Saturday, November 25, 2017

Forest of Feckenham

At the time of Domesday most of Worcestershire lay within the royal forest, but by the 13th century the areas to the west (Ombersley) and south (Horewell) had been disafforested and were no longer subject to forest law. The surviving forest of that date extended over about 184 square miles, centred on Feckenham, and including part of Dodderhill parish. A perambulation to force King Edward I to reduce the bounds was made in 1300: the plaintiffs were successful and the royal forest decreased, leaving Feckenham, Hanbury, Bentley and parts of Tardebigge and Dodderhill still within the area where the forest law ran.

Forest law was basically concerned with protecting the “four beasts of the forest” i.e. red, roe and fallow deer and wild boar, together with their woodland habitat. Only the king and those with his permission were allowed to hunt these beasts. Inhabitants of the forest area were permitted to cut wood and timber, but only for their immediate needs. They could also pasture their own livestock, but not on a commercial scale. As more cultivated land was needed to feed an increasing population in the 13th century, new “assarts” were made clearing the woodland for pasture and arable farming. Often money was raised in the form of fines imposed on assarting.

The forest law was administered by forest courts and officials, who often profited by the fines they imposed on those who transgressed. Court records for Feckenham Forest from 13th century and 14th century have recently been published by the Worcestershire Historical Society.

More information about Feckenham Forest in the Mediaeval period
Residual woodland at Piper’s Hill & Dodderhill Common

Tree pruning at Piper

Tree pruning by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust at Piper’s Hill Nature Reserve helps to preserve these ancient trees for future generations

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