With regard to the making of a forest, in its legal sense, Manwood tells us that "the king sends out his commission, under the great seal of England, directed to certain discreet persons, for the view, perambulation, meting and bounding of the place he mindeth to be a forest, which being returned into the chancery, proclamation is made throughout all the shire where the ground lieth, that none shall hunt or chase any manner of wild beasts in that precinct, without the king's special licence; after which he appointeth ordinances, laws, and officers fit for the preservation of the vert and venison; and so it becometh a forest by matter of record."

Boun, in Thoroton, 1677, says, "The Forest of Shirewood extends itself into the Hundreds of Broxtow, Thurgarton a Lee, and Bassetlawe. When this Forest of Shirewood was first made I find not; the first mention of it that I do find is in Henry the second's time, but I conceive it a forest before, for William Peverell in the first year of Henry the second [which is mistaken for the fifth year of King Stephen] doth answer de Placitis Forestae in this County."

Fortunately the period of the legal creation of Sherwood Forest has been recorded for us, at the head of the earliest known perambulation, where we are told that it was afforested by Henry II. Thoroton, quoting from the Register of Newstead in his fourth paragraph under Oxton, speaks of "the great perambulation of King H.2.," wherein he is followed by Dickinson the Southwell historian. It is evident however that this was a misprint for Henry III.

The earliest known seems to be that of 1227, before H. de Nevill, Justice, which is printed in the published Close Rolls. This Hugh de Nevill was constituted principal Warden of all the king's forests throughout England, as also Chief Justice of those forests in 8.H.III. [1223-4]. In the following year, 9.H.III., he was sent with Brien de Lisle to view the king's forests, and to see what ought to be de-afforested by the oaths of twelve knights in every county. In 13.H.III., 1228-9, he had a grant from the king, for his life, to hunt and to take the hare, fox and cat, throughout all the forests of England. We do not know the year of his death but he was succeeded by John de Nevill, his son and heir, who was also made Justice of all the forests throughout England in 19.H.III., 1234-5 (Dugdale's Baronage). At the end of the appendix to the fourth volume of the Nottingham Borough Records, the editor gives us the following information in a footnote, while alluding to the walk of 1227." In this perambulation the eastern boundary of the Forest proceeds from Rufford along the highway to Nottingham, by Stoney Street to the Trent Bridges, thus excluding from the forest the district between this line and the Doverbeck, which is the eastern boundary of the later perambulations. But there seems to have been another perambulation in which this district was included, for the King wrote to the Sheriff of Nottingham, on February 9, 1227, stating that the knights who had made the perambulations of the parts of the Forest that ought to be disafforested and those that ought to remain forest had acknowledged that they had transgressed between the Doverbeck and the Leen, because they were not certain as to the boundaries; and a fresh perambulation is ordered to be made." Professor Stubbs considers this was only a device of Henry's for raising money, but the permanent character of the Leen and Doverbeok bounds in all later instances seems to refute that idea.

Thoroton gives a perambulation of 16.H.III., or the year 1231-2, adding "And although there were some deafforestations after, yet were they resumed, so as the old Perambulation stands at this day without any remarkable alteration."

Deering, in his appendix, gives a full and complete version of what was probably the same, in a charter dated 15 July, 1232. We are not given the date of the walk itself, but it seems also to belong to this regnal year, during which the king disafforested part of Nottinghamshire by commission. An idea of the previous extent of the Forest is gained from the statement in this charter "that that part of Nottinghamshire which is called the Clay, and an other parcel which is called Hatfield . . . . . . be disafforested.'

From the fact, mentioned in the preamble, that the walk was made by Hugh Nevil and Bryan of the Yle and others, Hugh Nevil being then justice, I think we may safely conclude that this was the fresh perambulation ordered by Henry III., and thus it stood in its corrected form,—the "great perambulation" of Thoroton. The circumstance that all the forests in the country had to be attended to in like manner by the same persons is quite sufficient to account for a year or two's delay.

The above is followed in Deering by another one made on 26 August, 21.H.7., or 1505. It is in the original Latin, and though much fuller than the preceding one, never seems to have been translated.

The same author follows this by the preamble of another one, made 9 Sep. 35. H. VIII., or 1543, "beginning as aforesaid, proceeding as aforesaid, and ending as aforesaid."

