Monday, 26 September 2011

a Robbery in the Forest 1335

Evidence for the actions and lives of the people of medieval Sherwood Forest, the administration of the forest and often its landscape comes from many different primary sources. These include the court rolls of the shire, or the king’s Bench, charters, quit claims, writs and many other documents including the courts of the forest themselves. One such important source to the medieval historian are the Inquisitions Post Mortem.  These examine cases usually of inheritance.

The inquisitions post mortem for Nottinghamshire for 1335 reveal evidence of a robbery in Sherwood Forest.

This robbery is of a black horse worth 5 marks from a Henry de Cossale of Nottingham who was aged about 30 at the time. He was attacked by a gang of unknown robbers in the forest of Schirwode on the Wednesday after the feast of St. John in the 6th year of the reign of Edward II - May 9th 1313.

The evidence comes in a roundabout way… it is not a case into the robbery itself…

The inquisitions post mortem examines the case of Henry son of John de Nottingham, and is dated at York 25th May in the 9th year of Edward III (1335).

The case is a proof of age case for inheritance.

Henry is reported as having been 21 on Monday after the feast of St. George the Martyr.

He was born at Nottingham and baptized in the church of St. Nicholas.

This is ascertained by the testimony of 12 jurors chosen because they know and remember the birth or baptism of Henry from that year.

Henry de Cossale gave the above statement as a reason as to why he remembered the birth of Henry- he was robbed of his black horse in Sherwood Forest shortly after…

The jurors each give reasons that they remember the baptism, they are sometimes bizarre to say the least, the following is a summary of these testimonies:

Stephen de Segrave knows this because he and Henry de Segrave together with Christiana de Segrave lifted him from the sacred font of the said church. He remembers the date because his daughter was born soon after and she too is now 21.

Another man (who’s name is damaged an illegible on the document) remembers the day because he buried his wife in the churchyard the week after and that was 21 years ago.

Another man (also lost) but listed as a knight knows it to be true he married Agnes, daughter of Richard de nelowe of Nottingham 21 years ago.

John de Colwick knows because he had a son William born soon after.

Robert Morewode knows because on the Monday that the said Henry was born he fell from a cart and broke his left arm!!!

Simon Folevile remembers because on Tuesday next before the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross, 6th year of Edward II after the said Henry was born, he recovered a messuage and a carucate of land from Robert Raumpryn by writ of novel disseisin before the king’s Justices of the Bench, this was 21 years ago…

Laureance le Spicer took possession of a messuage and a virgate of land in Nottingham from William le Botiler by charter and that was 21 years before…

John Colier of Nottingham knowns because William his son was buried in the church of St. Mary’s Nottingham soon after Henry was born…

Ralph de Wolaton had a daughter Alice born at Nottingham at the same time…

Roger de Derby remembers because the Saturday after Henry was born he fell from a tree and broke his right leg!!!

Thomas Suthorp who had been in custody of the lands during Henry’s minority saw no reason as to why the lands should not be inherited…

This inquisition tells us much about the lives of people in Medieval Sherwood Forest, showing us the lives, births, marriages and deaths of everyday life.
We also get glimpse of how land and houses could change hands as deals were struck and people sought to make a living.

We can also get a feel for the jobs people undertook:

Was John Colier a trader in coal? Was Laurence le Spicer a trader in spices? Perhaps with a stall in the great saturday market?

Was Simon Folevile related to the notorious Foleville family who’s gang of outlaws terrorised the area for decades?

A Simon Foleville is recorded in 1327 as committing a series of robberies in Lincolnshire:

…and the Sheriff of Nottingham was informed by the government:

‘Robert and Simon de Folville, with a band of malefactors, were roaming abroad in search of victims to beat, wound, and hold to ransom’.

(See outlaws page for more)

…Had Ralphe de Morwode been drinking when he fell from his cart and broke his arm??...

…Was Roger of Derby a total buffoon? Falling from a tree and breaking his right leg at the age of 30?! What was he up to???

