIC and James Wright.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Sherwood Forest Archaelogy Publication in Transactions of the Thoroton Society Journal for Nottinghamshire

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC have a paper in the forthcoming Transactions of the Thoroton Society, Vol 117, 2013.

"A romantic royal retreat, and an idealised forest in miniature:The designed landscape of medieval Clipstone, at the heart of Sherwood Forest".

by Andy Gaunt and James Wright

The paper discusses the landscape of Sherwood Forest in medieval times, and the designed royal hunting landscape of park and palace at Clipstone.

Clipstone was a royal palace at the heart of medieval Sherwood Forest, that was visited by all 8 monarchs from Henry II to Richard II.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Mercian Archaeologists further knowledge of Palace in ​Sherwood Forest​

From a Heritage Daily Magazine Article: by Andy Gaunt of Mercian Archaeological Services CIC

David Budge, Sean B Crossley, and Andy Gaunt (all of Mercian Archaeological Services CIC, with James Wright – in the Medieval Boundary ditch of King John’s Palace, Kings Clipstone, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire.

Archaeologists have helped to prove the size and thus the importance of a Palace that formed the royal heart of Sherwood Forest in the medieval period, by discovering and excavating the previously unknown boundary ditch of the site.
The ruins of King John’s Palace in Kings Clipstone are a local landmark famous for their association with ‘Bad King John’, the enemy of Robin Hood.

In fact during the medieval period the site was known as the King’s Houses and was an extensive royal palace with an adjacent deer park, located at the heart of Sherwood Forest. The palace was favoured by the crown and visited by all eight monarchs from Henry II to Richard II from the second half of the 12th century until the end of the 14th century.

These included Richard the Lion Heart and his brother King John, both intrinsically linked to the Robin Hood legends. Clipstone is the neighbouring village to Edwinstowe, legendary home of Robin Hood as well as the marriage site of Robin Hood and Maid Marion. The site is a stone’s throw from the Major Oak, a 1000 year old veteran oak tree and legendary hideaway of the world famous outlaw. The Major Oak now forms the centre piece of the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve. If Edwinstowe and the forest lay claim to the legend of Robin Hood, then Clipstone and king John’s Palace have an equal claim to being the royal centre of Sherwood Forest in the medieval period.

King John’s Palace was the site at the centre of this world famous landscape and was used as a royal retreat by the crown for entertaining foreign royalty, and even for housing Parliament in 1290.

Sherwood Forest in medieval times was an area of land subject to Forest Law, a set of laws introduced by the Normans to England in in the latter stages of the 11th century. Forest Law protected the Beasts of the Chase (primarily deer known in the records as ‘Venison’) for the exclusive use of the King and also protected the trees and woodland of their habitat known as the ‘Vert’. It was therefore illegal to hunt ‘Venison’ or chop down the ‘Vert’ within a royal Forest without the permission of the King.

Sherwood Forest for most of the high medieval period covered a large area roughly 20 miles north to south by 10 miles east to west. Sherwood Forest was not one continuous stretch of woodland and in fact contained many villages and even the town of Nottingham.

The Forest provided financial benefits to the crown from the sale of timber and game, but was in essence a giant hunting reserve. Red Deer and Roe Deer were hunted by the Crown across the open heathland and acres of woodland that dominated the landscape. Alongside the native red and roe deer the Norman Kings had a great fondness for Fallow deer, which they imported to England following the Conquest. As a non-native and vulnerable species it was necessary to raise fallow deer within parks constructed for the purpose. These were large extents of land enclosed by a high fence to keep the deer inside and poachers and other animals out.

In Sherwood Forest Henry II began work on a royal hunting retreat at Clipstone in 1164 and the adjacent deer park in the 1180s. This royal complex would develop over time into a major palace with a vast array of residential quarters, chapels, stables for 200 horses, an artificially flooded lake, rabbit warrens and gardens, surrounded by a designed landscape of deer launds and woodland.

Recent archaeological research led by Andy Gaunt of Mercian Archaeological Services CIC and archaeologist James Wright, has helped to reveal the true scale of the palace site. It has shown that the King’s Houses were a substantial Royal Palace which formed the heart of Sherwood Forest in the medieval Period.

A geophysical survey in 2010 by Andy Gaunt detected a large anomaly that was interpreted through historic mapping as being the western boundary of the palace. A subsequent excavation in the summer of 2012 led by James Wright (independent consultant) and Andy Gaunt, along with Sean Crossley and David Budge (the latter three now of Mercian Archaeological Services CIC) investigated the anomaly and proved it was the medieval boundary ditch of the complex.