Throsby, 1797, prints "A Perambulacion of the fforest of Sheerewood made the nineth day of September in the Thirtyeth year of the Reigne of King Henry the Eighth,'" (1538). This is reprinted by Bailey. It should be noted that the preceding one bears the same date with the exception that it is five years later. The former also was written in Latin, while the latter was in English. It is possible, nevertheless, that they are each records of the same walk as they occur so close together in point of time. Deering, whose regnal year is printed in Roman figures, may have got wrong. Throsby's date seems to be right as I have another reference to a walk of that year, which will be given later.

To complete the list of all the printed perambulations I am acquainted with, I must here mention one without a date which is printed in the fourth volume of the Nottingham Borough Records, from the manuscript copy, which is written in an early 17th century hand. This has been annotated by the editor, compared with the previously printed perambulations, and a number of the old place-names run to earth, in a manner highly creditable to that gentleman and most useful to the student. In fact, it forms the first attempt to make the old bounds intelligible to the modern reader.

In looking through different local publications, we find some of them refer to divers perambulations of Sherwood Forest. Major Booke, 1799, mentions that of 14, Charles II.

We glean some interesting notes from Dickinson's History of Southwell, 1801. He says, (p. 157), "The town of Oxton was anciently within the limits of the Forest of Sherewood; but, at the great perambulation, in the reign of Henry II., was left out . . . . . .

The limits of this forest are exactly described in a perambulation made by the order of King Edward I., in the 29th year of his reign, [1300-1], vid. Regist. Alb. In the time of the preceding king a considerable part of the Forest of Shirewood had been disafforested. In consequence of this alteration in the metes and bounds, frequent perambulations became necessary, to ascertain the new limits with precision. Many of these are still to be met with in the public repositories of the neighbouring towns, whose interests were affected by the change; and many more in the hands of private persons. An early one, from the Registrum Album, will be found in the Appendix, because, I believe, till I had occasion to examine that book, it was not known to be a part of the contents, and, therefore, has never before been made public, Vid. App. No. 13. As the introduction of the town of Oxton, and the doubt respecting: its right of common on Shirewood, induced the mention of this early perambulation of the forest, it may not be deemed irrelevant, if this opportunity be seized of referring to another, more modern perambulation, which, though of a much later date, boasts an antiquity that entitles it to be rescued from that annihilation, to which all such records are too subject, circumstanced as this is, in the hands of private persons. It has been selected out of a very large number, to be found in two books at Southwell (of which a particular acoount will be given hereafter) for two reasons; first, because it is the most modern of them; secondly, because it is the fullest, and comprehends more minute metes and bounds than any of the others. In one of these collections, there are no less than three intermediate perambulations: but, as the mention of the forest is only incidental to, and explanatory of, a part of my general subject, it is unnecessary to take any notice of these, further than merely giving the titles, which are,—

  1. Perambulatio Foreste de Shirewood, anno xxi. Henrici, Septimi. [1505-6, given in Deering.]
  2. Perambulatio Foreste, anno xxx. Henrici Octavi. [1538-9, printed by Throsby.]
  3. Perambulatio Foreste de Shirewood, facta quarto die Aprilis, anno secundo Edwardi Sexti, Dei Gratia Angliae, Rex, &o. [4 April, 1548.]
  4. The Perambulation of the Forest made the xxii, xxiii, and xxiiii days of September, in xxxi year of the raygne of our Soveraigne Lady Elizabeth [1589] before Launcelot Rolleston, Christopher Strelley, Esquires, and others. Vid. App. No. 14.

Again, on p. 282 of the same work, Dickinson speaking of his manuscript authorities, mentions (as promised above) two forest books "one of the latter formerly my own, but now deposited in a public office (Office of the land revenues of the Crown); and the other in that of Mr. Clay, of Burridge Hill, who is descended from William Clay, of Southwell, appointed clerk of the forest court in the 15th of Charles II." [1663-4.] Here then we see whence came the book containing the perambulation just published. It may be added that Dickinson gives a pedigree of the Clay family. On the next page (283) the same author writes, "The Forest Book, late in my own possession, begins with the laws of Hen. III., for the government of the forest of Shirewood; and, with some interruptions, records the claims and other transactions of the forest court, to the time of Queen Elizabeth. The last article is a perambulation (directed by her writ), which, being similar to one in the reign of Charles II., before inserted, I have omitted." My expectations being raised to a somewhat high pitch on perusing the above notes, I need scarcely say that I was disappointed on failing to find in the volume either that of Charles II.—probably the one with which we are principally concerned—or either of the other two promised in the appendix. As none of the three copies of this book in the Nottingham Free Library possess any indication of an appendix, we can only assume that after all none was published.

