Monday, 27 February 2012

Bestwood Park



Bestwood Park was the largest of the royal deer parks of medieval Sherwood Forest.



It was enclosed as a deer park some 200 years after the other parks of Sherwood in 1349 (see Nottingham Castle Park,  King John’s PalaceRoyal Parks, and Poaching in Clipstone Park entries for more details).

‘On 30th May that year Robert de Mauley, the chief forester of Sherwood, was ordered to cut down all the wood in Linby Hay and sell it for the King’s use, and to use the money raised from the sale to enclose Beskwood (Bestwood). The work had been completed by 1357’ (Crook 2002). 

Before this time it was known as the Hay (hedged wood) of Bestwood.

Enclosing this park- to surround it with a 3 metre high deer-proof fence would have been no mean feat.

The park stretched from current day Arnold Road in the south (approximately 2½ miles north of the medieval town walls of Nottingham) almost to the village of Papplewick some 4½ miles to the north of that.

It was 2 miles wide at the middle stretching from the town of Bulwell in the west to the Manor of Arnold on the eastern side.

The perimeter fence stretched 9 miles around- the number of trees (and people) required to make such a fence must have been incredible.

It would certainly have been impressive and would certainly have made no understatement that access was not welcome.

The park enclosed an area of largely wooded higher ground cut by a number of dales and valleys.

The outline can still be traced in the modern landscape.

In Medieval times it was bounded to east and west by the two great roads running north from Nottingham. The road to the crown manor of Mansfield marked the western side of the park, passing Newstead Priory just to the north, and the King’s Highway to York on the east.

A journey up either of these roads would have led the traveller along side the fence of the park for a number of miles.

To the north, the park was defined not only by a 3 metre high fence, but also by a stream which emerged from a spring to the north of the Red Hill road cutting (called ‘Rederode’ (Red road) in a 1334 boundary perambulation- a recounting of the boundary). 


This stream ran around the northern edge of the park to join the River Leen on the western side of the park, which then flowed south to the River Trent.

The River Leen was the western boundary of Sherwood Forest from the 13th Century.

On the northern edge of the park this stream was dammed to form a lake perhaps for fish and for deer to drink from. It is depicted on the 1609 Crown Survey Map of Sherwood Forest by Richard Bankes (Mastoris and Groves 1998).

This map calls the park ‘Bescott Park’ and lists it as a part of Lenton parish, Bestwood was first mentioned in the records in a grant to Lenton Priory by Henry I in the Lenton Register (Crook 2002).

A second pond is shown in the western part of the park on the 1609 map, along with a ‘Waterfall Yate' (gate) a crossing point of the Leen.

The Perambulation mentioned above dating from the 1334 Forest Eyre calls Bestwood ‘Hayea de Beskewode’ (Boulton 1964) and also mentions a 'Waltongate' – presumably an entrance into the park, and a 'Beskwodeforthe' (ford) presumably crossing one of the streams or rivers.

The 1609 survey shows the park to be mainly open pasture dotted with presumably large pollarded oak trees, along with a number of enclosed woods on the eastern edge.

This could reflect the medieval landscape of the park, but it is likely that many of the trees had been removed by this time.

A picture of the landscape of the park can be gained from the oldest surviving map of Sherwood Forest (the Belvoir map) which is dated to the late 13th or early 14th century (Barley 1986).

This map lists a number of landscape features including ‘Holy Stone seke’ (stream) the name for the stream running around the northern edge of the park, ‘Ye Waterfall’ (by the waterfall gate), and a Walton Gate’ the locations of which are confirmed by the later 1609 map depictions.

The hilly topography is shown by the presence of a ‘Kyngg’us hoc hill’ (King’s Oak Hill), ‘Syre hill’, 'ye kosckshote hil’ (cock shoot hill) and ‘Beskwode hede’.  
This higher ground is cut by a number of valleys including ‘Marke holyndale’, a ‘paddock dale’, a 'Woldale' and ‘Rydale’.

