Rockingham Forest -
Rockingham Forest today
Forest was created by William I in the 11th Century. The original Rockingham
Forest covered a large area, as shown opposite, and this area included Cottingham.
The historical definition of a forest is 'an area of land reserved for hunting
by the King', and this is the definition which applies here.
would have been individual landowners within the
forest area but, under 'forest law' only the King was allowed to hunt for deer
or boar. Landowners and peasants were allowed to collect fallen and dead wood,
but could not cut down trees. For a small fee, villagers were allowed to graze
their animals in certain areas.
Anyone caught committing offences 'against Vert and Venison of the Forest' was
liable to punishment.
law was administered at a local level by 'wardens', also known as 'stewards',
'constables' or 'bailiffs'. These would have been high-ranking people, residing
at Rockingham Castle. Reporting to the wardens were 'gentlemen keepers', who
would have been landowners of some importance and 'yeoman keepers' (minor
landowners). The keepers patrolled the forest and collected fees from peasants.
They lived in lodges or farms provided by the warden.
Henry III relaxed the rules
slightly, allowing major landowners to obtain, at a considerable price, a
licence to fence off a piece of their land and receive a number of deer from the
King for their own private hunting. A 'deer park' was created in
Rockingham in c1256, and enlarged in 1485.
Rockingham Forest dwindled under
the reigns of Charles I and Charles II, with land being sold and leased back to
the lords of the manors. In 1832, an Act of Parliament disbanded Rockingham