The ditch contained 13th to 14th century pottery. Excavation also found the remains of an internal bank associated with the ditch. This had been truncated but would originally have been surmounted by a palisade as recorded in the written records. The bank contained pottery sherds from the 13th to 14th century which dated the construction of the bank and ditch.

The site was at its most popular and extensive during the reigns of Henry III, Edward I, II and III. Henry III started a period of building in the mid-13th century which continued into the Edwardian period into the 14th century. The site was very popular with Edward I who held a parliament there in 1290. An ancient Oak still stands on the former north-western boundary of the Deer Park which is named Parliament Oak after this prestigious event. The Parliament Oak as it known is now protected under the stewardship of The Sherwood Forest Trust.

In 1315 during the period of the Great Famine, Edward II stayed for a number of months at Christmas feasting and entertaining. The royal retinue devoured all the fish stocks in the pond and must have equally impacted on the stocks of deer in the park as they were forced to send retainers out into the surrounding counties to search for more food from the already starving populace.

In 1316 Edward II built a fortified ‘Peel’ enclosure as a refuge during difficult times (the War with Scotland) and as a grain and livestock store, in the southern part of Clipstone deer park. He clearly did not intend to run out of food again on his next stay.

Edward III subsequently dismantled the Peel and had the buildings re-erected within the Palace site at Clipstone. Thanks to the recent excavations, the palace site is now recognised as covering over seven acres; making it equal to and larger than many of the contemporary royal palaces of medieval England. Over the course of the 20th century academic writing had reduced the status of the site to that of a mere hunting lodge, despite listing all the accommodation and vast expenditure by the crown on the site throughout the medieval period.

The recent excavations and investigations have once again reclaimed the title of ‘Palace’ for this very special site at the centre of a landscape which is the backdrop to many of the world’s most famous legends.

Mercian Archaeological Services are continuing their investigations at the Palace, the Peel and across Sherwood Forest as a whole with volunteers and the community. The work at Clipstone forms part of their ‘Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project’, which promotes the heritage of Sherwood Forest. The project combines community archaeology research and outreach work in Sherwood Forest.

Please see the project websites at and

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC are a community archaeology company undertaking work with community groups and volunteers across the East Midlands area of the United Kingdom. As a Community Interest Company they re-invest profits in project development and community outreach.

To volunteer on community archaeology projects or to find out more information please their website:, or follow their news and research at

Friday, 11 October 2013

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC Newsletter

Welcome to 'East Midlands Community Archaeology News'

The first edition of Mercian Archaeological Services CIC's Newsletter.

In this edition we showcase some of our ongoing projects and work.

The newsletter forms part of our community archaeology outreach through which we aim to disseminate our work to the widest possible audience.

Learn about: Archaeology and History of Medieval Sherwood Forest, including the excavations at King John's Palace and the community archaeology projects at Kings Clipstone in Sherwood Forest; The Heath End Excavation with Targ Archaeology; Surveying withCodnor Castle Heritage Trust; Burton Road excavations in Ticknall; The Hilton village Project with Dove Valley Community Archaeology and much much more...

and a special spotlight on the work done by The Friends of Thynghowe...

Monday, 2 September 2013

Community Archaeology at King John's Palace, Sherwood Forest with Mercian Archaeological Services CIC

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC recently returned to Kings Clipstone to continue the King John's Palace Project. The project is researching and investigating the Archaeology of the site of the Royal Hunting Lodge and Palace that formed the Heart of Medieval Sherwood Forest.

This Community Archaeology Project saw volunteers digging test pits and undertaking a topographic survey of Castle Field.

The King John's Palace Community Archaeology Project 2013.
Test pits were located to further understand the layout of the Palace and surrounding landscape- the pits examined the area to the west of the Medieval ditch and bank excavated in the summer of 2012 by Andy Gaunt, James Wright, David Budge and Sean Crossley (3 of who now run Mercian Archaeological Services CIC-

The medieval ditch and bank represent the boundary of the site in the 13th-14th century as proven by the 201 excavation.

The test pits excavated in the project are located in the demense part of the Waterfield, and the evidence uncovered further supports the boundary ditch as the furthest extent of the site. 

Picture: the ruins of King John's Palace in the heart of Sherwood Forest by Andy Gaunt, Mercian Archaeological Services CIC
The royal palace now known as King John's Palace was the centre for crown activities in Sherwood Forest until the end of the 14th century, with all the Plantagenet Kings from Henry II to Richard II staying there. It was built to accommodate the crown during visits to the forest, where hunting would take place in the royal park adjacent.