As well as these valleys an ‘Apultre (Apple tree) Dale ', and a ‘Ye Elder Tree Dale’ suggest that like the Nottingham Castle Park, Bestwood Park provided more than just deer.


This multiple land use is backed up by the presence of 'ye Medow' (meadow) on the eastern side of the park).


Deer lawns were also present in the park as at Clipstone with 'ye lawnde noke' being shown in the north of the park.

The care of this landscape was the responsibility of the ‘keeper of the forest of Bestwood’ who oversaw control of this park from a lodge named ‘loge’ on this medieval map.

In 1284 Gervaise de Clifton Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire was permitted 10 marks for the building of this lodge for the King, and in 1286 he was ordered to pay Robert de Tybotot ‘keeper of the forest of Bestwood’ 10 marks (Crook 2002) to complete the job.

The park of Bestwood may have been enclosed as it was in 1349 to improve deer management in the southern part of the forest, following the reduction in the size of Sherwood Forest in the 13th century (see Boundaries page for more details).

Whatever the reason for the emparkment, Bestwood became the largest park in Sherwood Forest and largely replaced Clipstone Park in the north of the forest in the 14th century in terms of royal patronage.

The strategic location of Bestwood between the two great roads through the forest, in close proximity to Nottingham, with its lodge occupying a vantage point commanding views all the way to Leicestershire to the south; made it a great location for a royal stay.

It was from this very park that Richard III would set out on his fateful journey to the battlefield of Bosworth in 1485, which would bring an end to the  medieval Plantaganet dynasty and bring around the Tudor-Stuart dynasty of the 16th and 17th centuries...

... But that is another story...

(see the Landscape page for more details; including work on reconstructing the landscape of medieval Sherwood Forest through mapping and documentary research).

(more stories concerning Bestwood Park from entries in the court rolls of Nottingham and of Sherwood Forest coming soon).
  

Saturday, 18 February 2012

the Caves of Medieval Sherwood Forest


Medieval Sherwood Forest was a landscape of woodland, heathland, towns and villages.

It was an ideal location for a Royal Forest because it was underlain for the most part by sandstone bedrock (see why Sherwood Page for more details on the location of Sherwood).

There were other rocks underlying the forest including the Magnesian Limestones group and the Mercia Mustones. But the forest sat predominantly on the group of sandstones laid down in the Triassic Period 250-200 million years ago. 

Picture: Sherwood Sandstones under Nottingham Castle
 
They were formed as flash-flood deposits in desert basins, with pebble-beds of quartzite stones and flakes concerntrated into thin layers of conglomerates reflecting these storm events. Depostional layers are clearly seen, as is the direction of deposition. They were originally known as the ‘Bunter Pebble Beds’ because of these horizons in the rock. 

They were however renamed the ‘Sherwood Sandstones’ because of their link to the medieval forest.

The sandstones were highly permeable, resulting in leaching of nutrients from the over lying soils. The result was that this landscape was less suitable for arable in the medieval period, than the surrounding geologies and so maintined a relatively higher amount of woodland and lowland heath (see why Sherwood page)


Ideal for deer and hunting.

Another property of the Sherwood Sandstones was that they could be dug into using handtools. The sandstone were relatively week and friable (easily scraped away)  but thanks to a clay cement they could be shaped into self-supporting caves, with stabe roof spans.

As a result Nottingham, but also to a lesser extent Mansfield (rock houses) had an incredible array of rock-cut caves used for domestic and commercial purposes in the medieval period.

Some of the caves of Nottingham and their use in the medieval period will be discussed here. There are many many caves in Nottingham- infact more than in any other town in the country, but many date to later times (see the City of Caves Exhibition) and these have been excavated by, and are currently under excavation by the Nottingham Historical and Archaeological Society.

In Medieval times there were many caves in Nottingham- almost all of them were located within the limits of the medieval town- between the castle in the west and the later Lace Market area in the east, and the 'Backside' (currenty day Upper Parliament Street) in the north and the cliff face near Broad Marsh in the south.

Picture: John Sppeds Map of Nottingham 1610
 
Further south of this the rock was beneath the water-table and saturated.