The inquest also show how much the life of the time was dominated by the feasts and festivals of the religious calendar- perhaps with ‘festas’ and parties similar to those which still take place in modern day Malta.

These festivals helped to divide the year and provided a religious structure to its passing. The medieval world followed the annual natural cycle of the seasons and of work and harvest. The church also marked this passing with constant reminders of the religious story. The church and religion were at the centre of peoples understandings of life and death.

This was a spiritual age.

The years were not recorded as we think of them now, but in terms of Regnal years (years of the King’s reigns). Showing the importance of the crown in every aspect of Medieval life.

The Medieval world was certainly a colourful place and its inhabitants were certainly no less colourful themselves.

More to come on the people of Medieval Sherwood Forest….

The above inquest is from: Blagg, T.M 1939. Abstracts of the Inquisitiones Post Mortem relating to Nottinghamshire Vol. III: Edward II and Edward III 1321-1350. Thotoron Society Record Series VI.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Medieval Kings Part 1, The Normans: 1066-1154

In 1066 William ‘the Bastard’, Duke of Normandy became King of England following victory at the battle of Hastings over the English King Harold Godwinson.

It wasn’t really a fair fight- Harold had just raced down from Yorkshire having fought off another attempt to overtrow him at the Battle of Stamford Bridge by his brother Earl Tostig, who had joined forces with the King of Norway Harold Hardrada.

These events followed a dispute over the English crown following the death of Edward the Confessor. William believed the crown had been promised to him and that Harold had betrayed him.

Following his victory William was crowned at Westminster in London.

This brought to an end the chaotic preceding period where a mixture of ‘Saxon’ and ‘Viking’ kings had fought over and ruled England for centuries. These Kings included such colourful sounding characters as: King Athelstan, King Cnut, Harold Harefoot, Edmund Ironside and Aethelred ‘the unready’, and lesser characters such as Ivan the Boneless and Sven Forkbeard- marvellous.

During his reign the entire ownership of England altered with all the land now belonging directly to the King. William then distributed this land to favoured followers and so on down the chain.

This was often for political and tactical reasons.

Locally he gave major land holdings to two significant Barons: William Peveril; who owned a large grouping of manors known as the ‘Honour of Peveril’ in the south and west of the county, and Roger De Bully whose possessions covered most of the north of the county; centred on the Castle of Tickhill, called the ‘Honour of Tickhill’ (more on Domesday landholders soon).

In order to raise taxes- but also I believe to find out the wealth of the land he had given to his barons- and to see who had what- the Domesday Book was commissioned- and finished in the year 1086.

The Domesday Book was a staggering undertaking listing every manor and vill in existence at the time, along with the amounts of taxable land, woodland, arable, pasture, meadow, mills, cottages, oxen, ploughs and men- and even eels that had a taxable value.

William brought with him the forest law that is the basis of our story in Sherwood. We have no first hand record of the forest in Nottinghamshire from the reign of William I, but William did found the New Forest in Hampshire at this time.

William died in 1087- apparently so fat that he popped when they tried to put him in his tomb in the Cathedral of Caen in Normandy.

William and his Norman compatriots were always Norman at heart, and now owned lands either side of the channel.

This French bias of the Norman rulers (and later the Plantagenet dynasty), and the ownership and disputes over territories in France that it caused, shaped the politics of England throughout the medieval period.

William Rufus (because of his red face and hair) William the conquerors 3rd son inherited the throne on his death, as William II (1089-1100).

William was given the conquered lands as the younger son- and his elder brother was made Duke of Normandy.

This division of the Norman and English lands under different rulers was to prove a difficult situation for Kings and Barons alike, leading to the loss of Normandy under King John in the early 13th century, and eventually to the Hundred Years War of the 14th and 15th centuries.

Outright war was avoided, and William II eventually bought the Dukedom from his brother Robert who needed the money to go on crusade.

