Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A Bad Sheriff?

The Sheriff of Nottingham was responsible for the upkeep of law and order in Nottinghamshire

He was not however officially responsible for the royal forest of Sherwood.

This was the responsibility of the Keepers of the forest.

In Sherwood Forest these were hereditary keepers the De Caux and later D’Everingham families based at Laxton Castle and from 1286 the constables of Nottingham Castle.

It was the keepers of the forest who controlled the Foresters - the police force of the forest.

The sheriff however was responsible for controlling the royal parks of Clipstone, Bestwood and the Castle park.

One such Sheriff was Philip Mark.

He was Sheriff from 1208/9-1224

He seems to have been an ‘upright character’…

…He was merely accused of the usual kidnap and bribery of the time during his tenure.

In 1215 he kidnapped 3 sons of the friends of William of Lancaster, and held them for 7 years!!

After his death he was found to have accepted payment annually of 100s from the burgesses of Nottingham to support and maintain their liberties.

He also spent a great deal of time bullying landowners and taking manors off them for himself.

He took over running the forest and was ordered in 1217 to hand back keepership of the forest to Maud De Caux its rightful keeper.

He was instructed to remove his officials.

Obviously he disobeyed and in 1220 complaints were made about his men and the extractions he was making in the forest.

Obviously they were extorting the people illegally .

He was ordered to reduce their number and make them behave.

Could he have been the original bad Sheriff of Nottingham who inspired the legendary character?

(See Holt 1952 in the bibliography for more information)

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