The Wood. The Wood of Bulwell Ground, or Bulwell Ryse, although detached from Sherwood Forest was a parcel of it, called a Hay, and in 1200-1300 was part of the king's Wood and Waste. In 1259 Edward I. demised eighty acres on the west side of the wood to Philip Willoughby, a cleric, who was authorised to enclose it with hedge and ditch, he paying to the Crown 26s. 8d. yearly. Forty acres more was demised to Thomas de Rydewalle, he paying 13s. 4d. per annum, or 4d. per acre, and the herbage of the rest the township of Bulwell had for 5s. a year. This part of the forest was extra-parochial—not in any parish—and paid no tithes. The first estate was sold to William de Cossall, a priest, who determined to make the best of both worlds, for in 1334 he gave all his extensive property to Newstead Priory for his soul to be prayed for, and for priests to be provided for Cossall, but he was to have the benefit of part of the property for forty years, if he lived so long.
Thomas de Rydewalle's grandson brought an action in 1327, for apparently the Prior had exercised rights over both estates, and the men of Bulwell had used the land for pasture, whereupon the Commissioners of the Forest, in 1329, came in great state to Bulwell Ryse, with "all the regarders (officers) of the Forest, and the whole town of Bullwell, and many strangers on either part," to see the measurement, which was according to the Forest scale of "21 foot to the perch, the Forest foot being 18 inches long." For 200 years Bulwell Wood continued to belong to Newstead Priory, but when the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII, it was sold in 1537 to Sir John Byron, and in 1677, Thoroton says, "It is now imparked, and in it is the Mansion House of the Hon. Wm. Byron."
The Byron's attached it to their Hucknall estate.
Sherwood Forest. A perambulation of the Forest of Sherwode was made in 1538, in the 30th year of Henry VIII., in the record, styled, among other titles, "on earth supreme head of the English Church." The course was "ascending by the said Water of Leene as far as the bounds of the lord the King's vill of Bulwell, and so about the lord the King's bush of Bulwell, as far as the said water of Leen, and so ascending along the said water as far as the mill of Lyndebie, as far as the cross in the same place, and thence from the said cross along the great road which leads to the ancient castle of Annesleye," etc. The word "bush" anciently meant "a wild forest."
The Commissioners of Woods and Forests appear, according to a report of 31st December, 1851, to have awoke to the fact that while they had been asleep in protecting the rights of the crown to the land of Sherwood Forest as being crown property, adjoining owners had gradually encroached, and many parishes had been enclosed, with or without Acts of Parliament, without any allotment having been made to the Crown as an equivalent for the rights which it possessed, but had not exercised, and the only interest which the Crown then possessed over the waste, consisted in a right to keep deer, without stint, with the usual privileges of range, haunt, herbage, covert, and layer for the deer, but even this had become doubtful, for no deer had for many years been kept in these wastes. There was, however, eighty acres of land in Bulwell, within Sherwood Forest, probably Bulwell Wood, which the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, in 1792, appointed Mr. John Renshaw to value, and he reported that the then annual value was 5/- per acre, but if inclosed it would be of the value of 18/- per acre, per annum.
Charles I. In the archives of the Nottingham Corporation there is a deed, written in Latin, and in a most beautiful handwriting, dated the 20th February, 1638, which is a grant from the King, Charles I., to Edward Ayscough, armiger (that is, esquire) of his "Maner of Bullwell' and "the parcels of land commonly known as Bullwell Moore, alias Bullwell Rise." An enormous initial "C," with which the deed commences, forms the frame of a finely-executed pen and ink sketch of the portrait of the King, having the crown on his head, the sceptre in his right hand, and the orb in his left. The other initials are beautifully traced, and enriched with floral designs, and the document is further ornamented by a border of floral decorations, with the heraldic rose of England, the lion and unicorn, and the fleur-de-lis of France. The Great Seal is attached, bearing on the one side a representation of the King on horseback, and on the reverse the King sitting on a throne. Must we make the confession that no penman in Bulwell to-day could with a pen make a specimen at all equal to that deed? Business men actually declare that the hand-writing of boys now leaving school in other parts of Nottingham is generally very defective.
It will interest some people to know that Edward Ayscough, of Hempshill, was of the same family line as Ann Askew, or Ayscough, the martyr. (See Thoroton's table, "Nuthall," 253).
If the grant of the Manor by the King carried with it the rights over the King's forest and waste, and the lord of the Manor acted along with the men of Bulwell in using this in a corporate capacity, they controlled the cultivation of the strips of land in Bulwell Fields—that is the open fields between the Church and Basford boundary—as well as in other parts of the parish, and further controlled the pasturing of cattle on the Forest, and restricted it to persons owning toftstead houses, that is houses having crofts, and forest pasture rights, then we can understand the following words of Thoroton in 1677:—
"The Forest Book mentions Snapefield, within the Cattel of Bullwell and Hempshell were wont to pasture, in which some old essarts (enclosures) were made to belong to the Town of Bullwell. It is got to be a kind of Corporation, having the Perquisites of their own Courts, and the appointment of their own Stewards, and still pay their £7 per annum, and keep themselves copy-holders to preserve their customs and commons on the Forest as is thought."
The description is involved, but includes united action by the lord of the Manor and the copyholders.
The field, called Snapefield, may reasonably be supposed to refer to land in the direction of what is now called Snape Wood.
About 1282 John le Charer and Richard Morell held Bolewell, part of which was within the bounds of Sherwood' Forest. This may refer to Bulwell Wood, or to the Forest east of the Leen.