Passionate about hunting, William was killed in a hunting ‘accident’ in the New Forest in 1100… and his younger brother Henry was quick to have himself crowned in his stead in 1100.

Henry I fought his brother Robert for the Dukedom of Normandy and won it at the battle of Tinchebray in 1104 to re-join the titles under one ruler.

This was important locally as the Honour of Tickhill defaulted to the crown after Roger de Belleme the successor of Roger De Bully had fought on the wrong side.

This would have a significant impact on the shape and size of Medieval Sherwood Forest (more later).

The earliest known boundary of the forest in Nottinghamshire comes from the reign of Henry I.

A brutal leader who once threw a man from the tower of one of his castles, and who fathered more than 20 illegitimate children, he is nonetheless most famous for writing ‘the Charter of Liberties’, a document binding the king to laws regarding the treatment of clergy and nobles- invoked at the writing of the Magna Charta in 1215.

He ruled for 35 years.

He married his daughter Matilda to Geoffrey Planaganet of the house of his bitter rivals the Dukes of Anjou, in an attempt to build an alliance with them.

When his son William was killed when his ship ‘the white ship’ sank in the channel, the succession of the throne was thrown into turmoil.

Henry forced the barons to accept Matilda as Queen, but the following decades resulted in a civil war that would ultimately bring down the Dukes of Normandy as the rulers of England

Married as she was to the now Duke of Anjou Geoffrey Plantagenet, Matilada was seen as a threat by many of the Norman barons who feared having a Duke of Anjou on the throne.

They chose instead to support Stephen of Blois a grandson of William the Conqueror as king of England.

Stephen was King of England for 19 years. They were not to be peaceful ones.

Geoffrey and Matilda fought back and a civil war known as the ‘Anarchy’ ensued.

This civil war eventually resulted in King Stephen accepting Matilda’s son Henry of Anjou as his heir.

The result was that in 1154 the Dukes of Normandy were replaced by the Dukes of Anjou as Kings of England- although Normandy was a Dukedom they kept for themselves…

The Norman kings of England had therefore been replaced by the Angevin Kings… a family whose names are familiar to this day; Henry II, Richard I (the Lionheart) and King John…

They would have a massive impact on Medieval England, the dynasty they founded - the Plantagenets would rule England until 1487.

Their empire at the time stretched from the borders of Scotland to the Spanish Pyrenees.

They would also have a massive impact on Medieval Sherwood Forest- its shape and its size, and the enforcement of Forest Law in the county… but more of that soon…

Friday, 16 September 2011

the Wolf Hunters

If you have an area of land designated for the protection of Deer for the Kings pleasure to hunt and to eat, then the last thing you want is to share it with other hungry predators.

Perhaps the most feared predator in the forest was the wolf.

There were wolves living wild and hunting in Medieval Sherwood Forest, and we know this because the records tell us of ‘wolf hunters’ employed to chase them.

The inquististiones post mortem (inquests after death) for Nottinghamshire for the year 1339 list amongst their number a Walter le Wolfhunte:

‘Walter le Wulfhunte held in his demesne as of fee on the day that he died a messuage* and a bovate* of land with appurtenances in Mammesfeldwodehouse in the county of Nottingham of the king in chief, by service of chasing wolves outside of the King’s forest of Shirewood, if any they found.’
(Blagg 1939)

This is a wonderful insight into the lesser known positions within forest administration - a man in the king’s manor of Mansfield Woodhouse being directly employed by the king to chase wolves.

It also tells us something of the landscape of the forest- one still wild enough to harbour wolves.

But most wonderful is the insight it gives us into the people of the forest. What kind of man was Walter the Woolfhunter? A grizzled ‘Davy Crockett’ style man of the woods, hardened and fearless running off into the night, whilst others run the other way?

Grizzled and fearless as he may have been… wolves were probably not a daily occurrence. On his days off from wolf hunting Walter was also liable to be called to the kings service as a forest official:

The same 'Walter de Wulfuntte de Mammesfeldewodehouse' appears in an earlier record. Here he is serving as a regarder (a forest official dealing in the boundaries of land) at the 1287 forest Eyre to testify in cases of assarts (clearing of woodland for arable) against people living in the forest of Sherwood.

