Royal Forests in medieval England

Forest comes from the Latin word meaning outdoors – so medieval forests included woods, heaths, wasteland and all manner of open spaces. Their aim was to protect the beasts which the king hunted – deer and boar amongst others. The rules of vert and venison were designed for the protection of habitat, animal and ease of the hunt.

By 1086 there were in the region of 25 royal forests. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle contains many bitter complaints on the matter. At one point during the thirteenth century it’s estimated that a quarter of the country was designated royal forest which meant that it fell under forest law which was an arbitrary system based on the king rather than common law and its precedents.

Now I know that there is still a words, words, words challenge ongoing but it seems to me that this has real potential – so here is an unexpected History Jar challenge – how many of the medieval royal forests can you name?

3 thoughts on “Royal Forests in medieval England

  1. Forest designated No7. Part was known as the ‘Ancient Forest of Blore’ which straddled the Staffordshire/Shropshire border. Part of the forest waste or Heath gave its name to, and was the location of the first major battle of the ‘Wars of the Roses’ the ‘Battle of Blore Heath’ 23 Sept 1459.

    Great article

    • Thank you – I know where Heath is and that it was the site of the battle of Blore Heath but I din’t realise it was part of a royal forest.

      • Hi Julia. Actually I didn’t know or believe that the ancient forest of Blore was part of a Royal Forest which is now only identifiable as Cannock Chase. But hundreds of years ago Cannock Chase would have been connected to various woodlands which now only exist as fragments in West Staffordshire and east Shropshire and spread all the way north to the Cheshire border incorporating Blore Forest. Just how much of that Forest was classed as Royal Forest is conjecture but we do know that Blore Forest was gifted by the crown to the Bishop of Lichfield, so it quite clearly was a Royal Forest but was gifted to the church at some point after the Norman Conquest. Most of the woodland surrounding Blore Heath still belongs to the church and is known as ‘The Bishops Woods’

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