Many of the caves that may have existed in medieval times have either been re-worked in later times or removed as the cliff face became unstable and was cut back. There are some however that survive to this day to gives us an insight into subterranean life in medieval Nottingham.

Contratary to popular legend and myth the caves did not form tunnels down which Robin Hood avoided capture by the Sheriff of Nottingham- but their history is no less interesting for that.

They generally formed cellars under buildings- with a variety of forms.

Brewing was a large industry during medieval times and some of the surviving caves are Maltkilns, where spherical rooms were carved into the sandstone with either a continuous ledge around the edge or notches cut to support beams to hold the grain which was roasted from charcoal fires beneath (Waltham 2008).

Booze and boozing has always been popular in England and it was no different in medieval Sherwood Forest where as well as a legitimate brewing industry, demand must have out-stirpped supply, as a large number of people are recorded as ‘brewing against the assize’ (either selling over price or without licence) in the Micketorn Jury Presentments for the 14th century.

Another major industry in Sherwood Forest was tanning  (turning raw animal hide into leather).  The oak bark from the forest provided a perfect ingredient for the process- as did the urine from the town folk of nottingham and other odure used in the process.

A number of tanners are listed in the Nottingham Borough records and other sources, including a Willelmo le Tanur (William the Tanner) from 1222-23 in the Rufford Charters (see Rufford Charters: landscape, people, trades and lives in Sherwood Forest entry for more details).

Evidence of the use of oak bark in the industry is still preserved in the name ‘Barker Gate’ a street in the later Lace Market area of the old town- the old English Quarter (see Medieval Nottingham entry).

In the presentments of the Mickeltorn Jury for 1395 it is claimed that:

‘the tanners (tannarii) of Nottingham sell leather not well tanned, and that each of them sells leather in his house without the view of the market or being placed in the market for sale.’

The tannery caves of Nottingham were located to the southern side of town and were cut into the base of the cliff. 

Picture: Nottingham Tannery Cave - City of Caves Exhibition.
 
The process used vats cut into the bedrock to allow fluids for different parts of the process to be held. 

They are the only underground tanneries in Britain and must have stunk to high heaven!

In  the 1395 Mickeltorn Jury presentments it is later stated that the ‘tanners dwelling in Lttlemerche (Littlemarsh) of Nottingham on the southern side block up the common water which is called Lene with stakes, poles and turves in time, and lay their leather in the aforesaid water'.

Tanners along with dyers and fullers were commonly in trouble with this court as the people of Nottingham complained about the smells and ‘odure’ associated with their trades.

This realtionship, however uneasy, had a long history and was also in existence in the 13th century and earlier:

One of the tannery caves contained a cess pit in the tannery floor which contained pottery from 1270-1300 (Waltham 2008).

Caves were also used as dwelling places, possibly around the base of Castle Rock, and on the main holloway road ways into the town (Derby Road and Hollowstone)- unfortunately any medieval caves along these roads are now destroyed- later ones however still line the sides of Hollowstone which was the main thoroughfare into the town from the south in medieval times.

Maybe one of these caves provided shelter for William Leech and Thomas Kay who ‘unjustly occupied the King’s Highway under the cemetery of the Church of the Blessed Mary’ in 1395.

Cellars were used for the storage of wool and other commodities (Waltham 2008) a number of occurrences of these being left open to the road are recorded including a William Dalahowe who ‘holds a cellar open at the corner towards mothalgate (moot hall gate) to the serious detriment of the town'  also in 1395.

Alongside these caves that were part of the everyday life of the townscape of Nottingham there were a number of larger caves in the rock under Nottingham Castle that were involved in events of national importance. 

Nottingham Castle sits atop a steep sided sandstone bluff overlooking the town and dominating the river valleys to the south and west (see Medieval Nottingham Castle entry).

One of the most famous caves cut within the rock is known as 'King Davids Dungeon' and may have held King David II of Scotland in the 14th century.