The medieval text is in Latin, Walter appears alongside a group of selected men to testify as to what they know, and they include:

Regardum de Brokestowe factum et presentatum per regadatores subscriptos videlicet per- ( the regard for Broxtowe presented and signed by the regarders…)

Jordanum de Sutton (Jordan of Sutton), galfridum de strelli (Geoffrey of Strelley), Henfricum de Mammesfeld clericum (Henry of Mansfield a cleric), adam le palmer de nottynghammia (Adam Palmer* of Nottingham), thomas de ridewalle (Thomas of Ridewall), robertum de lyndeby (Robert of Lyndby), radulphum clericum de Mammesfeld (Ralph a Cleric of Mansfield) , Willelmum de bredon de eadem (William of Breedon of the same place- (from Mansfield)), Hugonem de sneynton de Sutton(Hugh of Sneinton from Sutton), hugonem filium walteri (Hugh the son of Walter), walterum le wlfuntte de Mammesfelewodehouse, (Walter the Wolfhunter of Mansfield Woodhouse) et matthew Attewlee de eadem (Matthew Attewell from the same place (Mansfield Woodhouse)), regaratores iuratos. Qui dicunt super sacramentum suum:-

(From the Sherwood Forest Book (Boulton 1964)).

The post of Wolfhunter lived far beyond Walter its most famous occupant:

A 'Sir Robert Plumpton held one bovate of land in Mansfield Woodhouse, called "Wolf-hunt land," by service of winding a horn, and chasing or frightening the wolves in the forest of Sherwood' in 1432 in the reign of Henry VI. (Robert White, Worksop, The Dukery, and Sherwood Forest, (1875)).

These wolfhunters must have been formidable characters, fearless and strong who carried out their roles within he forest administration- mostly annonymous to us due to their usual absence from the records. 

These few chance survivals in the documentary record offer us a rare and wonderful opportunity to see into the lives and livings of some of the characters of Medieval Sherwood Forest.

*messuage: house or dwelling.  
*bovate: amount of land tillable by one ox in a ploughing season
*palmer: interestinlgy the surname palmer is believed to be from pilgrimage. A person would bring a palm back home as proof of having visited the holy land.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Forest Rules

The first surviving legal texts relating to the forest laws come from 1100.

This is at the very start of the reign of Henry I (1100-1135)

Offences included:

         Clearing of land
         Cutting of wood
         Carrying of bows and spears in the forest
          Loosing of livestock

There were also rules regarding:

     The hambling of dogs
      Discovery of hide or flesh

See the Forest Law page for more details

Reconstructing King John's Palace

In the heart of Medieval Sherwood forest lies the Royal deer park of Clipstone, and the Royal palace and hunting lodge known as King John's Palace. 

Picture: Reconstruction of King John's palace, by Andy Gaunt, 2011.

In 2011, a reconstruction of the Medieval landscape of Clipstone was undertaken  by Andy Gaunt (now Director at Mercian Archaeological Services CIC 

The reconstruction formed part of the paper entitled: Clipstone Park and the Kings Houses:Reconstructing and interpreting a medieval landscape through non-invasive techniques,

The study focused in particular on the landscape setting of the hunting lodge, and the landscape of the park and parish. 

Picture: Reconstruction of Clipstone Parish in the Medieval Period. Based on Historic Mapping Sources by Andy Gaunt at Birmingham University using ArcGIS

The project combined: Geophysics- resistance survey, historic mapping, documentary research, infra-red remote sensing data, and reconstruction using a combination of ArcGIS and ArcScene. 

The Geopysical survey revealed buried foundations and ditches associated with the hunting lodge (and was the first to cover the whole site of the palace). 

