> History - 1300 to 1700
Edward I died; the Forest remained with Margaret, Queen Dowager.

Margaret died; the Forest passed to Isabella, wife of Edward II. There is a record of her receiving an order to deliver oaks from her Ashdown chase to Pevensey.

Philippa of Hainhault, wife of Edward III held the Forest for life by the king’s grant.

Philippa died. Forest reverts to crown.

Forest and other land awarded to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Forest became known as Great Park of Lancaster ( the term “park” was generally applied to an enclosed hunting area and “forest” to an open hunting area. “Forest” has nothing to do with trees!). Aves and Woodmote courts were held in the Forest, possibly in each Ward. Aves courts on the first Tuesday after November 1st were to collect rents and arbitrate on pannage and agistments; three weeks later Woodmote courts heard serious offences. Courts Baron, with a Homage (jury) were held every three weeks and were concerned with land use and customary tenants’ rights issues. Pannage (feeding pigs on mast) is not now a Common Right on Ashdown; it was possibly extinguished in 1885 along with Turbary (turf cutting), which was considered damaging to the Forest soil.

John of Gaunt died; third wife Katherine Swynford inherited the Forest.

Katherine died and the Forest reverted to Henry IV, John of Gaunt’s son and Duke of Lancaster. The Forest was still administered by the Duchy of Lancaster via a Master Forester.

The new Master Forester had to employ a Ranger, a Marshal, a “logge grome”, three Ward Foresters and three Foresters of Bailiwicks. ( a Bailiwick is the jurisdiction of a bailiff - in this case, the King’s officer, the Forester).

Continental (from Pays de Bray, France) iron-masters employed to operate the first water powered blast furnace in Britain, established at Newbridge.

Water powered steel forge established in Pippingford.

At the Court held in Nutley “all the byrche wood between Notlye and Fayrwarp hathe bene felede”. Thirty loads of timber had been sold at Lewes by the Rangers “to the grete hurte of the kynge and his tenantes”.

Development and expansion of the iron industry put more pressure on the Forest. There were a series of commissions appointed to survey the Forest. A corn mill was working at Newbridge; where was all the corn grown?

“Master Huggett and his man John,
They did make the first cannon” (referring to Ralph Hogge, iron master).

Richard Sackville, father of Thomas, first Earl of Dorset became Master Forester. His great grandson Edward was Master Forester at the outbreak of the Civil War.

There were at least 77 iron furnaces working in the Weald.
Tudor bricks and pottery have been found at King's Standing; these are evidence of some sort of hunting lodge where the deer were shot with crossbows (or longbows, though these were more difficult to master and a more proletarian weapon!) by waiting royalty.

Throughout the seventeenth century there are Woodmote records (from 1607 onwards) which suggest that the Forest was well regulated until the Civil War.

The Survey of this year was the outcome of a 1649 Act empowering commissioners to survey and value the properties of the Crown. Ashdown was exempt (due to it being held as surety to meet army pay arrears) from a general scheme to disafforest, sell and improve crown forest lands.

During the interregnum, the Forest had fallen into disrepair due to the Master and his Rangers being Cavaliers and supporting the losing cause. The Pale was no longer maintained (“the Pale resteth”), the deer were hunted out and the Forest was granted to the Parliamentary army as pay.

At the Restoration, Richard, fifth Earl of Dorset was granted the post of Keeper of the Forest without being given absolute grant.

Earl of Bristol given 99 year lease with right to disafforest and enclose.

Commissioners were appointed to make proposals for the improvement of the Forest - dividing it to the approval of the king and his farmers, leaving some land for the Commoners. The House of Commons rejected Acts proposed in 1663.

There was a dispute between the Earls of Dorset and Bristol due to their unresolved roles regarding the Forest. Dorset renounced his interest for a lump sum payment and rent from Bristol.
Bristol failed to develop the Forest and defaulted on his payments to the King and to Dorset.

At this time the iron industry on the Weald was in decline, with only 11 furnaces still working.

The Forest was leased to the daughters of Colonel Washington. They also failed to make money and their lease was assigned to Sir Thomas Williams.

Williams, his trustee Joseph Fells and grantee Alexander Staples met with continued resistance from the Commoners.

Pelham and Fagg, commissioners to make recommendations, suggested that the Customary Tenants should be given 5,500 acres in lieu of their Forest common rights. This was resisted by 98 claimants.

An Interlocutory Decree instigated by the Earl of Dorset, Williams, Fell and Staples recognised that enclosure was possible while still allowing sufficient land for the use of the Commoners.

The commissioners appointed by the Interlocutory Decree found that 6,000 acres would provide adequate pasture and herbage. This formed the basis for the Duchy Decree of this year.

After the Decree, the private interests were partitioned between Staples, Holland and Lechmere, the last named taking Lord of the Manor of Duddleswell and all the crown rights to the soil of the open Forest. Much of the enclosed land was used for rabbit farming, which explains why the name “warren” is so common (Broadstone, Hindleap, Press Ridge Warrens).
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1700 to 2000 >