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The Red Paper Book of Colchester. Transcribed and translated by
W. Gurney BENHAM. Pp. [4); 166, xxiii., demy 4to., Colchester (Essex County Standard Office), 1902. Seventyfive copies privately printed.
As far as is at present known the records of Essex are neither voluminous nor important, although it is possible that finds may still be made in the new county record room at Chelmsford or in some of the old neglected parish chests, but a more likely mine of wealth exists in the muniment rooms and chests of the old municipalities. Coichester and Maldon are known to be exceptionally rich in records." The former were reported upon by Mr. Henry Harrod in 1865, and had been used by the Rev. Philip Morant for his History of Colchester, published in 1748, with a second " improved” edition in 1768. Much attention has been lately given to arranging, cataloguing and preserving the records of Colchester, and, what is much more to the point from a general view, Mr. Harrod's suggestion that the records should be published is now about to be acted upon. The publication of The Red Paper Book, one of the oldest of the Borough archives, is an accomplished fact, and we believe this good beginning will be followed up by other volumes, thus emulating the excellent precedents of Riley's Liber Albus of the City of London, and The Liber Custumarım. It is to be hoped that the records of Colchester will soon rank with The Records of Nottingham (11551547), in three volumes, and The Records of Oxford (1509-1583). The task undertaken by Mr. W. Gurney Benham must have presented many difficulties. The old book is very seriously decayed. The entries therein are written in Latin, in NormanFrench, and in archaic English, and thus knowledge of a somewhat expert and exceptional order was required for deciphering it and for this faithful transcription and translation.
The author tells us in the preface that this publication is rather to supply material to which others may give shape and meaning, It is quite impossible to give here anything like a concise resumé of its valuable contents; the early municipal, ecclesiastical, social and industrial life of the important com. munity is faithfully reflected in many directions.
The paper mark shows that the original book was made about the year 1310 or a little later. The oldest records in it appear to have been entered about 1350, but copies of older records are in some cases included. The translation forms a large and handsome volume, well printed in double columns, with a most voluminous index, sufficiently full of cross references, extending to nearly 23 pages, each of three columns. It is appropriately bound in red.
The author's expressed hope that this work “ will be found suggestive and helpful to the historical student, to the antiquarian and genealogist, to the philologist, and to students in various branches of "forgotten lore,'” cannot fail to be justified. This and other forthcoming volumes must add much to the better knowledge of the history of Colchester, already fairly full.
The Nineteenth Century and After, for August, (vol. lii. pp. 239250), contains an article by Sir Robert Hunter entitled “ The Reconstruction of Hainault Forest." Of course it refers to Mr. Edward North Buxton's scheme for creating a large open space in the East of London. It is well illustrated by a fullpage map, on which is clearly shown the ancient boundary of Hainault Forest. The land offered to the public, nearly 800 acres in one block and about 70 acres in another, is coloured bright green, and the six urban districts of East Ham, West Ham, Ilford, Leyton, Romford, and Walthamstow are indicated, with their populations of the last and previous censuses, emphasising the astonishingly rapid increase, which is apparently likely to continue. These telling facts are of course pointedly and exhaustively referred to in the interesting article, and the ready adoption of the scheme is advocated from many points of view. As this desireable result seems assured, we need not now further refer to the arguments employed.