The most famous cave in Nottingham is Mortimers Hole- a tunnel which provides access to the castle from the brewerys and mills on the south side of the base of the cliffs, up to the castle bailey above.  It enters the rock to the west of 'Ye Olde Trip to jeruslam Pub' which has rock-cut cave rooms inside, and claims to be the oldest pub in England.

It was through this tunnel that Edward III’s men broke into Nottingham Castle in 1334 and captured the usurper Roger Mortimer- who with his lover Queen Isabella (wife of Edward II) had seized the throne in 1327. Edward II had supposedly died with a red hot poker up his 'rear-end' in Berkeley Castle, and now Edward III retook the throne for himself via this tunnel.

All in Nottingham Castle in medieval Sherwood Forest.

This tunnel and many of the caves still in existence have been recorded as part of a fantastic project: the 'Nottingham Caves Survey' ran by Dr David Strange-Walker.

This survey is mapping the caves of Nottingham using the latest 3D laser scanning technology, and the result can be seen at The Nottingham Caves Survey website.

Picture: Mortimers Hole - from Nottingham Caves Survey website.

The caves of Nottingham then, were an intrinsic part of day to day life in the heart of medieval Sherwood Forest, and as well as giving us a glipmse into how people lived their lives they also sometimes played their part in the lives of the great and good, and on the lives of the people of medieval England as a whole.

The caves of Nottingham, are one of the lesser known secrets of Nottingham and Sherwood Forest, and hopefully with these new archaeological projects and potential redevelopment as a bigger tourist attraction their history will become known to a wider audience.






 

Saturday, 11 February 2012

1287 Sherwood Forest Eyre Court


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 Mammesfeld).

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 opened and heard a number of cases of trespass against the venison- poaching deer:  these can be seen in Forest Law Outlaws and Poaching in Clipstone Park in 1279 entries.

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 Law.

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 wait!!

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 will happen.
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 trees...’

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 peasant.

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 damage there.

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.

(For more informtion on the Forest Law see Forest Laws Page and 1334 Sherwood Forest Eyre Court entry).

Pleas taken from: Turner G.J., 1901. Select Pleas of the Forest. Seldon Society.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

the Archbishop of York and Sherwood Forest

During the medieval period the religious life of Nottinghamshire and Sherwood Forest was influenced by the many religious houses and churches, spread throughout the landscape.

Picture: Southwell Minster
The church was intrinsic to everyday life, its festivals and feast days followed the seasons of the year, its saint days were used to document the meetings of the courts and administration of the land, and the church protected and legitimised the role of the monarchy itself.

The church in England was until the reformation of the 16th century part of the great Catholic Church under the control of the papacy in Rome.

The leader of the church in medieval England was the Archbishop of Canterbury, who held the office of St Augustine, since the 6th century.

In the north of England however it was the Archbishop of York who held sway over the lives and souls of the people.

In Nottinghamshire the Archbishop held a great amount of power both spiritually and temporally.

In Domesday he is listed as having full jurisdiction and market rights and the King’s customary dues of two pence over his manors.

The Archbishop is the fifth landowner listed in Domesday for Nottinghamshire behind the King and a small number of Counts and Earls.

The Domesday Posessions of the Archbishop include the Manors of Cropwell (Bishop), Laneham, South Muskham, Blidworth, Oxton, Norwell and Sutton with its outliers of Lound and Srooby, and in the great Manor of Southwell in central Nottinghamshire. The Archbishop also held land in other places including Woodborough (Morris 1977).

Blidworth and Woodborough were both within the boundaries of Sherwood Forest.

The rest of the Archbishops properties were outside the 13th century boundary of Sherwood Forest, but the Archbishop was subject to forest law in many of his lands. His influence may even have affected the forest boundaries over time.

Sutton, Scrooby and Lound in north Nottinghamshire were granted by charter to the Archbishop, then called Oskytell, by King Edgar of England in the year 958 (Davies T.GT. 1983).

Interestingly this charter mentions a ‘scirwuda’ (shire wood) as part of the boundary perambulation of the estate. This is often cited as the earliest reference to Sherwood Forest, but sadly it cannot be directly linked to the Forest of Sherwood, due to its location, and a separation of nearly 300 years in the use of the name.

