In the 15th of the same reign the office devolved upon Robert de Everingham in right of his wife Isabel, sister of the above-named Thomas de Birkin. With Everingham it remained till the time of Edward I, when it was seized by the crown as forfeited, and since that time the guardianship of the Forest has been conferred upon various persons of high station, as a special mark of the royal favour.

Our early Norman and Plantagenet Kings were men of iron hand and determined will, for the most part acknowledging, in practice at least, whatever they might in theory, scarcely any law except their own behests, and having little regard to the wants and wishes of their subjects, whom they looked upon as not much better than slaves. Hence every opportunity was seized by them of stretching their prerogative and power at the expense of the peoples’ rights and property. A flagrant instance of this is found in the Conqueror’s proceedings respecting the "New Forest," in the formation of which he is said by Odericus Vitalis, "to have laid waste more than sixty parishes, compelling the inhabitants to emigrate to other places, and substituting beasts of the chase for human beings, that he might satisfy his ardour for hunting." And although this highhanded policy might sometimes be mitigated either by a sense of justice, or by the discretion of some of these sovereigns, or the weakness and fear of others, yet the people had no security for their rights and liberties, till they rose and extorted from one of the most violent and unjust, yet at the same time most pusillanimous of his race, a solemn record setting forth and establishing his peoples’ claims; we allude, of course, to the great charter of our liberties which John was compelled to sign and seal at Runnymede. This document contains some provisions in mitigation of the cruel forest laws, but that part of its contents, in the beginning of the reign of Henry III. when the Magna Charta was ratified and expanded, was thrown into a separate charter, making the "Charta de Foresta" or charter of the Forest. This was done during Henry’s boyhood, chiefly through the instrumentality of the Earl of Pembroke, but when the king came of age, he is said to have cancelled both these charters. Notwithstanding this, we find that in the 38th year of his reign, A.D. 1254, a solemn assembly was held in the great hall at Westminster, in the presence of the king, when the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other bishops apparelled in their pontificals, with tapers burning, denounced a sentence of excommunication against the breakers of the liberties of the church and the realm, and particularly those contained in the great charter, and the charter of the forest.

Some of the provisions of this latter important charter it may not be uninteresting to give, as they set before us vividly the state of society at that time respecting the forest laws, and the crushing oppression those must have experienced, who were subjected to their operation; and this we cannot do better than in the words of Mr. Reeves’ excellent summary of this important document contained in his "History of the English Law."

"The first chapter of this charter directed that all forests which had been afforested by Henry II. should be viewed by good and lawful men; and if it was proved that he had any woods except the demesne, turned into forest to the prejudice of the owner’s wood, it was to be forthwith disafforested; hut the royal woods that had been made forests by that king were still to remain, with a saving of the common of herbage, and other things which any one was accustomed to have. This was the provision in relation to the forests made by Henry II. As to those made by the kings, Richard and John, they, unless they were in the king’s own demesnes, were to be forthwith disafforested. The charter directed that all archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, and free-tenants having woods in forests, should have them as they enjoyed them at the first coronation of Henry II. and should be quit of all purpfrestures, wastes, and assarts, made therein before the second year of Henry III. Thus far, limits were fixed to the extent of forests; and after these provisions, a clause is added by which all offences therein were pardoned.

"In point of regulation it was ordained that regarders or rangers should go through the forest to make their regard or range, as was the usage before the first coronation of Henry II. The inquisition or view for the lawing or expeditation of dogs was to be had when the range was made, i.e. from three years to three years; and then it was to be done by the view and testimony of lawful men, and not otherwise. A person whose dog was found not lawed was to pay three shillings. No ox was to be taken for hawing, as had been before customary, but the old law on this point of expeditation was to be observed, namely, that three claws of the fore foot should be cut off by the skin; and after all, this expeditation was to be performed only in such places where it had been customary, before the first coronation of Henry II. It was ordained that no forester or bedel should make scotal, or gather gerbe, Oats, or any corn whatever, nor any lambs or pigs, nor make any gathering at all, but upon view and oath of the rangers, when they were making their range. Such a number of foresters was to be assigned as should be thought necessary for keeping the forest. It was permitted to every freeman to agist his own wood, and to take his pannage within the king’s forest, and for that purpose he might freely drive his swine through the king’s demesne woods, and if they should lie one night in the forest, it should be no pretence for exacting, on that account, any thing from the owner. Besides the above use of their own woods, freemen were permitted to make in their woods, land, or water within the forest, mills, springs, pools, marlpits, dikes, or arable grounds, so as they did not enclose such arable ground, nor cause a nuisance to any of their neighbours; they might also have ayries of hawks, sparrow hawks, falcons, eagles and herons; as likewise the honey found in their own woods. "Thus" adds our author, "was a degree of relaxation given to the rigorous ordinances of William the Conqueror, who had appropriated the lands of others to the purpose of making them forest; the owners thereof were now admitted into a sort of partial enjoyment of their own property.

