Monday, 31 October 2011

Kirkby Hardwick and the Warrior Monks

The boundaries of Medieval Sherwood Forest were disputed during the 13th century.

From that time onward they were perambulated frequently.

Some of these perambulations survive and have been preserved in a number of sources including the Sherwood Forest Books.

Notable survivors include the perambulations of Henry III 1218/1227, and Edward I in 1300 as well as from the time of Charles II 1662.

On the western side of the forest these perambulations all include reference to a place called Kirkby Hardwick as a boundary marker of Sherwood Forest.

This is a place that still exists to this day- although it is not known to many.


The site was until recently home to Victorian and earlier buildings forming a grand manor house. The site was set within Tudor walls of a large and high status building from the 16th century. 

The site was also obviously prominent in the landscape in medieval times as...

The perambulations of Henry III and Edward I mention:

‘Deinde inter campos de Herdwike et de Kyrkeby et moram de Kyrkeby…’

‘Next go between the fields of Kirkby Hardwick and the moor of Kirkby’

The perambulation of Charles II 1662 also mentions some of the fields and a dovecote belonging to Kirkby Hardwick including:

Stonne Pitt (stone Pit or quarry) meadow, Hardwicke Dove Coate (Dovecote), Hardwicke Hall Gate, Head of the water of Man (River Maun), the Long Meadow…

 – all helping to give us a picture of the landscape at the time.

By the time of this later perambulation the forest boundary had moved westwards to include the parish of Sutton and the Kings Wood of Fullwood to the north of Kirkby Hardwick.

Kirkby Hardwick was left out of the forest at this time.

The only part within the forest was the area of lings (heather) heathland which occupied the eastern side of the manor. The hall and its fields were left out of the forest.

This suggests it was an important place at this time, and as stated previously the ruined walls of a substantial Tudor building still survive that co-incide with this period. 

The site was recently subject to a community excavation led by Nottinghamshire County Council - Directed by David Budge now of Mercian Archaeological Services CIC.

The name Hardwick means ‘Herders Wick’ or ‘Shepherds enclosure’ and it was probably an outlier of Kirkby in Ashfield in its original form.

Kirkby Hardwick seems to have sprung to greatest prominence with its ties to Bess of Hardwick in the 16th century, but it had important links before that time.

The Forest Eyre of 1334 lists possessions of the Priors of Newstead in Kirkby Hardwick that were exempt from Forest Law.

This link to a religious house is important. The religious communities of the forest, and the churches, Bishops and particularly the Arch Bishop of York were given many exemptions from the laws of the forest.

The inquisitiones post mortem for Nottinghamshire into the inheritance of a Robert Illyngworth in the early 14th century mention links to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem the Knights Hospitaller as the owners of at least part of the manor.

Also to their previous rights to Free Warren where the land was not in the forest.

Free Warren was granted by Charter from the King and allowed exclusive rights to hunt cat, squirrel, hare rabbits and other beast of the warren.

This was a high honour.

This reference to the Knights Hospitaller is exciting as there are not many links to the military orders of the Middle Ages in the forest.

Intriguingly the post mortem also mentions a number of ‘Temple’ properties in the same entry.

This suggests that the Knights Hospitaller gained these lands from the Knights Templar when their order was suppressed from 1312 onwards.

Could Kirkby Hardwick have links to the Knights Templar?

Research is continuing…


More on the Millitary orders of the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem and the Knights Templar in Medieval Sherwood Forest

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