Chapter V.

The Edwardian period and end of the Plantagenet Line, Part 2. 1272—1399.

Edward the Third became King in 1327, and his regnal years commence on 25th of January, so that they all but co-equal with the ordinary year —the first year of a double date being the one which may be commonly accepted.

1327-8.—The King in this, his first year, granted Letters patent for the Chantry within the Manor of Clipstone.

The same year Edward appointed Robert de Clipstone—probably a native of the place—Keeper of the Pale of Clipstone in Sherwood, with appurtenances, to hold during pleasure, &c. That he did please the King seems probable, judging by his promotion in the year following.

Clipstone Park as depicted on a map of Sherwood Forest dating from the 14th century.
Clipstone Park as depicted on a map of Sherwood Forest dating from the 14th century.

The same year John de Crumbwell, Warden of the forests north of Trent, was directed to recompense the Men and Tenants of the Vill of Kings' Clipstone, for the losses they sustained by the inclosure which our Lord Edward, late King of England, made in the ancient wood called Clipstone Park, in Clipstone Dam, and in certain other places in the Forest. The aforesaid Men and Tenants were to have Common of Pasture for all kinds of cattle and flocks—goats only excepted— in the King's Hay of Birkland; also, by the King's will, they may have Fugeria and Folia in Clipstone Park,—rendering annually to the King for the same Fugeria and Folia, 13s. 4d.

The Men and Tenants alluded to are called, by Thoroton, Hunters or Huntsmen. Christopher Thompson, it may be added, in his autobiography, 1847, says that at Edwinstowe "the very houses still remain where the King's huntsmen trained up the hounds which chased the sleek deer in Birkland." Whether Thoroton is mistaken on this occasion, or whether the terms are here synonymous, must at present remain an open question. There is scarcely room to doubt, however, that the grant was made to the inhabitants. What the precise rights were which they had previously enjoyed, and whether they included the fishing of the Dam, unfortunately does not appear.

The privilege of Fugeria and Folia—which Thoroton says is called by one Forest Book Gorstegrasse and Lease—is probably an old legal term with a fixed significance, though I have failed as yet to meet with an explanation of it. Most probably it means firewood and leaves; with which, however, Thoroton's form, presumably intended as the English equivalent, seems scarcely to agree. "Gos" being the Anglo-Saxon for goose, the first word might be goose-grass: a creeping plant on which geese are accustomed to feed. But more probably it signifies gorse, possibly used as a fuel, which was known among the Anglo-Saxons as "gorst" or "gost," and which has "grast" as its equivalent in the Old High German, so that, if this is its meaning, the second syllable is a repetition of the first. The last word, as has been said, probably means leaves, though Thoroton's word lease, it may be mentioned, occurs in obsolete or provincial English as signifying a pasture or a common.

No doubt this right, as well as the Eight of Common in Birkland, have long since lapsed, though we do not know when. Probably they would be little respected by the new owners of the soil, after it had left the Crown. The exercise of the latter privilege, of course, depended on the annual payment being kept up, under which condition it might have been upheld until to-day, and for ever—all such rights preventing the owners of the soil from building on it, or altering its character in any way to the prejudice of the commoners. It has been said by an authority, I believe, that when a public or private right has been distincly set down in writing, which can be proved and produced, no amount of unlawful user or lapse of time nullifies it. Nevertheless, though the moral right may exist, poor people would probably be unsuccessful in any attempt to establish the legal one.

1327.—Edward, like his father and predecessor, was at Clipstone in the first year of his reign, whence he dated the following:—

28th November.—King of England requests Charles King of France to do justice to William de Eydale, an English merchant, whose woad was arrested at Amiens.

28th November.—Safe Conduct for Bartholomew de Burghersh, Constable of Dover Castle, and William de Clynton, who was to accompany William Count de Hainault and his daughter Phillipa into England.

29th November.—King asks the Pope to confirm the decision of the dispute between the Archbishop of York and the Dean and Chapter, about the right of visitation.

1328-9.—The King, for good service, &c., granted to Robert de Clipstone, the custody of the Manor and Park of Clipstone, with its appurtenances, to hold so long as he should well and faithfully perform his office. He was to answer to the Exchequer for the issues, and keep the Manor in repair at the King's cost, and the Park Pale at his own, receiving for the reparation of the said Pale, timber of the dry wood there, and taking every day for himself, the Parkers, and makers of the said Pale, 7d.

1328.—Edward paid another visit in August this year, dispatching the following:

25th August.—King presents Geoffry de Cotes to the church of Fishlake, during a voidance of the Prior of Lewes.