Scrooby was also incidentally later the home of William Brewster a leader of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed to America on the Mayflower.

In a charter in 956 two years before Sutton, Lound and Scrooby were granted to the Archbishop Oskytell, King Edgar's brother the preceeding King Eadwig had granted the Manor of Southwell to the Archbishop.

Southwell became the heart of the Archbishop’s power in the county.

With all its outliers the Manor of Southwell became an incredibly well defined area of power belonging to the Archbishop .

At the centre of this estate was the Minster church of Southwell.

Southwell Minster operated as a collegiate of secular canons.

This was effectively a collection of religious brothers similar to a monastery- the term secular means they were not tied to one of the religious orders of the day.

Each of these canons provided religious service to surrounding communities known as ‘Prebeneds’ in exchange for land and money.

By the 1290’s Southwell had acquired 16 Prebends in the surrounding area some of them in lands they had possessed since Domesday and some aquired overtime.

These were at The Sacrists' prebend, Normanton, Woodborough, North Muskham,South Muskham, Dunham, Beckingham, Halloughton, Rampton, Eaton, and North Leverton, three Prebends at Norwell, and two at Oxton (Page 1910 Victoria County History).

The dominion and jurisdiction the Archbishop had over the lands around Southwell resulted in it being known as the ‘Southwell Peculiar’.

The above is a short introduction to the relationship of the Archbishopric to the land and people of Nottinghamshire.

So what does this all have to do with Sherwood Forest?

The Archbishop of York held the manor of Blidworth, and the Prebend of Woodborough, both in Sherwood Forest as defined by the 13th century perambulations.

At Blidworth he was confirmed in an inquisition of 1155/6 as having the right to ‘hunt in his wood of Blidworth for nine days a year, three each at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. There he, his canons and his men had all their easements without waste, their own foresters, honey, eyries of sparrowhawks and hawks and pannage’ (Crook 1994).

Also as a leader of the church his lands were protected with regard to  trespass against the forest law by threat of excommunication (see Mutilation and Damnation entry)

In 1300 the forest boundary was perambulated at the order of Edward I. The boundary was altered to allow the Archbishops wood at Blidworth to be exempt from the forest law (Boulton 1964). This wood was known as ‘ye Bischopes Wode’ in the 1400’s, and sat at the northern boundary of Blidworth against the lordship of the Abbots of Rufford (see A journey through Sherwood Forest: Newstead Priory to King John's Palace).

The remainder of the Archbishop’s lands were outside the boundary of Sherwood Forest at this time.

There were however many issues regarding the Archbishop and the forest.

An inquest in 1155/6 at the start of the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) into the rights of the Archbishop of York in relation to the forest law in Nottinghamshire in the reign of his grandfather Henry I (1100-1135) gives us our earliest known boundary of the forest in  Nottinghamshire (see Oldest known boundary entry).

This ‘Old Forest’ as the inquest calls it, in the time of Henry I, stretched all the way up the western half of the county. The documents refer to this forest as the 'Forest of Nottingham'.

The Archbishop’s lands were exempt from the forest law to the east of this line in the time of Henry I because they were outside of the forest.

In the reign of Henry I’s grandson, Henry II (1154-1189), and his sons, Richard I (1189-1199) and King John (1199-1216) all of Nottinghamshire north and west of the Trent was subject to forest law.

This meant that all of the Archbishop’s lands in the area to the east of the 'old forest' were subject to forest law.

As forest law gradually engulfed all of Nottinghamshire north and west of the Trent during the reign Henry II, Richard I and John, the area to the east of the Forest of Nottingham came under forest law. This area seems to have gone by the name ‘Forest of Clay’

The boundary between the two forests was defined by the boundary of the ‘Old Forest’ of Henry I, and reflects mainly the geology and soils of the region (see Forest of Clay entry). But effectively the crown administered this huge area as one forest.