The author says “ the proposal is significant of the startling change of feeling on the subject of open spaces during the last fifty years. Hainault Forest was condemned as useless to the public, and disafforested in 1851 ; in 1902 we are endeavouring to re-convert a large area of the destroyed forest from arable land to woodland.” We then find the following historical summary :
To most Londoners of the present day the name of Hainault Forest calls up no associations, and even needs explanation. Epping Forest is familiar enough, but what was Hainault ? Up to 1851 Epping and Hainault were but different sections of the Forest of Essex or Waltham.' This great forest was, in the reigns of aggressive Norman sovereigns, enlarged until it extended over most of the southern part of the county, but at iimes when the power of the nobles and landowners prevailed was limited to the area presently described. Charles the First revived the Royal claims with a view, not to sport, but to exacting fines for breaches of the forest law, and thus replenishing his coffers without the aid of Parliament. Lively controversies ensued ; and finally, in 1641, the bounds of the forest were fixed by Act of Parliament, and declared to have been from time immemorial what they were then ascertained to be, a curious example of the far-reaching powers of the British Legislature. As thus ascertained, the forest was bounded on the south by the highroad to Romford and Colchester, and on the west by the River Lee. Northwards the forest stretched as far as Nazing and Epping, and eastwards as far as Stapleford Abbots; but the boundaries on these sides are irregular and difficult to describe. Substantially the forest comprised all the land between the Lee and the little River Roding, which empties into Barking Creek, and on the east of the Roding all the land between that river and a still smaller stream which subsequently develops into the river Rom. Still further to the east was the Liberty of Havering-atte-Bower, which was at one time within the forest, but was severed from it in the time of Edward the Second, who gave it to Queen Isabella in dower. It must not, however, be imagined that all the land we have describe:was open woodland. A great part of every Royal Forest consisted of enclosed lands; there were always villages and often considerable market towns within its ambit. In Waltham Forest, for example, were Waltham Cross and Epping, besides many smaller places. All the enclosed lands were subject to the forest laws. Except by special licence no man might cut down his private wood. No lands could be newly put under the plough ; no new buildings of any kind could be erected; and no fence put up which could not be surmounted by a doe and her fawn. The royal deer, in fact, had the roam of the whole district, and their lives were as sacred as those of men. No greyhounds or other dogs of sport could be kept, and mastiffs, though they were allowed for the defence of the house, had to be expeditated,' i.e. to have the three claws of the fore-foot struck off, to incapacitate them from following the deer.
But while the forest laws thus extended to enclosed lands, and hampered their free and profitable use, they applied still more strictly to the open lands in the forest. In every forest there were large tracts of waste land, partly wood, and partly moor or heath. Over these tracts not only the royal deer, but the cattle of the inhabitants within the forest pastured at will; no enclosure could be made, and the woods were strictly preserved as covere for the deer. This open land constituted the heart of the forest ; and when the forest system fell into desuetude, and the enclosed lands were in practice emancipated from the restrictions we have described, the
lands-the waste and commonable lands of the forest - came to be looked upon as synonymous with the forest itself. Now, in Waltham Forest there were two great stretches of open woodland-the one running in a long crescent from Wanstead Flats tobeyond Epping, the other lying in a more compact mass on the high land to the east of the Roding. The first of these became known as Epping Forest, the town of Epping being situate near its northern extremity; the second as Hainault Forest. Epping Forest may be put, roughly, at about 7,000, Hainault all about 4,000 acres. In the course of the investigations made during the grea
litigation which resulted in the rescue of Epping Forest, an interesting piece of evidence, showing the essential unity of the two forests, came to light. Under the forest system each parish in the forest appointed (usually in vestry) an officer called a reeve and four assistants, who were sworn in at the Forest Courts, and whose principal duty it was to mark all cattle (horses and horned stock, not sheep), turned on to the forest by the inhabitants of the parish. For this purpose a marking-iron was used, and notwithstanding the disorder into which the forest system had fallen in the fifties and sixties of the last century, it was found possible, in the great suit, to produce or to trace the whole series of these marking-irons. Each iron bore crown and a letter of the alphabet. not the initial letter of the parish, but one of a series. Thus, the iron for Waltham
crown surmounting an A, that for Chigwell a combined with an H, and so on. Now, if the two open forests of Epping and Hainault had been in any way distinct, or even if the pasture rights had been confined to one or other of the two stretches of open land, the lettering of the marking-irons would obviously have run in two separate series, one for Epping and one for Hainault. But this was not so. One alphabetical series, extending from A to R, ran impartially over both sides of the forest, over Epping and Hainault. Moreover, one parish, that of Chigwell, ran into the centre of each division. Nevertheless, the two large tracts of waste were so widely and definitely separated, and each was so ample in itself, that in practice there was little intercourse between them. In winter the Roding usually overflowed its banks and flooded the valley, thus at times interposing an inseparable bar to intercourse. Hence the two forests came to be looked on as distinct, and when the movement for enclosure was at its height they were differently treated. This was perhaps a lucky accident for London, for while the interest of the Crown in Epping alone was not thought to be sufficient to warrant a Parliamentary enclosure, in Hainault the case was different; and, had the whole forest been treated as one, Epping might have been enclosed merely because the Crown wanted a large slice of Hainault.