30th August.—The Sheriffs of London are to provide 120 targets, painted with the King's arms, and 120 crossbows, to be sent to John de Roches, Custos of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, and Sark, for the defence of the said islands.

30th August.—King orders John de Roches, above-mentioned, to compel all bishops and others of Normandy who hold land in Guernsey, &c., to perform their homage and service.

30th August.—King orders the same John de Roches to complete the Castle at Girburgh in Guernsey.

1329-30.—A mandate was dispatched to the Sheriff, this year, of which the following is a translation:—Intelligence is brought to us that the great Gate and Sluice of our Mill of Clipstone, at the head of our great Dam there, are very weak and ruinous, and that the bursting of that Dam and loss of our fish therein is to be feared, except the same Gate and Sluice are repaired and amended. You are commanded, therefore, to repair and amend the same, for which ten marks will suffice.

1330-1.—Edward again, this year, issued Letters Patent for the Chantry in the Chapel within the Manor of Clipstone.

1331.—Edward made another call this year, and on 13th August wrote from Clipstone to four Cardinals, on behalf of Simon Archbishop of Canterbury.

During this reign, the particular year being uncertain, John de Sutton, of Warsop, presented a petition to Parliament which, from the reference to the King's father, may doubtless be placed well within the first ten years of this reign. As it is brief and explains itself, a translation in full of the petition, and the response to it, is appended:—

To our Lord the King and to his Council, showeth John de Sutton, Knight, that whereas he holds the Manor of Warsop of our Lord the King in Chief, and that the King has, during the last ten years, made an inclosure of his wood of Warsop, thus depriving the Manor of forty acres of soil, and holds it inclosed within, as part of, his Park of Clipstone,—to his great disinheritance, and to the impoverishment of his tenants, who ought to have Commonage there.

Answer: Let there be a writ sent to the Justice of the Forest, to make inquiry of the articles alleged in this petition, and of all other necessary matters, &c. Also let the records of the late King, our father, be searched, to see if something may not be found to stay John's action; the inquiry and certification to be returned into Chancery,—the King himself advises this.

Unfortunately we have no information as to the result of the inquiry. We do not even know if the petitioner recovered his forty acres of wood, or whether they remained in the Park. The King would probably use every endeavour to retain the land, as evinced by the above illustration of his personal interest in the matter.

1335.—Edward once more visited Clipstone this year, and dated from here the following writs :—

9th April.—William Archbishop of York is directed to permit the cross to be carried in the province of York before the Archbishop of Canterbury, on his way to the Parliament at York.

22nd April.—Safe conduct for John de Floto and Thomas of Bologna, Nuncios from the Pope Benedict XII., coming to England and Ireland.

24th April.—King orders the Sheriffs of Notts, and Yorkshire te protect the Archbishop of Canterbury (bearing his cross) on his journey to the Parliament summoned to York, on the morrow of Ascension Day.

1336-7.—The Jury, this year, said that Peter Witheberd, of Kings' Clipstone, had a messuage and one bovate and a half in Kings' Clipstone, by the service of 2s. 6d. per annum, according to the custom of the Manor of Kings' Clipstone, of the ancient demesne of the Crown, and William Witheberd was his son and heir, and above thirty years old.

A bovate was as much land as an ox, or pair of oxen, could till in a year, estimated at from thirteen to eighteen acres, but probably indefinite. The above passage seems to point to contemporary customs, both local and pertaining to the law of ancient demense. A copy or an account of the customs of the Manor would be of paramount interest. Surprisingly few old towns, however, have succeeded in preserving copies of their customs to the present day, and Clipstone, probably, is not more fortunate.

1339-40.—The King, for good service, &c., granted to his valet, Robert de Maule, the custody of his Manor and Park of Clipstone in Sherwood.

The same year an inquisition resulted in the report that Henry de Wytheton, chaplain, within the Manor of Clipstone, had by Letters Patent of the King, for his sustenance, five marks per annum, receiving it from the issues of the Manor aforesaid.

1345.—Edward was here again towards the end of this year, for on 10th December he directed hence a writ to his Treasurer, to deliver 51,000 florins to Peter Gretheved, for rewards to the Earls of Lancaster and Pembroke, and to Walter de Manny.

1350.—Edward was yet again at Clipstone this year, and under date 20th September, he granted hence a License of Mortmain to the Hospital of St, John the Baptist, Nottingham.

