Saturday, 24 December 2011

Poaching in Clipstone Park in 1279

The Sherwood Forest Eyre Court of 1287 tells of an offence committed in Sherwood Forest in 1279 'on the Friday next before Ascension Day in the seventh year of the reign of King Edward...'

'It is presented by Adam D'Everingham (hereditary keeper of Sherwood Forest) that Alan of Leverton, clericus foreste de Schirewod (the clerk of Sherwood Forest) with Robillard his page took a doe in the park of Clipston(e)... with a laparario ruffo (red greyhound)...'

The doe was eaten by the pigs in the park because it was taken so late at night it was too dark to find it!!! 

A common problem presumably for illicit poachers!

Following his crime which along with killing the king's deer, must have included failing to 'hamble' his hound (see Forest Law page) Alan was brought before the justices and sent to prison...

Maybe he spent time under the custody of 'William the Gaoler' who was one of the gaolers at Nottingham Castle around that time (see Rufford Charters entry)?

Maybe not though as he wasn't in gaol for too long receiving a ransom of half a mark sometime after...

His page Robillard did not show up and appears to have gone on the run

He was then exacted (his belongings seized- usually before outlawing)...

The interesting fact here is that these men were not peasants struggling for food in the forest to avoid starvation. Many of the people caught poaching (see Forest Law outlaws entry) or caught chopping down trees (see 1334 Sherwood Forest Eyre Court entry) were ordinary folk.

In this instance they were members of the Forest Administration itself! They were in the employment of the keeper of the Forest Adam D'Everingham. 

Understanding their motives is a little harder.

Even harder still is to understand the motives of Robert D'Everingham - son of Adam D'Everingham who within a few years of receiving the keepership of Sherwood Forest from his father, was stripped of his position and himself imprisoned within ten years of this incident...

... for poaching the King's deer!

The entry does at least show us that Forest Law affected people at all levels of society. The fact that people were willing to infringe upon these laws despite the risks, shows us the allure of hunting and poaching to people in medieval Sherwood Forest.

No wonder Robin Hood and his flouting of the Forest Law by living and feasting on the kings deer, was such a popular figure for ballad singers and story tellers around the fireside's of Medieval England.

(more on the keepers of Sherwood Forest, the Women Keepers of Sherwood Forest, deer hunting, poaching, and the courts of the Forest soon).


  1. Very interesting Andy. I am now a regular visitor!!

  2. Thanks Clement- glad you find it interesting- plenty more to come!!

  3. Superb article, being a medieval poacher (living history) I find there is not enough information out there on this fascinating subject. Well done.