The report for the boundary ditch excavation will be available to download via Mercian's document stores very soon.

Medieval Boundary Ditch Excavation 2012
The topographic survey of the site undertaken in August 2013 has helped to show a number of discrete features such as banks and terraces which will further aid in the understanding of the site- 3D results will be available through this site shortly.

Alongside the King John's Palace Project, Mercian Archaeological Services CIC also undertook the recent Kings Clipstone Village Community Archaeology Project which looked at the development of the village in relation to the palace in Medieval times.

As part of this project James Wright also kindly undertook a building survey of 2 cottages in the village and discovered medieval walls which formed part of the great gateway to the palace in Medieval times.

It is hoped that a number of publications will follow in the coming year which bring together all of the corpus of work undertaken in the village and at the palace to date, including extensive work looking at the landscape of the lordship and forest.

There will be more Community Archaeology in Nottinghamshire coming very soon, with plenty of opportunities to get involved- watch this space for more information...

For more info follow and and for Mercian's Community Archaeology photographs follow the page,

The King John's Palace Project, the Archaeology and History of Medieval Sherwood Forest Website, Archaeology and History of Medieval Sherwood Forest page and the Kings Clipstone Village Community Archaeology Project are all part of Mercian Archaeological Services CIC 'Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project'- more details soon.

Medieval Palace Gatehouse discovered in Sherwood Forest

In March 2013 James Wright; Archaeologist and Standing Buildings expert- acting as an independent consultant for Mercian Archaeological Services CIC ( & undertook a building survey of two cottages: Arundel Cottage and Brammer Farm House in the village of King's Clipstone in Nottinghamshire as part of the Kings Clipstone Village Community Archaeology Project.

His investigations have discovered the standing remains of a Medieval Gatehouse to the Royal Palace Palace now known as King John's Palace, which formed the heart of Sherwood Forest in Medieval times. The results of his work can be seen at the Mercian Archaeological Servcies CIC Document store:

The Kings Clipstone Village Project is part of Mercian Archaeological Services CIC 'Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project'

Monday, 8 July 2013

Rufford Abbey and the White Monks of Sherwood Forest

Rufford Abbey was founded by Gilbert de Gant in 1146.

Picture: Mercian Archaeological Services CIC, Groin-vaulted Rufford Abbey Undercroft
The charter confirming the foundation was granted by King Stephen on Christmas day of that year.

Rufford was a Cisterican Monastery, a daughter house of Riveaulx Abbey in Yorkshire.

The abbey was situated just to the West of the King's Highway to York which passed from Nottingham northwards through Sherwood Forest, and the Abbey was an attractive stop-over for weary travellers on the long road through the forest.

The Abbey sat towards the northern edge of a vast tract of heathland, meadow, woodland and farmland consolidated from the possessions of the villages of Rufford, Crately, and Inkersall, granted to the Abbey. Rufford village had 8 families when the monks arrived, but was abandoned by the end of the Thirteenth Century. Crately was slower to become deserted, but villagers eventually moved to settle in nearby Edwinstowe and the village of Wellow (see Rufford Charters entry for information about the grants of lands and the Charters recording them).

The Church of the Abbey was dedicated to St Mary, and was built in the remote wastes and woods of Sherwood by the Cistercians, who favoured the isolation and separation from the world provided by the forest.

The Abbey complex included the Church, Cellar, Lay Brothers Frater, Cloister, Kitchens, Monks Frater, Warming House, Undercroft and Dormitory above, Inner Parlour, Chapter House, and Sacristy.

The surrounding landscape included areas of Woodland: 'ye abote wode', 'Abott Ymmslow', and 'burne abotote wode'. There were also large areas of heather lyngges, or wastes known as 'the Forest'. The valley of the Rainworth Water to the south of the Abbey was managed as Meadows to provide winter fodder for large numbers of sheep. The Cistercians were prolific sheep farmers.

The Abbey organised much of these land-holdings into 'Granges'- most of them within a days walk of the Abbey- the best know being Inkersall Grange which sat on Rainworth Water on the southern-most extent of the home estates.

As well as the demense farming which provided income for the Abbey, the Monks also possessed large parts of the town of Rotherham in Yorkshire which provided a vast amount of taxable income for the Abbey.