The Court Leet. A local Court of great antiquity still survives at Bulwell, called "The View of Frankpledge, Court Leet, and Great Court Baron," of the lord of the Manor, which lordship is now vested in Sir Edward Fraser and Sir John T. McCraith, being the nominees of the Corporation of Nottingham. Mr. Arthur Browne, as Steward of the Manor for the last twenty-three years, has the custody of the Records, which date from 1723, the earlier part being in Latin, and older records having been lost.
The old form of Proclamation, which has come down from Norman times, is still continued. "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" French, "Hear ye!" and was called at the door of the "Red Lion Inn," and now at the door of Bulwell Hall, where all persons who have any business or service, are bidden to come forward. Anciently this would be accompanied by a great crowd, with men armed with spear and sword, and horsed ready for service, for all males from twelve years old to sixty (except persons belonging to what were called religious orders) were bound to do service at this Court, and the oath of allegiance was administered to all persons over twelve.
Courts Leet anciently had criminal jurisdiction, and then riots, routs, and unlawful assemblies were punishable by them. "The Court Keepers' Guide for the Keeping of Courts Leet and Courts Baron," by William Sheppard, Esqe., seventh edition, 1685, certified and approved by the public censor, directs as to "Evil members, and persons of ill behaviour to their Neighbours as Malefactors in Parks, such as take Doves by Engines, such as are common suspected Thieves, or that are the common messengers of Thieves, the common Drunkards, the common haunters of Alehowses or Taverns, not having whereon to live, Night walkers and Day sleepers, that live idlely, have no Estate and yet fare well, Evedroppers, common Hedge-breakers, common Peace-breakers, Raylers and sowers of discord between Neighbours, keepers or haunters of Baudy-houses, common Scolds, common Barretors (cheats), common Usurers. Innkeepers who do commonly entertain Thieves and suspicious persons, knowing or suspecting them to be so, and such as do remove bounds or Landmarks between Parishes, Hundreds, or Counties, but not such as remove bounds between persons onely."
In the early days cases of serious wrong were brought before the Court Leet, and if the jury so decided, were presented to the Sheriff, to be dealt with by an official accusation, and punished according to law by the Judges. Small matters, however, were dealt witb locally, and doubtless the jury regulated the rotation of crops, which later on included turnips and clover, the impounding of cattle, keeping off crows, the number of sheep, and sub-letting of cows' grazing, the town bull, and boar. Owners of swine not rung were amerced (fined) 6d. Henry Richards must brush his hedge, or forfeit 6/-. Thomas Wesson must cleanse the House of Office adjoining his house, or pay 2/6. Fogringle, or Progwrinkle dyke must be well scoured and cleansed within one month, and in default 6d. per yard must be paid for every yard not done. For the enlargement of a dyke 2/-was ordered to be paid, and 2d. for various encroachments. John Henson, of Bescoat, for taking a load of surface on the Forest, was fined 5/-. Joseph Walker, for the land on the Forest on which the windmill stood, paid 2/- a year.
Court Baron. The Court Baron is the Court of the Lord of the Manor, and his Steward presided, and dealt with matters affecting the estate, and formerly the proving of wills, but this power is abolished. The land in Bulwell was chiefly copyhold, but much of it has been enfranchised, and so become freehold. When a Court is held twelve or thirteen Jurymen are sworn. If a man wants to sell his copyhold land, that is termed a surrender, instead of a conveyance, and an admittance, and the transfer is effected by the delivery of a rod from the vendor to the Steward, and then from the Steward to the purchaser, and an entry made on the roll, or books of the Court, and a copy of the entry on the book is given, hence the term "Copyhold," or held by a copy of the Court roll.
This, however, does not carry the minerals, which belong to the lord of the manor, but as he cannot go on to the land to get them without the consent of the copyholder, it is customary for half the value of, say, £100 an acre, to be divided between the lord of the manor and the copyholder. If the land is made freehold—enfranchised—an enfranchisement fine has to be paid to the lord of the manor.
Some of the offences the Jury in a Court Baron had anciently to enquire into were very quaint. They had to ascertain:—
"If any Tenant take away his (the lord's) Hawks, Woods, Fish, Fowl, or take any swarm of Bees, Swan's eggs, Partridge or Pheasant's eggs, Hawk or Hunt in his Manor, or doe him any other trespass in his Manor without leave of the Lord." Another was:—"If any Tenant ought to grind at the Lord's mill, and do not."
The local courts gradually lost their importance, and criminal jurisdiction. In Queen Elizabeth's time it may be said the Nottingham Quarter Sessions of Magistrates apparently became superior to the local courts, or assumed to be so, for they overruled the directions given by the local courts, and gave orders as to what such courts must do.
Felons. "The Bulwell Association for the Prosecution of Felons" is an old and interesting society. It was formed in 1812, and has an annual subscription dinner, Mr. J. G. Martin being the Clerk. It offers rewards in connection with offences upon the property, or persons of members, which are curious: thus, for information on conviction for "Incendiarism, murder, burglary, or highway robbery," £10 10s. 0d.; "Horse, beast, or sheep stealing, or malicious injury thereto," £8 8s. 0d; "Larceny, etc.," £5 5s. 0d.; "Malicious damage," £2 2s. 0d. Constables and members are excluded from sharing the rewards.
The Stocks. The Stocks stood in the Market Place, but old people have said that they remembered them standing by the side of the ford, east of the Leen, before the bridge was built, the ford being a little below the bridge. It is said that although the use of the stocks has become obsolete, some offences are still punishable by the offenders being placed in the stocks. Tradition says that Bob Piggin, a wheelwright, made the last stocks, about 1825. and was their first occupant.