The difference between the two divisions of the forest, from the Crown point of view, lay in this. Upon the dissolution of the monasteries most of the manors in both divisions came into the hands of the Crown, the Abbey of Waltham, the Abbey of Barking, and other smaller religious houses having large possessions in the forest. On the Epping side all the manors were granted out again, and with each manor passed so much of the soil of the open forest as lay within the bounds of the manor. Thus, in Epping the Crown owned no soil in the open forest, but merely the right to keep deer, unmolested, wherever they chose to roam, and the right to insist on the preservation of the trees and bushes of the forest as covert. In Hainault, on the contrary, the Crown retained the soil of some two thousand acres of woodland formerly belonging to the Abbey of Barking—the King's Woods. As the soil of the open forest was perfectly useless to any owner while the Crown enjoyed forestal rights over it, the difference does not strike one as being very material. But at a time when the ideal of the reformer was absolute private ownership in land, and the landed interest of the country was predominant in Parliament, for some not very intelligible reason great store was set on the property of the lord of the manor in the soil of waste land, while every other kind of right-whether the right of pasture of the commoner, or the right of forest of the Crown—was looked upon as a little fantastic and very inconvenient. Consequently the Office of Woods and Forests,
considering that they had a valuable property in Hainault Forest, and scarcely any interest in Epping, began to turn their property to account; and, absolutely unable to understand that a beautiful tract of woodland might be a valuable national possession in itself, they obtained from Parliament an Act for the disafforestation of Hainault Forest, and the allotment to the Crown of its share in the open forest freed from all common rights. Epping they did not think worth enclosing ; but they were quite willing to help the lords of manors to enclose. So they offered to sell the forestal rights to the lords at the price of about £5 an
We know the result. The lords, being relieved from the only restraining power they feared, resolved to set the commoners at defiance, and to turn the open forest into building land. They actually enclosed 3,000 acres, when, almost simultaneously, Mr. Fawcett induced the House of Commons, despite the opposition of the Government of the day, to make a vigorous protest against the destruction of the forest, and the Corporation of London, through the happy accident of possessing common rights in respect to a cemetery at Ilford, was able to enter the field as a communer and to challenge thé enclosures. Some five or six years of most vigorous controversy ensued, and finally 5,600 acres of the old forest waste-some actually reclaimed from the plough and the gardener's spadewere transferred to the keeping of the Corporation of London as a pleasure ground for the metropolis.
In the meantime, the enclosure of Hainault Forest proceeded in a regular and peaceable manner. The first Act passed, that of 1851, merely disafforested ihe district, and gave the Crown an allotment in lieu of all its rights.
On the area thus alloted, some 1,700 acres, there were 100,000 timber trees, besides smaller growth. The Commissioners of Woods and Forests were ardent agriculturists, and had no sympathy with half measures. The timber was felled and cut up by a steam saw on the spot; the roots were stubbed; and at an expense of £40,000 two or three farms were created, which in 1863 were bringing in a rental of £4,000 a year. The lords of adjoining manors were not slow to emulate this bright example. After the Crown was satisfied, there remained over 2,000 acres of open woodland, subject to the indiscriminate exercise of rights on the part of some half. dozen parishes. The next step was to make a division between these parishes, and this was effected under the authority of a second Act of Parliament passed in 1858. Each parish was thus left with a piece of the old forest for its own use, the soil belonging to the lord of the manor, and the inhabitants (in legal phrase, the owners and occupiers of lands in the parish) being entitled to rights of pasture. In order to abolish the common thus left, and to reduce the whole parish to the much desired condition of private land, one more step was necessary—an enclosure carried out under ordinary conditions. By the aid of the Enclosure Commissioners every parish common save one was cut up and allotted among the lord of the manor and the landowners, and the destruction of the ancient forest was at last complete. Happily there was one exception. The Lord of the Manor of Lambourn, father, we believe, of the present Colonel Mark Lockwood, the member for the Epping division of Essex, does not appear to have suffered from the prevalent rage for converting woods, commons, and pastures into arable land. He did not apply for an enclosure of the Lambourn parish allotment; and it. remains, a bit of old Hainault Forest, to the present day. Its oaks and horn. beam still rise out of the protecting briars and brambles ; its glades and lawns are still subject to the visits of the cattle of the parish, though in fact the common rights are not, we believe, fully exercised. In the place of commoners, gipsies