This, though it may not have been the last visit of Edward III., is the latest I have met with —as also, indeed, the last visit of any English monarch. Why Clipstone did not continue in favour with subsequent sovereigns we are at a loss to imagine, unless it was because they never became acquainted with it. The Manor, however, would have continued to have been of use, had it been retained and kept in repair, for subsequent monarchs frequently hunted in Sherwood Forest, lodging commonly at the houses of the nobility and others, in and around the Forest. James I. and his son Charles, while enjoying the pleasures of the chase, were often entertained at Rufford Abbey. The former, in the first year of his reign, complained that he had no royal residence near Sherwood Forest, and made overtures—unsuccessfully—with the object of acquiring the archie-piscopal palaces of Southwell and Scrooby.

1355-6.—Robert Rotor or Rotour was appointed Chaplain, this year, at the henceforth, apparently, fixed annual stipend of one hundred shillings.

1358-9.—The King, for good service, &c., granted to Richard de la Vache, the office of Seneschal or Steward of Sherwood Forest, and the custody of the Manor and Meadow of Clipstone, and of the Hays of Bestwood, Bilhagh, and Birkland, with appurtenances, to have for his whole life, receiving yearly, £10 12s. 11d.

The same year the King assigned Robert Rotor —described as 'clericus' or clerk, one in holy orders—to repair (or oversee the repairs of) the defects of the manor of Clipstone.

This was he who had been appointed Chaplain three years before. It may appear strange to us that a priest should be employed in an occupation of such a secular character, but that the practise was widely prevalent at this period we have ample evidence.

1362-3.—This year Richard le Vache, or de la Vache, received Letters Patent of the offices to which he had been appointed four years previously. The place of the term Meadow of Clipstone, in the original grant, is occupied by Park in the Patent, which seems to show that the phrases were synonymous.

1363-4.—This year, in the calendar of Charter Rolls, occurs as No. 7, CLIPSTONE IN SHERWOOD. We know nothing further of this charter or of its character, but if it was granted to the Men and Tenants, as those of towns were granted to the burgesses, it is possible that privileges of an important character were conferred, such as the grant of their own vill at fee-ferm after the manner of a borough. Perhaps this supposition is an entirly erroneous one, but divers references seem to support it.

1366-7.—Letters Patent were issued for Robert de Moreton, as Keeper of the Forest of Sherwood, and the Parks of Clipstone and Bestwood, and the Lodge in the Park of Bestwood, for life, with fees, &c.

1372-3.—The King granted to his Shieldbearer (scutifero) Nicholas Dabrichecourt, the custody of the Castle of Nottingham. On the same occasion, by another grant, he received the custody of the Forest of Sherwood, the Parks of Clipstone and Bestwood, the Manor of Clipstone, and the Lodge of Bestwood, during the King's pleasure; receiving per annum for the custody aforesaid, as wages, all fees paid for Expeditation of dogs and for Chiminage within the Forest,— also he might take as much dry wood for fuel as he may need.

Chiminage, or Chiminagium, was toll paid for passing through a forest, with carts or horses loaded. With regard to Expeditation, by the Forest Laws, persons dwelling within a forest were not allowed to keep greyhounds except by royal grant. Spaniels also seem to have been included in this ban, but little dogs might be kept. The intention was to exclude all dogs that might interfere with the venison, but, as it was found impracticable to forbid the keeping of house-dogs within the forest, residents were allowed to keep mastiffs on condition that they were so maimed that they could not chase the deer. This was effected by the operation known as Expeditation, which consisted in cutting off the three claws of the fore-foot. The keeping of dogs unlawed or inexpeditated was punishable by an americament or fine of three shillings, known as 'footgeld.'

1375-6.—William de Elmeley, 'clericus,' set over the works, which had been ordained, at Not

tingham Castle, Bestwood Lodge, and Clipstone Manor.

1376.—William Witheberd—probably the son and heir of Peter, as mentioned in 1336-7—held one bovate in Clipstone. This note, in default of access to the original publication, is taken from Curtis's Notts.

1376-7.—Letters Patent issued for Nicholas Danbridgecourt—doubtless he of four year previously—of the offices to which he was then appointed.

Richard II commenced to reign on 22nd June, 1377.

1382-3.—John Davy, Chaplain in the Chantry of Clipstone.

1383-4.—William Witheberd, son and heir of William (doubtless he of 1376), was found to have contravened the laws under which he held his land, having aliened a bovate and two messuages to John Wytheberd his brother, without the King's license, which John did no service.

1391-2.—An inquisition having been held to inquire whether the Manor and Vill were ancient demesne of the Crown, the jury reported that the Vill of Clipstone, in several parcels of accounts of collectors of fifteenths, &c., appeared ever to have been taxed among the boroughs and demesnes of the King. Though this verdict was a true one so far as it went, Clipstone would never have been recognised as ancient demesne in a court of law. For though it appears, in some way, to have assumed that reputation, yet it is not mentioned as land of the King in Domesday Book—the condition which alone decides ancient demesne.