The crown enforced forest law in the Forest of Clay as it did in the Forest of Nottingham throughout the later 12th and early 13th century:

In 1167 the Canons of Southwell and the collegiate church were fined by Henry II ‘the men of Norwell “of the part of Master Viacrius’ paid half a mark as a result of the forest Eyre of Alain de Neville”’ (Crook 1994)

This seems to relate to one of the Prebends of Southwell in Norwell in the Forest of Clay.

In 1185 Vicarius was ‘charged with 40s for waste of his wood and trespass against the assize, in the forest eyre of Geoffrey Fitzpeter’ (ibid.) along with Andrew the canon charged 100s, Geoffrey the canon 2 marks, and Master Gilbert 2 marks- most likely all canons of Southwell.

‘Two years later, in another Eyre by Geoffrey Fitzpeter, Andrew canon of Southwell was amerced the enormous sum of 40 marks for receiving venison and removing it contrary to the assize. At the same time Master Vicarius was again charged with 2 marks for trespass against the assize, canons Gilbert and Laurence 40s each for the same offence and for default… 

...it was probably the 1187 forest eyre which led Hugh of Avalon, the saintly bishop of Lincoln to excommunicate Geoffrey Fitzpeter for enforcing the forest law’ against the Archbishops men (Crook 1994).

In the time of Richard I (1189-99) it seemed that things had got better for the Archbishop, when in 1189 Richard granted the Archbishop ‘disaforestment of all the lands of the church of York in Nottinghamshire, both those held in demesne and those in the prebends. They were quit of all wastes and assarts and pleas of the forest, and of the regard, and no forester or other bailiff was to interfere with them’ (Crook 1994).

However the archbishop's men still got fined or bought their way out of fines in 1198 and 1209 at the forest eyres, suggesting that the charter of Richard meant little.

The fact that they were being directly fined for forest infringements suggests that royal forest law applied over all of Nottinghamshire north and West of the Trent, and the Archbishops land at Southwell in the Forest of Clay.

When King John was in control of Nottinghamshire as Count of Mortain between 1189 and 1194 he confirmed that Maud de Caux was keeper of the Forests of Nottingham and Derbyshire (see Women Keepers of Sherwood Forest).

In 1222 Maud de Caux was referred to as the keeper of the Forests of Nottingham and of Clay’ (Crook 1979).

Also Brian De Lisle as Chief Justice of the Forest was ordered to allow Walter de Evermue to take timber from Clay as well as Sherwood to repair his houses (ibid).

This suggest that the crown continued to have jurisdiction over the Forest of Clay into the 13th century, possibly up until the boundaries of the forest were finally agreed in 1227.

The crown seems then to have maintained control over the forest of Clay in the reigns of Henry II, Richard I and John up until 1227 in the reign of Henry III, with the Archbishop’s men being some of the victims of this policy.

The boundaries of the Sherwood Forest were reduced following Magna Carta and the subsequent Forest Charter.

This new area removed the Forest of Clay from the equation, as the forest retreated into an area that may or may not have been the original forest (see Castles and Sherwood Forest entry), which may have fallen within the jurisdiction of Nottingham Castle.

This meant that the problems the Archbishop of York had had regarding the forest had been finally resolved.

As previously stated the condition improved further when the boundary was altered by Edward I in 1300 to allow his forest at Blidworth to be exempt too.

It could be that the area of jurisdiction that the Archbishop of York had around Southwell was one of the reasons for the strange shape of Sherwood Forest from the 13th century when it retreated into a boundary from an earlier time.

Perhaps the Doverbeck River provided a natural boundary between the jurisdiction of the castle of Nottingham (and therefore the original boundary of the forest) and the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of York to the east of it. 

It is not possible to know for sure if this was the case, with the evidence known at the moment.

But it is clear that the Archbishop of York was an important figure in the lives of the people of the time, and that he held significant authority in the county. It is clear that the Archbishops' faced the authority of the forest law as did everyone else- often despite their exemptions from it. It seems that over time they eventually managed to remove the majority of their lands from under forest law, and it is also possible that their influence even helped shape the original boundary of Medieval Sherwood Forest.

(More on Bishops, Archbishops the church and everyday life and the church and the forest law soon).