It was used alongside infra-red data, and aerial photography from a number of years which revealed cropmarks. Combined these processes helped form the basis for interpretive building reconstruction.

These combined fieldwork and desk based techniques enable Gaunt to identify the site as far larger than previously considered, identifying it as cover the 7 acres of the 'Mannorgarth' as depicted on the 1630 survey of Clipstone.

Picture: Reconstruction of the landscape setting of King John's palace (southwestern approach). Based on Historic Mapping Sources by Andy Gaunt at Birmingham University using ArcGIS and 3D Analyst

In order to create an accurate reconstruction, the paper also discussed the possible boundaries of the park in the late 13th or 14th centuries. (A paper has been submitted on the the research into the boundaries, to the Transactions of the Thoroton Society).

Andy Gaunt identified the landscape as being a designed medieval parkland romance landscape, using historic documents and historic mapping, including the William Senior Map of 1630, to reconstruct the landscape.

The paper compared it to landscapes depicted in the Gawain and Green Knight poem.

You can read the paper on Mercian's publications page

Andy's theories were later published in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society Journal.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

the Oldest Map of Medieval Sherwood Forest

The oldest surviving map of Sherwood Forest is owned by the Duke of Rutland and is stored in Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. It is known as the Belvoir map, and has been dated to the late 14th century from the handwriting style.

The details of this map were published by Professor Maurice Barley in 1986 (see bibliography).

This map is a parchment which consists of cardinal points, with a few topographic features such as hills drawn on, and a number of key rivers. It depicts the forest within the boundaries from the 13th century onwards (with inclusions of some royal lands just outside of the forest boundary). It therefore tells us something of the administration of the forest, and an indication of where forest law applied.

The map is quite confusing to the modern mind as it works very differently to a modern day map. This confusion is compounded by the fact that the forest from the 13th century onwards was 20 miles long north to south by 8 miles wide. This area is squeezed onto a map with the long axis from east to west meaning that scale is not as it should be. This confusion is added to by the map being orientated with the east to the top (this was common practice in mapping from this period with the medieval world focusing towards Jerusalem. All medieval churches in England have the alter facing east).

The map also depicts a number of buildings: Nottingham Castle, Bestwood Lodge, and Lenton Priory giving us some impression of the historic built environment.

The map also shows the royal deer parks of Clipstone and Bestwood.

Clipstone Park and Bestwood Park are drawn both with their great fences or pales around them and are fairly accurate in shape and relative size to each other.

The map is a fascinating insight into the landscape of the forest, and although at first glance it doesn’t have much geographic reference for the reader; consisting almost entirely of lists of placenames and topographic features, a deeper look reveals much of the historic landscape.

The map works geographically, with lists of places and features running in order of their location. This makes placing unknown features easier by working from known locations, and it is possible to locate most of the features with a high degree of confidence.

These topographic features listed are descriptive of the landscape through the derivation of the name. They include dales, dikes, sekes (streams), clyfs (cliffs), forthes (fords) wodes (woods) Lawndes (lawns), and lyngges ((heather) see there's Vikings in the heather blog) to name but a few.

These few examples immediately conjure up a rural scene that is the foundation for our understanding of the landscape of the medieval Forest.

Alongside these topographic features are Holy wells and hermitages that give us a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of the people of the forest. Elements such as quarries, closes, crofts, and meadows show something of the way people worked, and used the resources of the landscape.

The map also suggests the presence of a number of Bronze Age barrows or burial mounds visible- and obviously important in the landscape at the time.

Understanding this map has been the driving force behind a new Map of Medieval Sherwood Forest created by myself and Alan McCormick former keeper of Antiquities at Nottingham Castle.

This exciting project has used documentary sources, local topographic knowledge, archaeological fieldwork, historic mapping and an examination of published and unpublished material to attempt to rebuild the landscape of the forest.

(The map has many medieval names for features in the landscape, and these will be discussed individually throughout the course of the blog, along with what the map can tell us of the people of the forest. Images from the new medieval map are used occasionally throughout the site).