"It was permitted that any archbishop, bishop, earl, or baron, coming to the king at his command, and passing through the forests might take and kill one or two of the king’s deer, by view of the forester if he were present; if not, then he might do it upon the blowing of a horn, that it might not look like a theft. The same might be done when they returned. No forester, except such as was a forester in fee, paying a ferm of his bailiwick, was to take any chiminage as it was called, i.e. toll for passing through the forest; but a forester in fee, as aforesaid, might take one penny every half-year for a cart, and a half-penny for a horse bearing a burden, and that only of such as came through by licence to buy bushes, timber, bark and coal to sell again. Those who carried brush, bark and coal upon their hacks were to pay no chiminage, though it was for sale, except they took it within the king’s demesnes.

"Part of this charter consisted of matters relating to the judicature of the forest. It was ordained that persons dwelling out of the forest should not be obliged to appear before the justices of the forest upon the common or general summons, but only when they were impleaded there, or were pledges for others who were attached for the forest. Swainmotes (which were the courts next below those of the justices of the forest) were to he held only three times in the year, i.e. the first at 15 days before Michaelmas, when the agistors came together to take agistment in the demesne woods; the second was to be about the feast of St. Martin, when the agistors were to receive pannage; and to these two swainmotes were to come the foresters, verderors, and agistors, and no others. The third swain-mote was to be held 15 days before St. John Baptist, and this "pro faenatione bestiarum"; to this were to come the verderors and foresters and no other; and the attendance of such persons might be compelled by distress. It was moreover directed that every 40 days thoughout the year, the foresters and verderors should meet to see the attachments of the forest, "tam de veridi, quam de venatione," as well for vert as venison, by the presentment of the same foresters.

Swainmotes were to be kept in those counties only where they had used to be held. Further, no constable, castellan, or other was to hold plea of the forest, whether of vert or venison (which was a prohibition similar to and founded on a like policy with one in Magna Charta about theft) ; but every forester in fee was to attach pleas of the forest, as well for vert as venison, and present them to the verderors of provinces; and after they had been enrolled and sealed with the seal of the verderors they were to be presented to the chief forester, or as he was afterwards called. the chief justice of the forest, when he came into those parts to hold the pleas of the forest, and were to he determined before him.

The punishments for breach of the forest laws were greatly mitigated. It was ordained that no man should henceforth lose either life or limb for hunting deer; but if a man was convicted of taking venison he was to make a grievous fine; and if he had nothing to pay he was to be imprisoned a year and a day, and then discharged upon pledges; which if he could not find, he was to abjure the realm. Such were the tender mercies of the forest laws! Besides such qualifications of this rigorous system, it was ordained that those who between the time of Henry II. and this king’s coronation had been outlawed for the forest only, should be in the king’s peace, without any hindrance or danger, so as they found good pledges that they would not again trespass within the forest.

"These were the regulations made by the Charter of the Forest, which concludes with a saving clause in favour of the liberties and free customs claimed by any one, as well within the forest as without, in warrens and other places, which were enjoyed before that time. To the whole is subjoined a like confirmation as that to Magna Charta in the 25 Edward I.""

Agreeably to the provisions of this charter of the Forest, a survey of Sherwood was made in the i6th year of Henry In. by royal commission, by Hugh Nevil, justice of the forest and Brian of the Isle, and others, and the parts which had been brought under the forest laws by the previous kings, since the beginning of the reign of Henry ii. were disafforested, or set free from those stringent enactments; and the bounds and limits of the forest still preserved as such, were clearly defined. These are stated to be thus fixed "to be firm, and stable, and abide for ever," starting from a place called Conyngswath, i.e. the King’s Ford; (a designation which savours of the old Danish or Norse sovereigns. We learn from a later document that Conyngswath was beside the old Park of Haughton.) The line was drawn "by the highway that goeth towards Welhaugh unto the town of Welhawe towards Nottingham, so that the close of the town of Welhawe is out of the forest, from thence by the side way that goeth betwixt Welhaugh and Nottingham unto Blackstone Haugh, and from thence unto that place where Doverbeck river goeth over the side way, and so following the Doverbeck to where it enters the Trent. Again starting westward from Conyngswath by the river Maiden the boundary foll6ws the river to Warsop, and from thence by the same stream to Plesley Haye, and from thence to Otterbridge, and from thence turning by the great highway which leads to Nottingham unto Milford Bridge, from thence unto Maidenhead, and from thence betwixt the field of Hardwick and Kirkby to a corner called Nuncar, and from thence by the assart of Iwan Britan unto the Earl’s Steigh, and from thence unto Stolgate, and from thence by the great highway under the old castle of Annesley, and from the same castle unto the town of Lindby, passing through the midst of the town to the mill of the same place, situated on the river Leen, and so following that stream to Lenton, and so to the Trent, where the Leen entered by its old course, and so along the river Trent to the fall of Doverbeck; saving Welhaw Hagh and other the king’s demesne woods in the county of Nottingham."