The OFFICIAL Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project blog. The Worlds No.1 Sherwood Archaeology Site!
Archaeology, History, Landscape, People, Forest Law, Robin Hood, Sheriff of Nottingham, Merry Men, Medieval Outlaws and Villains, Kings, Keepers, Foresters, ancient trees.
The 1287 Sherwood Forest Eyre Court took place on the morning
of the feast of St Hilary (January 13th)in Nottingham.
Pleas of the Forest were heard before Sirs William De Vescy,
Thomas de Normanvillle, and Richard de Creeping- Justices in Eyre of the Lord
King for pleas in Sherwood Forest.
They were also heard before the Verders (viridarios) (see
Forest Law page) of the Forest:
Richard de Jort, William of Colwick, John of Annesley, Henry
of Tinsley, William of Bevercotes and Ralph the Clerk of Mansfield (clericum de
And Foresters (forestarios):
Robert D’Everingham forester in fee (forestarium feodi)- Keeper
of the Forest, and under him Richard of Coningeston, his attourney, Robert the
Tailor, Hugh Flambard, William the fisher (Willelmum Piscarium), Willialm of Durham,
Adam of York (Ebor- from Latin Eboracum – York), Robert de Strelley, William be
Blakeburn, the sworn foresters of Robert D’Everingham.
Walter of Winkburn the attourney of the justice of the
forest , and under him William of Hastings, William de Sheffield (Schaffeud),
William the Welshman (Waleys), Robert of Linby, Bate of Linby, Hugh of
Mansfield and Henry son of Richard of Clipstone.
The court then proceeded to set out the following points:
1.The Verderers of Sherwood are to hold their
court every 40 days into the small
infringments against the vert (cutting down trees) and small pleas – as stated
int the Charter of the Forest
(the great charter of Magna Carta was first
signed in 1215, it was followed by a seperate Charter of the Forest in 1217 - more
soon). They were to present their findings on two court rolls to the Eyre- one
for Vert and one for venison (see Forest Law page).
Picture: the 1217 Charter of the Forest
It seem the Justices in Eyre and the King believed that the
local justices (verderers) were failing in their duties in upholding Forest
2.All the demense woods of the lord king (bosci
domini regis - woods owned by the crown) and his enclosures and parks (haye et parci)
were to be guarded as to the vert, that if anyone who lives in the forest is found felling a green oak he is to be forced
to attend the said verderers court and there provide enough pledges till the
next forest eyre (a person had to find somebody who could guarantee that they
would attend by pledging money if they didn’t – that person would then force the
attedance of the accused if necesssary to guarantee their presence).
His Mainour (that which he stole) is to be
appraised by the foresters and verders and he is to pay the amount it was worth
to the verderers.
If a person is caught a second time
trespassing against the vert- the same will happen.
If a person is caught a third time they will
be locked up safely in the prison of the lord King at Nottingham until they can
be brought before the justices in Eyre.
Being locked up was no relaxing time- medieval prisons were
harsh places with no food provided (a person relied on food brought from
outside) and very poor sanitation- well often no sanitation.
The forest Eyres were not exactly regular so a wait at his
majesty’s pleasure was not exactly pleasurable- and you could be in for a long
This may seem bad enough- but at least if you lived in the
forest you had three strikes before you were sent to gaol.
It was different for those living outside:
3.Anyone dwelling outside the forest caught
felling trees in the demense woods of the lord King also had to pay the amount
it was deemed to be worth
His body was then to be submitted to
prison (corpus suum committatur prisone) until he can be brought before
the justices of the forest.
Strike one- Prison.
If he is found a second time then the same
If he is found trespassing against the vert
for a third time he is to lose his horses with his cart, or his oxen with his
waggon, or their price; and that price must be paid in full at the next verderers
court or to the neighbouring township
for the use of the lord king , so that the verderer or his heirs or the
township may answer therefore to the lord king before the justices in Eyre.
Presumbaly losing a horse and cart or an oxen and wagon was
almost terminal for your average medieval peasant!
4.If a person who lived in the forest was found
taking small sapplings below the value of four pence they were to be tried
before the verderes- over four pence they were to be sent to the forest Eyre.
This entry lists ‘cutting saplings, branches or dry wood
from oaks or hazels or thorns or a lime or an alder or a holly or such like
There are not many references to the types of trees
available to peasants on the ground in the forest- different woods burn at
different intensities either slow or fast and would be needed for different
kinds of cooking and heating, they also had different properties for building
houses and hedges- this gives us a glimpse of some of the trees and sapplings
being used, and we can begin to think about their uses for the medieval
Entries 5 and 7 discuss the fines for escaping beasts of the
plough (escapia aueriorium) which ended up in the woods of the king causing
Entry 6 states that ‘it is provided that no man in the
future carry bows and arrows (arcus vel sagittas) in the forest outside the
king’s highway, unless he is a sworn forester (forestarius iuratus).
The remaining entries list responsibilities of the regarders
(those who check the boundaries) and foresters with regard to trespass in wood
not belonging to the crown.
The forest Eyre of 1287 then, gives us a great insight into
the adminsitration of Sherwood Forest and the application of Forest Law and its
impact on the lives of the people in and around Medieval Sherwood Forest.