|> History - Roman to 1300|
The Weald may have been an imperial estate devoted to iron production. Garden Hill was an administrative centre organising the iron works still in civilian control, trade being centred on the south coast and in London. Land use in the Weald at that time would have been aimed at fuel production (wood and charcoal) for iron working and also grain and meat to feed the iron workers. The best visual remnant of Roman occupation is the London road which crosses the Forest parallel with the present B2026. An exposed section can be seen at Roman Road car park.
By the time the Romans withdrew in the fifth century A.D., Saxon settlements already existed. The area of the Forest was known as Andredswald.
Saxon indications on the Forest, apart from place names, are restricted to a Saxon iron making site which was discovered on Millbrook Hill when a new water pipe was laid in 1980. It is speculated that the Forest may have been used seasonally, for grazing in summer months by stockmen from local villages. It is feasible that these people and their families became “occupiers” (or even landowners) owing rent in the form of labour to the lord. These are the originators of “customary tenancy”.
Ashdown Forest in this period is a non-differentiated part of the huge Forest Andred. The Venerable Bede described it as “thick and inaccessible; a place of retreat for large herds of deer and swine”. Bear, wolf and wildcat were also present.
After the Conquest, the Forest area became part of the Rape of Pevensey (and was included in the Forest of Pevensel). The Rape boundary approximates to the NW boundary of the Forest, cutting through the Hundreds of East Grinstead, Hartfield, and Rushmonden. After the Conquest, Pevensey Rape was awarded to Robert, Duke of Mortain.
The Domesday Book mentions only one iron-mine on the Forest, in the Hundred of East Grinstead. (This site has not been identified on the ground.)
The Mortains were dispossessed by William (II) Rufus, the Honour of the Rape given to Gilbert de Aquila, grandson of Engarran de l’Aigle who was killed at the battle of Hastings.
Henry I confirmed that monks could continue to use a road across Essessdone Forest which they had used since William I.
Gilbert’s son Richer forfeited the Rape in the reign of Henry I but it was restored by Henry II. The third d’Aquila founded the Priory of Michelham and endowed it with the Park of Pevensey.
Gilbert III forfeited the Rape.
Rape granted to Peter de Rivalis
Rape went to Gilbert Marshall, Earl of Pembroke with the proviso that it would revert to the Crown if his Normandy estates were recovered. Gilbert Marshall used the Forest as surety against a loan from Richard, Count of Poiton and Cornwall, provided the Count would not sell wood from the Forest.
The land was transferred to Peter of Savoy, uncle of Queen Eleanor (Eleanor of Provence married Henry III in 1236).
Eleanor inherited the Rape from Peter of Savoy.
Sheriff of Sussex required that the iron industry of the county provide Henry III with 30,000 horse shoes and 60,000 nails.
Survey of Ashdown shows that a Master Forester (paid 8d per day for him, his man and his horse) was assisted by eight Serjeants (or Foresters, for they may have had to do practical work) (paid 1d per day). There were 208 customary tenants living on the edge of the Forest, allowed to take windfall wood, brushwood, furze and broom for fuel and to graze as much stock as they could winter on their own holdings. The survey also allowed that “if it be necessary for the improvement of their common pasture they may burn all the aforesaid”.
The soil of the Forest was recorded as belonging to Queen Eleanor.
It is not known exactly when the Pale was built but the account for managing the Forest for this year includes the cost for repairing parts of damaged Pale and building new lengths. The Pale consisted of a wooden fence built on top of a soil bank; the ditch which provided the material for the bank was always dug on the Forest side of the fence, which gave rise to the idea that deer would jump into the Forest but couldn’t jump out. This may be true but two factors question it; first of all, deer only jump when they are being chased and cornered and that would be unlikely to happen outside the hunting area. Secondly, a fine-boned animal like a deer is likely to suffer broken limbs jumping over the fence and into the deep ditch. The bank made it easier to build a fence high enough to restrain deer, and the soil had to come from one side or the other. Putting the ditch on the inside made the fence more effective.
The Pale was breached by a number of gates. Those designed for wheeled vehicles, herds of animals or mounted groups were known as “gates”; those for pedestrians only were known as “hatches”. Some of these names are still in use for local villages - Chelwood Gate, Chuck Hatch. (The pub near the line of the old Pale is known as the Crow and Gate - surely a corruption of Crowborough Gate!)
Queen Eleanor died (the land she owned included the Hundreds of East Grinstead, Hartfield, Rushmonden; only the Forest area in Buxted parish was not hers).
The Forest reverted to Edward I.
The Forest was already divided into Wards - Lampol (Southward), Walheath (Westward) and Heselwode (Costley Ward). They met at Three Wards, now on the Pippingford boundary.
The Forest was made over to Edward I’s second wife, Queen Margaret
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