The Abbey was a popular over night resting place on the great road through the Forest and would have provided welcome accommodation as night fell over the desolate heaths and remote woodland of the High Forest (see A Journey through Sherwood Forest: Rufford Abbey to Nottingham post). 

Accommodation was provided for free by the monks- so it was essential that the monastery could provide for itself and visitors. The large amounts of farmland kept by the Abbey was therefore of great importance to ensure they could provide for all these travelers.

These could include Royalty, and in 1290 Queen Eleanor of Castile, wife of King Edward I stayed here while Edward held Parliament at his nearby Royal Palace and Hunting lodge at Clipstone (see Parliament Oak: Icon of Sherwood Forest entry for more details ). In fact the Abbey was among her final resting places as she was ill during her stay there, and died during an attempt to move to Lincoln for Spiritual and Medical help.

Rufford was a part of the fabric of life in Sherwood Forest for 400 hundred years.

It would sadly come to an end in the 1530 under King Henry VIII along with all other monasteries in the Kingdom.

At the Dissolution of the Monastery the Abbot was accused of being incontinent with two married women and 4 single women- six of the monks were said to be desirous of exemption from their duties- and the monastery was dissolved in 1536 (it is quite likely that these charges were trumped up as they were very convenient for the crown- however Priests were often badly behaved at times in Medieval Sherwood Forest).

Despite this inglorious ending, Rufford Abbey passed into the hands of rich landowners and eventually emerged to become a Country Park in the present Day with parts of the Medieval Abbey surviving within the later house. These  include the Lay Brothers Frater and the Undercroft which can still be visited to this day.

Photograph: Mercian Archaeological Services CIC, Rufford Abbey Country Park
See the Mercian Archaeological Services CIC photo gallery for this article at:

Thursday, 4 July 2013

3,000 Facebook Likes for Sherwood Forest Heritage

The Archaeology and History of Medieval Sherwood Forest Facebook page now has over 3,000 followers!
Mercian Archaeological Services CIC would like to thank everyone for the amazing support they have shown to their Archaeology and History of Medieval Sherwood Forest project. ,

Reaching 3,000 Facebook likes is a fabulous landmark that just goes to show how interested people are in the heritage of this wonderful area, and how close the subject is to so many peoples hearts.

This project is ran by Mercian Archaeological Services as part of their Community Archaeology outreach and is all about promoting Sherwood Forest and its fantastic heritage to as wide an audience as possible around the world. 

This support helps to give a platform for the work undertaken by ourselves and many others in Sherwood Forest, and helps to promote the forest as a whole- reflecting its changing medieval boundaries, which stretch far beyond those in the modern landsape.

The community in Sherwood Forest is a strong and vibrant one, and there is a healthy  network of groups, landowners, charities, volunteers and companies who give blood sweat and tears everyday to promote this forest 

This collective work hopefully goes someway to helping to protect Sherwood Forest for future generations to know and love too.

The work goes on...

Please spread the word and help promote this marvelous story as far as we can. - please like the page.  - please like the page.

Thank you,

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC

St Nicholas' Church, Nottingham. Medieval Church and Sniper's Hideout...

St Nicholas' Church is one of Nottingham's three medieval religious foundations that survive to this day. 

The building which stands today however was built in the 17th century.

Picture: St Nicholas Church Nottingham by Mercian Archaeological Services CIC
The Church of St Nicholas' is first mentioned in the foundation charter of Lenton Priory from 1103-8 where an annual pension was confirmed to the prior and convent of 15 shillings annually.

It is therefore believed to have been founded before the Norman conquest, probably in the eleventh century.

The medieval church contained a Chantry dedicated to St Mary- possibly situated in the Lady chapel which is also mentioned in the records.

There was also a Guild or fraternity of St Mary associated with the church.

With the Norman conquest the church found itself in the French quarter of Nottingham outside the walls of the castle- this location would eventually lead to its downfall.

Speeds 1610 map suggests the medieval church had a nave and possibly one or two isles, along with a west tower complete with a spire. Stapleton in his 1903 book 'churches and monasteries of Old Nottingham' suggest the tower and spire were of Decorated Gothic architecture.

This medieval building has sadly been destroyed, but the story of its downfall is fantastic in itself.

It is well documented that Colonel Hutchinson Governor of Nottingham Castle ordered its destruction in 1643 during the English Civil Wars.

The church was garrisoned by Royalists who used it to fire on the Parliamentarians in the castle. 

