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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Chief Forester in Fee and Bowbearer


Edwin, Esq., "Chief Forester in Fee and Bowbearer," in 1787, stated to the Commissioners that he claimed by virtue of his office to be entitled to the right shoulder of all bucks and does killed within the Forest, and also to ten fee bucks and ten fee does, annually to be there killed and taken at his own free will and pleasure, with licence to hawk, hunt, fish, and fowl within the Forest." As bowbearer, it was his duty "to attend His Majesty with a bow and arrow, and six men clothed in green, whenever His Majesty shall be pleased to hunt within the said Forest." Edmund Probyn, Esq., one of the Verderers of the Forest, stated at the same time, that the number of bucks and does which it contained could not be ascertained; but it was much understocked, so that the warrants were sometimes sent back unexecuted." Until the deer were removed, each of the four verderers was entitled to a buck and a doe every year.

[Picture: The King's Bowbearer]

"When I first remember the Forest," Mr. Machen remarks, in his private papers, "now 65 years since, the deer were very numerous. I recollect my father taking me up to the Buckholt in an evening for the purpose of showing them to me, and we never failed of seeing several:" this was about 1790. "From that time for 20 years, in consequence of the decrease of the covert and the increase of poachers, they rapidly diminished, until in 1810, when I do not

believe there were ten in the whole Forest. At this period the enclosures were made for the preservation of timber, and woodmen appointed to the care of them; the few deer that were left were protected, and as the young trees grew up so as to afford them shelter, they rapidly increased, and in thirty years, viz. in 1840, I should think there were not less than 800 or 1000 deer in the Forest."

"The red deer were introduced in 1842 by Mr. Herring, who brought down on 24th February, from Woburn, two stags and four hinds. They were in fine condition, and were turned loose in Russell's Enclosure, one mile from the Speech-house." Mr. Machen further notes as follows:

"October, 1842.--Two of the hinds have calves with them."

"October 20th.--One of the stags was hunted from Trippenkennet, in Herefordshire, and swam the Wye three times: the hounds brought him into Nag's Head Enclosure."

"July, 1844.--Two stags, three hinds, and a calf are now in Park Hill Enclosure, and are frequently seen in the meadow in front of Whitemead. One old stag is at Edge Hills. A hind is sometimes seen in the Highmeadow Woods, and it is known that one was killed there."

"October.--A young hind was sent down, and turned out in Haywood Enclosure."

"October, 1845.--The two old stags are wandering about, and seldom in the Forest."

"October 4.--Hunted the stag near Park End; ran four hours, but lost him, night coming on."

"September 20th, 1846.--The stag that was about Staunton and Newland was killed this day, after a run of three hours. He was found on the old hills near Newland, and killed in Coleford. This was a four years old deer, calved in the Forest; the hind and calf went to Staunton, and never returned: the hind was killed by poachers. The venison of the stag was excellent: the haunches were 45 lbs. each."

"October, 1847.--Another stag was killed after a good run. Two were found, and ran some time together before the hounds in Park Hill."

"October 6, 1848.--The last stag returned to the Forest, after having been in the woods, &c., near Chepstow almost a year. He was found in Oaken Hill, and killed, after a run of three hours, in Sallow Vallets. His haunches weighed 51 lbs., and the whole weight 307 lbs."

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