A History of Sherwood 3

Maud de Caux died in 1223, and as the office had been made hereditary by the charter of John (earl of Morton) she was succeeded as chief forester-of-fee by her son John de Birkin. In 1231 this hereditary office came to Robert de Everingham , in right of his wife Isabel, daughter and heiress of Thomas de Birkin. Adam de Everingham was chief forester at the beginning of Edward I’s reign, and he was succeeded by his son Robert, who soon after his accession, incurred the king’s wrath- the office was forfeited by the crown. It is clear from the Close Rolls of 1286 that the offence which brought down Robert de Everingham, was the abuse of his position as guardian of the king’s deer. In November of that year the crown intervened to release Robert de Everingham, John de Everingham, and nine others from Nottingham goal for venison trespass in Sherwood; bail was accepted from twelve sureties, who were bound to produce the offenders at the next eyre. (1) After this the position of chief forester or keeper (custos) of Sherwood was granted by the crown to various persons of high position as a mark of royal favour.

The forest pleas for Sherwood were held at Nottingham in July, 1251, before Geoffrey Langley, forest justice, when the duties as well as the privileges of Robert de Everingham as keeper were defined. It was reported that there were within the forest three keepings: the first between the streams of the Leen and Dover Beck, the second the High Forest, and the third Rumewood. The chief keeper was bound to have a sworn chief servant, who was to go through all the forest at his own cost, to attach transgressors, and to present them before the verderers at the attachment courts. In the first keeping the chief keeper was to find a riding forester with a servant, two foot foresters, two verderers, and two agisters; in this keeping there were three parks or hays, namely, Bestwood, Linby, and Welby. In the second keeping there were to be two riding foresters with their servants, two foot-foresters, two verderers, and two agisters; the hays of Birkland, with Bilhagh and Clipston, were in this keeping, and to them pertained two other verderers as well as two agisters. The third keeping of Rumewood had a foot-forester, two verderers, and two agisters; and also two woodwards, one for Carburton , and one for Budby. It was also declared that Robert de Everingham ought to provide a servant, bearing his bow (2) to gather cheminage of wayleave through the forest. In the forest pleas of Sherwood held in 1267, several hundred vert offenders were brought before the court. The heaviest presentment was that against the abbot of Rufford for having felled 483 oaks for building purposes since the last eyre; however the abbot was able to plead successfully a charter of Henry II in justification of his action. (3) An example of the rebellious conduct of the forest tenants of Sherwood against the officials who guarded the king’s game occurred in 1276. On 3 July John de Lasceles, steward (senescallus) of the forest, caught two men, Robert Martham and Robert Afferton, with bows and arrows, and took them to Blidworth, intending to keep them until the next day, when they were probably going to be delivered to the sheriff at Nottingham Castle. However during the night twenty men, armed with swords and bows and arrows, broke open the doors of the place where they were held, and released the prisoners and beat Gilbert, a young servant of the steward. The men then proceeded to the residence of the steward where they insulted him and broke down his doors and windows. When an inquest was held by the verderers, regarders, and other ministers of the forest, it was found that two or three of the malefactors had fled into Yorkshire, and one was dead, but sixteen names are recorded. (4)

1. Close, 14 Edw. I, m I.

2. This was the officer who later became known as the Bow-bearer or Ranger.

3. Exch. Misc. Bk. lxxvi.

4. Exch. Misc. Bk. lxxvi, f. 55b.