Monday, 12 September 2011

the Sherwood Forest Book

One of the most fascinating and useful books for recreating and understanding the landscape of Medieval Sherwood Forest, and also its administration and how it functioned is the Sherwood Forest Book.

An editted version was published in 1965 by Helen E Boulton in the Thoroton Society Record Series Vol XXIII (see bibliography).

It was actually compiled from a number of surviving books of the forest including the some from London and some from Nottinghamshire. The eldest the ‘Exchequer Treasury Receipt Forest Book’ dates from the late fourteenth century. Another the ‘Middleton Forest Book’ is in a late sixteenth century hand but is a copy of a far earlier text. 

The Forest Books of Sherwood include copies of statutes and ordinances, perambulations of forest bounds, inquisitions, examples of writs, chapters of regard, and extracts from the forest eyres (Boulton 1956).

These have been used to understand the boundaries of the forest, and also of the woods within the forest.

One entry possibly written for the forest eyre of 1334 lists the boundaries of the Kings wood in Sherwood Forest. Amongst them are the Hay of Birklands, Bilhaugh and Clipstone Park.

These list landmarks around the boundary of the woods. These are topographic features within the medieval landscape. Some of which can be traced onto the modern landscape, enabling the outlines of these woods to be traced or inferred by the landscape archaeologist.

As well as the king’s woods, woods in the different parishes in the forest are also often listed, often in relation to issues arising from the affairs of the court of the forest.

They not only give us an insight into the landscape, but also into some of the people who came into contact with these courts.

Overtime I will explore how these documentary sources and evidence from historic mapping can not only give us an insight into, and help us to recreate and visualise the medieval landscape, but also the how we can meet and learn about the people who lived out their lives there, even hear their voices from some of these texts.

(More on the use of historic documents in landscape archaeology and how they have been used in rediscovering the landscape of Medieval Sherwood Forest and the people who lived there soon)

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Robin Hood Interview BBC

In May 2010 Ridley Scotts Robin Hood film was released. It was claimed it would be the most historically accurate version of the legend ever.

Interest in Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest was high, and so the BBC sent a camera crew to Sherwood Forest to interview the author on BBC Breakfast News.

Click on the image below to see the interview

Friday, 9 September 2011

Medieval Nottingham

The old medieval town of Nottingham was entirely surrounded by Sherwood Forest

It was in fact within the forest, but seems to have been exempt from the forest laws within its walls and out across its great open fields.

Picture: John Speeds map of Nottingham 1610

The town was nestled on top of a natural rise in the Sherwood Sandstones, overlooking the Trent Valley to the south.

The Medieval town stretched from the ‘broadmarsh’ in the south to current day Parliament Street in the north (this street was originally called ‘backside’ – which caused great merriment in the 19th century when appalling sanitary conditions in the overcrowded Victorian town led the local MP to petition parliament to have his “backside cleaned”.

At the north side was the town wall accessed through the 'cow bar' gate along the Kings road to York.

Beyond this gate were the two great arable fields of the town, the Lingdale field (later called the sand field after the soils formed from the underlying geology) and the Wood field (named after its proximity to the great wood of the town which was adjacent to it to the north east. Renamed the Clay field by the 17th century- also because of its soil from the underlying Mercia Mudstones).

At the top of the hill (at current day junction with Forest Road) stood the town Gallows- eerily overlooking the town below. A stark reminder of the cost of law breaking!!

Beyond the gallows stretched the vast heather clad Basford Waste, stretching as far as the open fields of Arnold some miles to the north. This open heathland was used by the town to graze pigs and sheep and other livestock. Beyond the waste was the great Royal deer park of Bestwood with its tall wooden fence or pale and its hunting lodge visible on top of a large hill.

To the south the great meadows of the town stretched down to the banks of the Trent. These are reported as being awash with purple crocuses in the 18th century and must have been beautiful at certain times of the year.

The people of the town had the right to graze animals on the meadows in certain seasons.