The diary of Colonel Hutchinson's wife, Lucy states ' There was an old church called St Nicholas' Church, whose steeple so commanded the platform that the men could not play the ordnance without woolsacks before them. From this church the bullets played so thick into the outward Castle Yard that they could not pass from one gate to another, nor relieve the guards, but with great hazard' (Stapleton 1903).

Picutre: Lucy Hutchinson courtesy of

After the town was cleared of Royalists the Colonel had the church taken down so theat it could not be used against them again.

A fabulous tale rich in the history of Olde Nottingham Towne...

In 1678 a new church was erected in brick which exists to this day, and is the subject of the photograph above by Mercian Archaeological Services CIC.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Mercian Archaeolgical Services CIC and the Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC are please to announce that they have now officially running the Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project as of June 2013.

The Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project aims to research and promote Sherwood Forest - the most famous forest in history.

As the home to the legendary outlaw and hero Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest is known throughout the world.

The ethos of this project is to promote the Archaeology, History and Heritage of Sherwood Forest, its landscape and people.

It aims to support and promote the work of individuals and groups (often voluntary) who undertake work in the Forest.

And to raise the profile of this heritage and work to the widest possible audience. 

The project website has had close to 100,000 page views in under two years and the Facebook page has close to 3,000 followers so far!

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC are a Community Interest Company who undertake Community Archaeology with and for the community- please like the Facebook page 

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC are currently running and planning many projects in Sherwood Forest- and we will keep everyone updated as they progress...

Sunday, 9 June 2013

James Wright-

James Wright is Senior archaeologist (built heritage) at the Museum of London  Archaeology, and former Archaeological and Historic buildings officer at Nottinghamshire County Council.
James Wright at King John's Palace
He has spent over a decade working in Nottinghamshire as a conservation stonemason and Archaeologist.

He has worked at King john's Palace, the Royal Heart of Medieval Sherwood Forest for around a decade and has been involved in a large corpus of work on the site. He helped with a geophysical survey, self funded an excavation of the boundary ditch of the site with Andy Gaunt (author of this site), and he and Andy Gaunt invited Time Team to the site in 2010 acting as researcher and site consultant for Channel Four...

...he has directed a stone survey in properties in the village, and in 2011 acting as an independent consultant for Mercian Archaeological Services CIC ( & he undertook a building survey of two cottages: Arundel Cottage and Brammer Farm House, where his investigations have discovered the standing remains of a Medieval Gatehouse to the palace: .

James has written the wikipedia entry for King John's Palace's_Palace.

Alongside this; his passion and commitment to the site was in no small part responsible for the ruin being saved from collapsing in recent years,

In his spare time James now runs the popular Facebook page which promotes the heritage and archaeology of the palace and the wider settlement of Clipstone through time.

James also spent the years 2004-2008 researching and conducting fieldwork for a book and accompanying articles on the Castles of Nottinghamshire recommended by this site.

James is both a great friend of this page, and the author, and is a fantastic friend and promoter of the Archaeology and History of Medieval Sherwood Forest!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC - the Kings Clipstone Village Project

In February 2013 Mercian Archaeological Services CIC ( and, a Community Interest Company undertaking Community Archaeology Projects in the East Midlands, ran an archaeological project to excavate test pits in the village of Kings Clipstone in the heart of Sherwood Forest.

The project was aimed at examining among other things the development of the settlement in Medieval times.

Picture: the ruins of King John's Palace in the heart of Sherwood Forest by Andy Gaunt, Mercian Archaeological Services CIC
The village north of the Mansfield Road consisted of long and narrow tofts and crofts which extended backwards from the road to the River Maun to the north.

Evidence from the excavation suggests that this part of the village was formed in the 13th century, as an expansion of the settlement around the royal palace that occupied the ground to the south of the road.

The interim report for this project will be available to download shortly.

The royal palace now known as King John's Palace was the centre for crown activities in Sherwood Forest until the end of the 14th century, with all the Plantagenet Kings from Henry II to Richard II staying there. It was built to accommodate the crown during visits to the forest, where hunting would take place in the royal park adjacent.

In the summer of July 2012, James Wright of and Andy Gaunt, David Budge and Sean Crossley (now Mercian Archaeological Services CIC) excavated trenches across the boundary ditch of the palace complex.

This report is being brought to completion over the next few weeks too and will be available to download via Mercian's document stores....

It is hoped that a number of publications will follow in the coming year which bring together all of the corpus of work undertaken in the village and at the palace to date, including extensive work looking at the landscape of the lordship and forest.

There will be more community archaeology work coming in the village very soon, with plenty of opportunities to get involved- watch this space for more information...

For more info follow and