Major Rooke, in his "Sketch of Sherwood Forest," 1799, states that "Many perambulations of this Forest, made in different Reigns, are preserved among the Records in the Tower and in the Court of Exchequer." He afterwards alludes to that of Charles II.

I am informed that a Mr. Sculthorpe was the Clerk of the Peveril Court at the time of its absorption by the County Court in 1849. It is known that he was in possession of a quantity of very old documents after that change. Among these was a perambulation of Sherwood Forest. It is possible, though not known for certain, that they were some of the old Court records. The above gentleman removed to Mansfield some few years after the establishment of the County Courts. In his office it was that Mr. Edwin Patchitt studied law.

In the appendix to the first volume of the Nottingham Borough Records, 1882, are a series of 'Extracts from Gregory's Notes of the Contents of the Red Book of the Town." The very first item (translated) runs as follows:—"1329-30.—Perambulation of the Forest by commission, and nothing disafforested; and quit of the Forest laws. The whole charter read. By Quo Warranto priori. Before Herle, Justice. 3 Ed. III."

In the appendix to the ninth report of the Historical Manuscripts Commissions, 1883, occurs a scanty and not very well done report on the "Manuscripts of the Right Honourable Earl Manvers, at Thoresby Park, Co. Nottingham," Mention is made therein of the walk of 31. Elizabeth, erroneously dated 1574. Then, in a charter dated 14. February, 1301, comes "The walke of the forest in the county of Nottingham., on the Friday next after the feast of St. Barnabie the apostle [St. Barnabas, 11 June] 29th year of our sovereign lord King Edward, afore John of Lithgrenes, John Byron, Michael of Mountchas, Harstulfe of Cleseby, Adam of Crocke, and Richard Oyzell to the same things or walke by the King's writ assigned in the presence of Hugh Lowther, attorney of Sir Robert Clifford, the justice of the forest of our lord the King beyond Trent by the letters patent of the said Robert, and in the presence of the foresters and verderers of the forest of Sherwood by the othe of Garvase Clifton and 7 other Knights (named) and 4 others (named) which saien by thier other that the walk of the forest of our lord the King of Sherwood beginning at the forthe of Conyngswathe extending by the way that goeth to Welhaghe, &c., &c. (2 pp) ending, and the residue remain forest after the said metes and bounds for ever. And it is to be understood chat in the aforesaid walkes by the aforesaid walkers that thei put out of the forest the wood of Rumwoode the towne Carbeston with the field of the same &c. &c." There is also a note of the walk of 16.H.III., and finally "Another walke of the forest of Sherwood made and ordained in the time of King Edward [I.] son of King Henrie, afore John of Lithegrenes and his Fellows. In the form of a patent of the King dated at Lincoln, 14 Feb., 19th year.'' Probably this latter should be dated 29th year, in which case it tallies with the second note.

With regard to the perambulation of the latter date, we happen to have a full transcript of the final clause, which I append. It was taken from the Thoresby MSS. by Rev. J. Stacye, and by him published in an article which occurs in Worksop, the Dukery, and Sherwood Forest, 1875.

"And yt is to understand that these are put out of the forest, the wood of Roomwood, the towne of Carburton, with the field of the same; Owthesland, the  towneshipps of Clumber, Scofton, Reniton (Rayton), half of the towneshippe of Budby, with the north fields of the same; the towneshippe of Thoressbie, and all the towne of Skegbie, with the fields of the same except a little pcell of the field of the same towards the east. All the towne of Sutton-upon- Ashfield, with the fields of the same; and the hamblets adjoining the towneshippe of Bulwell, with the wood adjoining, that is called Bulwell rise; and the king's hay of Wellay. Item, the wood of the Archbishop of York, that is called Little Hagh, that be of the king's demesnes. And yt is to understand that that part of the wood that is called Little Hagh, was disafforested by John of Lithgrows, and afterwards all the townshipps aforesaid, with hedges and woods adjoining, were put again into the forest by the aforesaid King Edward, son of King Henry III."

In Visitations and Memorials of Southwell Minster, Camden Society, 1891, is given a list of contents of the Liber. Albus., in which occurs p. 46, Henry III. Perambulation of Sherwood Forest, 1232." Later, among the calendar of documents concerning Prebends of Oxton, occur:

"P. 505, First Perambulation of Forest of Sherwood, as on p. 46.

Pp. 205-7, Second Perambulation of Edward I., 1301.''