The town bull was also kept here.

To the west, beyond the oaks and lawns of the castle deer park stood Lenton Priory, visible across the meadows from the River Trent to the south; along with St. Mary’s Church in the English town and the churches of St. Peter and St Nicholas in the French quarter, spiritual guardians of the town. The priory was the greatest stone building in the town. When it was built even the castle itself was still of wooden construction.

Picture: Lentun Habay (Lenton Abbey, Lenton Priory) redrawn by Andy Gaunt from the Belvoir map a late 14th- early 15th century map of Sherwood Forest.

To the east stood the village of Sneinton;  nestled on a sandstone bluff above the floodplain, with it’s hermitage of caves; shrines and dwellings of religious men.

The River Leen flowed eastwards past the foot of castle rock, diverted there to allow access from the Trent to the castle by William Peverel (see Medieval Nottingham Castle and the Honour of Peverel entries for more info). Wharves cluttered the area beneath the rock, where goods were loaded and unloaded for the castle. The Leen then headed south across the meadows towards the river Trent.

The River Trent was crossed by the road to London over the Trent Bridge known at the time as the Hethbeth Bridge.

This bridge was often in need of repair and must have been a wonder to behold with its chantry chapel and all the hustle and bustle of medieval life along its length.

Some remains of the medieval stone bridge are still visible to the south of the current bridge.

The river Trent must have been full of boats with large sales unloading and loading coal, wool, food, ale and luxuries such as spices which formed the economy of the town.

These were all traded either at the daily market at weekday cross in the old English quarter or in the Saturday market in the towns market square.

Nottingham was divided into two parts during the medieval period. The original English town (now the lace market area) and the ‘new’ or ‘French’ town which developed as streets radiating out from the Norman castle built by William Peveril in 1067 to the west of the town.

Between the two sides was the market square which would become the heart of the town over the following centuries.

This town and the landscape of Sherwood Forest form the backdrop to the stories and life of the age…

There's Vikings in the Heather

Nottinghamshire to the north and west of the Trent was chosen as a royal forest for many reasons (see why Sherwood page) one of the reasons was the amount of waste ground or open heath, as well as due to the number of woods.

There were vast areas of heath in the northern part or High Forest area such as around the lordship of Rufford, Kirkby Waste, Kighill Waste and Salterford Waste.

Areas of heath also existed in the southern part known as Thorneywood chase– namely Nottingham Lyngges (now the goose fair site- called the Forest), Basford Lyngges (or Basforde Watse), Radforde Lyngges, Bulwell Lyngges and the large Arnhall (Arnold) Common.

The name Lyngges comes from the old Scandinavian for heather: lyng is Danish for heather, and ljung is the modern Swedish.

Nottinghamshire was part of the Danelaw (the area of northern and eastern England that had Danish or Scandinavian customs – more another time).

This is due to occupation by the Vikings, but recent research into genetics aslo reveals a far longer association stretching back to the repopulation of the islands after the last Ice Age.

The result is that placenames and language in the area are influenced by this cultural link.

The names of streets in Nottingham Bridlesmith gate, Fletcher Gate etc use the Scandinavian word 'Gata' to mean street.

Villages ending in ‘by’ such as Budby, Walesby etc come from the word for farm ‘by’ (still used in Sweden). This is also true of words ending in thorpe such as Gunthorpe.

Slang and vernacular language in the area still contains words lifted straight from Scandinavian languages- such as 'to Flit' to move quickly from the old Norse 'flytja'.

Possibly the most important Scandinavian placename in Medieval Sherwood Forest is Thynghowe… see the Thynghowe- ancient meeting place, and the Vikings of Sherwood Forest entries for more details...

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Timeline of Medieval Kings

A lot of the entries on this blog will by necessity mention the medieval Kings of England by name and number.

To help make this more digestable here is a timeline...

