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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Discharged from all estovers for ever

"Proposals by and on the behalf of the Freeholders, Inhabitants, and Commoners, within the Forest of Dean, for the preservation and improvement of the growth of timber there.

"Imprimis, That 11,000 acres of the wastle soil of the Forest of Dean, whereof the Lea Baily and Cannopp to be part of the said wastle, may be enclosed by his Majesty, and discharged for ever from all manner of pasture, estovers, and pannage; and if ever his Majesty, or his successors, shall think fit to lay open any part of the said 11,000 acres, then to take in so much elsewhere, so as the whole enclosure exceed not at any one time 11,000 acres.

"That all the wood or timber which shall hereafter grow upon the remaining 13,000 acres shall absolutely belong to his Majesty, discharged from all estovers for ever, and pannage for twenty years next ensuing. That the whole wastle soil be re-afforested, and subject to the Forest laws; but that the severity of the Forest laws be taken off from the lands in several, belonging to the freeholders and inhabitants within the said Forest, they themselves being contented to serve his Majesty, according to their several offices and places, as formerly at the Forest courts.

"That the deer to be kept on the said waste soil may not exceed 800 at any one time; and the fees which belong to

the particular officers, touching venison, may be preserved to them, as to venison only, and not to wood and trees.

"That it is consented to that the winter heyning and fence month, according to the Forest law, being such times wherein no kind of cattle be permitted to abide in any part of the said waste, may be understood to be from Saint Martin's day in the winter to Saint George's day in April; and afterwards, from fifteen days before Midsummer to fifteen days after.

"That all grants of any part of the waste soil of the said Forest be re-assumed and made void; and that no part of the said waste or soil be aliened for ever from the Crown, or farmed to any particular person or persons, by lease or otherwise.

"And that this may be settled by Act of Parliament.


The importance of the foregoing propositions appears from the use made of them, more than a century afterwards, by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests in 1788, who informed the descendants of those gentlemen who appended their names to the above document, that they had thereby lost all claim to any perquisite in the way of bark and windfalls; observing also, that the important Act of 1668 (20 Charles II.) resulting from it was approved by and obtained at the desire of the freeholders, inhabitants, and commoners then living.

Another proposition intended to further the preservation of the Forest woods was presented to the Lord Warden of the Castle of St. Briavel's by the freeholders thereof, promising on their part to relinquish claims to wood and timber for so long a time as "his sacred Majesty" should resolve to suspend his iron-works therein, whom they implore to call in the patent granted to Sir John Winter.

Some idea may be formed of the strength of public feeling against Sir John Winter, on account of his wholesale fellings of the Forest timber, by the decision which Mr. Pepys records his "cousin Roger" to have given upon him, viz. that "he deserves to be hanged." In order that the mischief might be put an end to as soon as possible, late as it was in the session, a bill was brought into the House for settling the Forest, and preserving and improving the wood and timber. Parliament was prorogued, however, before the bill could pass, and its promoters had to be content with the House "recommending the Lord Treasurer and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take care for the preservation and improvement of the Forest." This recommendation appears to have had no influence on Sir John Winter, for on a new survey made in 1667 it was reported to Government that out of the 30,233 trees sold to him, only about 200 remained standing, and that from 7000 to 8000 tons of timber, fit for his Majesty's navy, was found wanting. He would seem to have felt some alarm at this report, for twice about this time he resorted to Mr. Pepys, who writes, 15th March, 1667--"This morning I was called up by Sir John Winter, poor man, come in a sedan from the other end of the town, about helping the King in the business of bringing down his timber to the sea-side in the Forest of Deane;" and again 30th April, "Sir John Winter, to discourse with me about the Forest of Deane."

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