Friday, 29 July 2011

Hunting v Finance:

Forest Law protected the venison for the kings to hunt.

However hunting can hardly have been the motivation for maintaining so many forests.

As well as Sherwood Forest there were other famous forests such as the New Forest in Hampshire, Englewood in Cumbria and many others.

In England in the medieval period there were as many as 46 individual royal forests.

Certainly too many for one king to hunt in all the time- there must have been some forests that the king never even visited.

In reality forests and their laws and courts became huge financial institutions.

The forest Eyres (courts- see forest law page) were:

“ as much a financial assembly as a court of law”

 - (Turner. 1901). (see bibliography).

Forests were a way of jealously guarding the assets of venison and woodland for the crown.

The collection of :

rents for assarts, (clearing woodland for arable)
sale of game,
the sale of timber,
& rents for agistment

All of these brought vast sums of money to the treasury.

Gifts and Payments:

As well as directly bringing money to the crown the forests provided the opportunity for the king to secure loyalty and reward service…

In the years 1231-34 Henry III gave royal gifts, and rewards of service, from supplies in Sherwood Forest:
         10 bucks to the Bishop of Lincoln,
         3 bucks and 4 does to the Earl of Huntington,
         5 bucks and 20 does to the Bishop of Carlisle…

         30 oaks to the Priory of Lenton - for the works of their church,
         5 lime trees to the Friars of Nottingham - to make their stalls,

In 1316 Edward II authorised Ralph de Crumbwell to fell and sell 20 acres of his wood at Lambley- as compensation for his losses when engaged in the king’s service in Scotland (probably following Edward II defeat to Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314).

-Permission to chop down his own trees and sell them!!

Under forest law it did not matter who owned the land - the trees and deer belonged to the King!!

No wonder forest law was unpopular!

(More on the unpopular forest laws, the reign of Edward II, The Crumbwells of Lambley, Englewood forest and the New Forest coming soon...)

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