The Charter of the Forest, transcript

Edward by the Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Guyan, to all to whom these presents shall come, sends greeting: we have seen the charter of the Lord Henry our father, sometime King of England, concerning the Forest in these words.

Henry, by the Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Guyan and Earl of Anjou, to all archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, justicers, foresters, sheriffs, provosts, officers, and to all his bailiffs, and faithful subjects which shall see this present charter, greeting.

Know ye, that we, unto the honour of Almighty God, and for the salvation of our soul and the souls of our ancestors and successors, to the advancement of Holy Church, and amendment of our realm, of our mere and free will have given and granted, to all archbishops, bishops, earls, barons and to all of this our realm, these liberties, following, to be kept in our kingdom of England forever.

1 First, we will that all forests, which King Henry [II] our Grandfather afforested, shall be viewed by good and lawful men; and if he has made forest of any other wood more than of his own demesne, whereby the owner of the wood has been hurt, forthwith it shall be disafforested; and if he has made forest of his own wood, then it shall remain forest, saving the Common of Herbage, and of other things in the same forest, to them which before were accustomed to have the same.

2 Men that dwell outside of the forest, from henceforth shall not come before the justicers of our forest, by common summons, unless they be impleaded there, or be sureties for some others that were attached for the forest.

3 All woods which have been made forest by King Richard our uncle, or by King John our Father, until our first coronation, shall be forthwith disafforested unless it be our demesne wood.

4 All archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, and other our freeholders which have their woods in forests, shall have their woods as they had them at the first coronation of King Henry [II] our grandfather. So that they shall be quite forever of all purprestures, wastes, and asserts, made in those woods after that time, until the beginning of the second year of our coronation. And those that from henceforth do make purpresture without our licence, or waste, or assert in the same, shall answer unto us for the same wastes, purprestures, and asserts.

5 Our rangers shall go through the forest to make range, as it has been accustomed at the time of the first coronation of King Henry our grandfather, and not otherwise.

6 The enquiry or view for lawing of dogs within our forest shall be made from henceforth when the range is made, that is to say, from three year to three year; and then it shall be done by the view and testimony of lawful men, and not otherwise; and he whose dog is not lawed, and so found, shall pay for his amercement 3 shillings: and from henceforth no ox shall be taken for lawing of dogs. And such lawing shall be done by the Assize commonly used, that is to say, that three claws of the fore foot shall be cut off [by the skin]. But from henceforth such lawing of dogs shall not be, but in places where it has been accustomed from the time of the first coronation of the foresaid King Henry our Grandfather.

7 No forester or bedel from henceforth shall made scotal, or gather garb, or oats, or any corn, lamb, or pig, nor shall made any gathering, but by the sight and upon the view of the twelve rangers, when they make their range. So many foresters shall be assigned to the keeping of the forests, as reasonably shall seem sufficient for the keeping of the same.

8 No swanimote from henceforth shall be kept within this our realm, but thrice in the year; namely, the beginning of the fifteen days afore Michaelmas, when that our gest-takers, or walkers of our woods, come together to take agestment in our demesne woods; and about the feast of St Martin [in the winter] when that our gest-takers shall receive our pawnage; and to these two swanimotes shall come together our foresters, verders, gest-takers, and none other, by distress; and the third swanimote shall be kept in the beginning of the fifteen days before the feast of St John Baptist [when our gest-takers do meet to hunt our deer;] and at this Swanimote shall meet our foresters, verders, and none other, by distress. Moreover, every forty days through the year our foresters and verders meet to see the attachments of the forest, as well as for Greenhue, as for hunting, by the presentment of the same foresters, and before then attached. And the said Swanimotes shall not be kept but within the counties in which they have used to be kept.

9 Every freeman may agest his own wood within our forest at his pleasure, and shall take his pawnage. Also we do grant, that every freeman may drive his swine freely without impediment through our demesne woods, for to agest them in their own woods, or else where they will. And if the swine of any freeman lie one night within our forest, there shall be no occasion taken thereof, whereby he may lose anything of his own.

10 No man from henceforth shall lose either life or member for the killing of our deer; but if any man be taken and convited for the taking of our venison, he shall make a grievous fie, if he has anything whereof; and if he has nothing to lose, he shall be imprisoned a year and a day; and after the year and day expired, if he can find sufficient sureties, he shall be delivered; and if not, he shall abjure the realm of England.

11 Whatsoever archbishop, bishops, earl or baron, coming to us at our commandment, passing by our forest, it shall be lawful for him to take and kill one or two of our deer, by view of our forester, if he be present; or else he shall cause to blow a horn for him, that he seem not to steal our deer. And likewise they shall do returning from use, as it is aforesaid.

12 Every freeman from henceforth, without danger shall make in his own wood, or on his land, or on his water, which he has within our forest, mills, springs, pools, marlpits, dykes, or earable ground, without enclosing that earable ground, so that it be not to the annoyance of any of his neighbours.

13 Every freeman shall have, within his own woods, ayries of hawks, sparrow-hawks, falcons, eagles and herons: and shall have also the honey that is found within his woods.

14 No forester from henceforth, which is not forester in fee, paying to us farm for his bailiwick, shall take any chimmage or toll within bailiwick; but a forester in fee, paying us farm for his bailiwick, shall take chimmage; that is to say, for carriage by cart the half-year 2 pence, and for another half-year 2 pence, for an horse that beareth loads, every half-year, an half-penny, and by another half-year half a penny; and but of those only that come as merchants through his bailiwick by licence to buy bushes, timber, bark, coal and to sell it again at their pleasure; but for none other carriage by cart chimmage shall be taken; nor chimmage shall not be taken, but in such places only where it used to be. Those which bear upon their backs brushment, bark, or coal to sell, though it be their living, shall pay no chimmage to our foresters, except they take it within our demesne woods.

15 All that be outlawed for the forest only, since the time of King Henry our grandfather, until our first coronation, shall come to our peace without let: and shall find to us, sureties, that from henceforth they shall not trespass unto us within our forest.

16 No constable, catellan, or bailiff shall hold plea of forest, neither for greenhue nor hunting; but every forester in fee shall make attachments for pleas of the forest, as well for greenhue as hunting, and shall present them to the verders of the provinces; and when they be enrolled and enclosed under the seals of the verders, they shall be presented to our chief justicers of our forest, when they shall come into those parts to hold the pleas of the forest, and before them they shall be determined. And these liberties of the forest we have granted to all men; saving to archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, and to other persons, as well spiritual and temporal, templars, hospitallers, their liberties and free customs, as well within the forest as without, in warrens and other places, which they have had.

And all these customs and liberties aforesaid, which we have granted to be holden within this our realm, on our part towards our men, all men of this our realm, as well spiritual as temporal, shall observe on their part towards their men. And for this our gift and grant of these liberties, and of the other liberties contained in our Great Charter of other liberties, the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, freeholders and other our subjects have given unto us the fifteenth part of all their moveables.

We, ratifying and approving the gifts and grants aforesaid, do grant and confirm the same for us and our heirs, and by the tenor of these presents, do renew the same: willing and granting for us and our heirs, that the charter aforesaid in all and singular its articles forever shall be firmly and inviolably observed; even although any article in the same charter contained, yet hitherto peradventure has not been kept. In witness whereof we have caused these our letters patents to be made.

Witness Edward our son at Westminster the 12th day of October in the 25th year of our reign.

In 1217, all of the rules that were contained in the 1215 version of Magna Carta and related to the forest were put into a separate charter – the Charter of the Forest. In 1225, some minor adjustments were made, and the charter was issued in its definitive form. Courtesy of the National Archives

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