In drawing this article to a close, I may mention that though I have nowhere found reference to a later perambulation than that of Charles II, yet it appears that a new one was thought desirable early in the following century. Bailey (p. 1087) says that on 11 October 1708 a meeting of the gentlemen of Nottinghamshire was held at Rufford, to take into consideration the propriety of addressing her majesty (Queen Anne) on the subject of the losses they sustained by the inroads made upon their lands by the queen's deer; as likewise to petition parliament for "an act to get the purlieus and boundaries of the forest correctly ascertained." The address these gentlemen submitted to the queen, setting forth their grievances, concluded, "Now your petitioners humbly beg that your majesty, out of gracious mercy and tender compassion to your poor sufferers, would be pleased to grant that a bill may be brought to the house of commons, for to ascertain the bounds of the said forest, and the limits of the purlieus, by reason of an order made in the late reign for punishing any person that shall kill any deer, &c., by imprisonment for twelve months, or by fine. If we have not the limits and bounds of the forest ascertained, we shall have such a clog and burden upon our estates, that our posterity will never be able to shake off. We therefore question not, but that your majesty will readily comply with our reasonable request."

The petition tbey at the same time forwarded to the honse of commons is so interesting that I append it in fall:

"To the commons of Great Britain, in parliament assembled: The humble petition of several gentlemen, freeholders, and inhabitants of the county of Nottingham, on behalf of themselves and others, sheweth: That in the reign of the late King Edward I. there was a perambulation of the forest of Sherwood, in the said county of Nottingham, and that by an inquisition then taken the metes and bounds of the said forest were limited and ascertained. That for many years past, till very lately, her majesty's deer in the said forest seldom or never exceeded three hundred, which was a great number considering the barrenness of the soil, and the great destruction of the woods, as the said forest could well maintain. That the deer of the said forest are now increased to more than treble the number, and so do continually multiply and spread through a great part of the county, consuming and destroying not only the cornfields, woods, and meadows contiguous to the forest, but even such as are many miles distant from any part of the said forest, to the infinite oppression, injury, and loss of the landholders and inhabitants of the said county. That the officers of the said forest are so far from keeping the deer within their proper and usual bounds, that several persons have of late years been appointed to preserve the deer in woods at several miles distant from the same, or any part thereof, by the which means the deer are enticed to leave the forest, which affords little subsistance, and become accustomed to the adjacent country, upon which they are entirely kept and maintained. That these depredations are carried on under the pretence that most of the division called Hatfield, and the whole district of the Clay—the richest, best cultivated, and most populous part of the county—are within the purlieu of the forest: whereas it appeareth by the said ancient perambulation and inquisition, in the time of King Edward I., that they were then without the limits and bounds of the said forest, and are no part or parcel thereof. That by such methods the substance of your petitioners, and their tenants, is daily consumed; a great part of their crops is constantly devoured; and the excessive charge of hiring watchmen, both by night and by day, to preserve the remainder, is become insupportable. Your petitioners therefore being, by these means, disabled to support themselves and families and pay their taxes, do most humbly pray, and earnestly beseech this honourable house, to take the premises into their serious consideration, and to give leave to bring in a bill to restrain the said forest, and pretended purlieus thereof, to the bounds contained in the said inquisition in the time of King Edward I, and that your petitioners may have such further and other relief against the said growing oppressions, as to your honourable house, in your great wisdom, shall seem most meet. And your petitioners shall ever pray."

There were about 400 signatures to the petition, but it does not seem to have been very favourably received by the law officers of the crown, who, among their comments on the matter, made the rejoinder which is now often made to those who object to paying tithes, viz. that they acquired the land with the incumbrance. Bailey adds that the vexatious question of the bounds of the forest remained unsettled for many years after the above date. To this author I must refer the reader who cares for further and fuller notes. Later (p. 1,096) he remarks that the winding up of the affairs of the Crown with Sherwood Forest took place in 1786.

Major Rooke, in his Sketch of Sherwood Forest, says "It is the only forest that remains under the superintendence of the Chief Justice in Eyre North of Trent, or which now belongs to the Crown in that part of England." Again, he says it appears from the many grants of land in the forest, that the Crown has not now any other property than a part of the hays of Birkland and Bilagh.

Finally, it may be added that these—in the early years of this century I understand—were granted to the then Duke of Portland, in exchange for the perpetual advowson of St. Mary-le-Bow, London. Birkland was afterwards conveyed by the Duke to Earl Manvers, in exchange for the manors of Holbeck and Bonbusk, which are near to the Duke's domain at Welbeck.