Charters and court cases shed considerable light
on the resources afforded by forests and the activities that went
on therein. A particularly interesting example is the dispute, 1231/2,
between Abbot Roger
of Rievaulx and the abbey's patron, William Ros, regarding land
in Griff and Tilleston, common pasture and wood in Hamelak and Pockele.
The argument centred on William's assertion that he had a forest
in the woods here; accordingly, he had his foresters keep wild beasts
in the woods and lands belonging to the abbot, within the bounds
of nine carucates. Abbot Roger argued that the presence of William's
foresters had hindered him from having common of herbage and mast
or his cattle, in the woods of Hamelak and Pockele,(2)
as well as common of brushwood and timber; more importantly, William's
actions were contrary to the charter of his father, Robert of Ros.
This dispute resulted in lengthy legislative
proceedings, but William eventually agreed to deforest these lands
and not to demand a forest by right. William made a number of other
concessions to the abbot, and his charter reveals further information
about daily life in the forest and how the woodland was utilised.
William agreed that he should not take birds nesting or put keepers
or foresters within the said nine carucates and assart,
but that the abbot and his successors should have their own keepers
and foresters to keep the woods and lands there; he conceded that
the community could take wild beasts and all sorts of game with
their dogs and greyhounds, and also their bows and arrows, unhindered
by either him or his heirs. Furthermore, William granted the abbot
common of herbage, mast, brushwood and timber in all the woods and
holdings of Hamelak and Pockele except in the old park east of Hamelak
and another to the west, called 'le Haye', and wood called Plocwude;
whilst Rievaulx might not have any common there the community might
take all the brushwood and timber it required and also for its beasts
and flocks, except goats. The monks were also to have right of passage
for their men, herds and carts. The abbot, in return, gave William
The case between the abbot of Rievaulx and Gilbert
de Gaunt in 1252, which was decided in the abbot's favour, is equally
incisive and provides an unusually vivid insight to the sights and
sounds of the medieval forest. The terms of this agreement stipulated
that in Gilbert's forest of Swaledale, the abbot should have dogs,
horns and all necessities for his house, hedges, hearths, folds
and lodges and other easements which he ought and used to have (i.e.
by custom - by right).