Timeline of the Medieval Kings of England from the Norman Conquest to the Dissolution of the Monasteries:

William I (1066-1087)
William II (1087- 1100)
Henry I (1100-1135)
Stephen (1135-1154)

Henry II (1154-1189)
Richard I (1189-1199)
John (1199-1216)
Henry III (1216-1272)

Edward I (1272-1307)
Edward II (1307-1327)
Edward III (1327-1377)
Richard II (1377-1399)
House of Lancaster:
Henry IV (1399-1413)
Henry V (1413-1422)
Henry VI (1422-1461 & 1470-71)
House of York:
Edward VI (1460-1470 & 1471-1483)
Edward V (9 April 1483 – 26 June 1483)
Richard III (1483-1485)

Henry VII (1485-1509)
Henry VIII (1509-1547)

Coming soon - a 'reduced Shakespeare' style potted history of the Kings of England in 4 parts... starting with the Norman Kings...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The King's Wade

When the boundaries of Sherwood Forest were defined in the early 13th century it was necessary to document these new boundaries (see boundaries page for more information).

This was undertaken by perambulation - literally a walking of the boundaries.

A number of perambulations are recorderd from Medieval Sherwood Forest.

All of these begin in the northeast corner of the forest at a place called Cuningeswath.

This name is old Scandinavian for King's (Cuninges) wade (wath) or ford.

All perambulations from 1218 onwards begin at this ford.

The ford is on the King's road to York, where it fords the river Meden. This ford is overlooked by Bothamsall Castle (see Bothamsall Castle entry)- a conquest Motte and Bailey fortification belonging to the king.

Could this King's ford on the King's Highway overlooked by the King's Caslte have been part of the boundary of the original Norman Forest?

More on hunting for the Norman Forest, the King's castle at Bothamsall, and the medieval forest perambulations to come soon...

The outlaw Roger Godberg

As well as the legend of Robin Hood...

Medieval Sherwood Forest had its own recorded outlaw at large, Roger Godberg.

Outlawed for his involvement in the 2nd Barons’ War (Simon De Montfort against Henry III 1264-1267).

Roger Godberg fled to Sherwood Forest.

Roger de Leyburn, the lieutenant of Reginald de Grey, the king’s Constable at Nottingham castle fought 2 engagements with him and his followers… 

One in the heart of Sherwood Forest!

In 1270 they were still at large:

‘through outlaws, robbers, thieves and malefactors, mounted, or on foot, wandering by day and by night, in the counties of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby, so many and great homicides were done that no one with a small company could pass through most parts without being taken and killed or spoiled of his goods…’

A price was put on their heads:

Henry III ordered that a sum of a hundred marks be levied from the three counties and paid to Reginald de Grey to hunt them down.

They were eventually captured and Roger was sent to the castle at Bruges- probably a more terrible punishment than it sounds...

For more on outlaws and villains, see the outlaws page...more outlaws and crime to come soon...

Monday, 5 September 2011

Medieval Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle dominated the town of Nottingham and Sherwood Forest throughout the medieval period.

The orignal castle was built by William Peveril on the orders of William the Conqueror in 1067.

The castle guarded the point where the King's Road to York crossed the River Trent.

The River Trent marked the boundary between the north and south of England.

The original castle was a Motte and Bailey built of earth and timber.

It is possible that some of the walls were built of stone in the reign of Henry I (1100-1135), by the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) the castle had undergone a major rebuild with many rooms being added- the castle was now a royal palace alongside Winchester and Windsor.

It was Henry II who also started work on the Royal hunting palace at Clipstone. 

Picture: Nottingham Castle from John Speeds map of Nottingham 1610

The original builder of the castle William Peveril also founded Lenton Priory which would go on to be the richest in Nottinghamshire and Sherwood Forest.

The castle dominated the skyline of the medieval town- built on a high, vertical-sided outcrop of sandstone.

This near impregnable fortress would form the basis for control of the region and was considered the gateway to the north. 

More about Nottingham Castle, its history, some famous incidents in its lifetime and its many keepers, wardens and sheriffs soon...