Archibald Hamilton.

The red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 online

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Online LibraryArchibald HamiltonThe red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 → online text (page 13 of 22)
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and was therefore great-grandmother of the unfor-
tunate Lady Jane Grey.

Sir William Bonville ceased to be forester in 1454,
and was succeeded by Richard Stafford, who was
presumably some relation to the Lord Stafford who
subsequently married Cecily Bonville as her second

Richard Stafford and Richard Luttrell held office
until 1459, and it is hard to believe that under their
regivie, and with their intimate connection with two
such sporting estates as Dunster and Porlock,
hunting was not regularly carried on.

In 1 461, on the accession of Edward IV., the
forestership in fee vested in the Crown and became
extinct, as the whole land of the forest was a Royal
possession, and from this time the office seems to
have been the subject of temporary grants to Royal
favourites, who, with the exception perhaps of
Sir Giles Daubeny, looked rather to the profits
of agisting cattle than the pleasures of stag-

Of James Boteler and Philip de St. Maur in con-
nection with Exmoor we know little, nor is there any
record of John St. Albin, but the latter was certainly
admirably placed at Ashway for hunting the
country, though whether he did so or not is not

In 1477 Sir Giles Daubeny, afterwards Lord
Daubeny, a well-known Somersetshire man owning
land at South Petherton, was appointed forester for


his life. He was a busy man who took an active
part in the affairs of the country generally, but did
not neglect West Somerset. He was a near con-
nection of the Luttrells, and of the Trevelyans of
Nettlecombe. One of the earliest acts of Henry VH,
on his accession was to appoint Sir Giles Daubeny
Master of the Harthounds. He was much too busy
a man to do more than supervise either the forest or
the hounds, and we know that he appointed his
cousin, Sir John Trevelyan, of Nettlecombe, to
look after the game on Exmoor, and it is not
unnatural to surmise that this included the

This is probably the explanation of the dispute
between Sir John and the Luttrells, which is alluded
to in a letter from Sir Giles, published by the Camden
Society : —

CousYN Trevylion,

I comaund me unto you in as herty maner as I can, and
understand that upon my late wHing unto you for taking hede
unto the Kinges game w-in the forest of Exmore, we have right
well endeavoured you for the good keeping of the same; for the
which I am right heitely well contented w- you and pray you of
yJ like continuance of the same. Howe soo be it I am enformed
that of late a little grugge is fallen bitwene my brother Sir Hugh
Luttrell and you, for that he hunted of late in the oute wods of the
said forest, and thereupon a couple of hounds were taken up by
svants of yo- from his svants. After that, Cousyn, inasmoche as
my said broth- Luttrell is a borderer of the said forest, and that
ye knowe he hath maried my sister, and the man whome I do love
tenderly : my minde is and desire unto you that ye shuld have an
yghe unto hym above all others in those plies : And that when it
shall like hym to kyll a dere or to hunt for his disport ; that ye


suffer hym soo to do I pray you as hartely as I can. W-ten at
Grenewiche the xx dale of Feverer. And I pray you Cousyn let
my broder take his disporte, and if he list let hym kyll one dere in
somer and a nother in wynter herafter.

Yqr Cousin,

Giles Daubeny.
To my Cousyn,

Sir John Trevelion, Knight,

We know that Henry VII. was very keen on stag-
hunting, and this Httle episode shows that, even in a
district so remote as Exmoor^ forest rights were
looked after and forest laws enforced.

When, however, we find that a right to hunt, such
as is imphed in the Mastership of the Hart Hounds,
is conferred on the foresters, and when we remember
that, owing to the disabilities imposed on the Purlieu
men as to hunting in company and entering on the
forest, the chief forester, who could hunt anywhere
in any company, was the only person who could show
real sport, it is not unreasonable to suppose that he
kept the hounds of which he was Master in the
country where they would so frequently have to

Sir Hugh Luttreli's offence was hunting in an
^* outwood " or purlieu, not 011 the forest] and was a
trespass rather against the Purlieu man than against
the King, and it is hardly likely Sir John Trevelyan
would have taken such a strong step as to seize
hounds had he not been acting on behalf of the
forester's hounds which wanted to draw the same


Sir Giles Daubeny died in 1508.

Henry VIII. succeeded to the throne in 1509 and
settled the Forest of Exmoor together with all the
rights belonging to it upon his wife, Katherine of
Arragon, who leased them to Sir Thomas Boleyn,
father of Anne Boleyn, and descendant of the Robert
Boleyn who is described in the Perambulation of
1298 as of Spire Liscombe, in the parish of Wins-
ford (the farm between Knaplock and Ashway).
He held certain forests, farms, and offices of Queen
Katherine at a rent of £\6 135. \d.^ " saving and
excepting one hundred deer to be and remain in the
said Forest of Exmoor," and in 1520 he covenanted
to hand the same over to the Earl of Devonshire.

This sum of £\6 135'. \d. continued to be the
accepted rental of the Forest of Exmoor and the
rights belonging to it until the last lease of the forest
granted in 1780 to Sir Thomas Acland, Bart.,
though large fines were doubtless in most cases paid
for the grant of the lease, that on the last being

The wording of this covenant " saving and except-
ing one hundred deer to be and remain in the said
Forest of Exmoor" is worthy of note, for the
necessary implication is that the hunting rights were
included in the settlement and also the lease. The
number " a hundred " being specified as the minimum
head to be left.

This practice of granting the right of hunting with
the lease of the forest seems to have been followed


continuously from this date, and formed the autho-
rity under which the lessees of the forest kept up
the staghounds during the eighteenth century.

The unfortunate Anne Boleyn does not seem ever
to have succeeded to Exmoor, but it was settled on
Lady Jane Seymour, and after her death was reserved
into the King's own hands.

Sir Hugh Pollard, who appears to have come from
a family belonging to King's Nympton, in Devon,
and Kilve, a village lying between the foot of the
Quantocks and the sea, held office on Exmoor, but
the date of his appointment is unknown. That
he lived somewhere on or near the forest seems
probable from a document, dated 1520, now in the
Record Office, and quoted by Mr. Rawle in his
book. There seems to have been a robbery at
Hillersdon House, between CuUompton and Exeter,
and search was made for two servants named

" Caused the city of Exeter to be searched for
William ; sent also to Sir Hugh Pollard to keep the
fords over the Ex in Exmoor."

This either means that Sir Hugh Pollard held
some office as deputy for the Sheriff, or it betrays a
most astonishing ignorance of the district ; for the
" Ex in Exmoor " is nowhere more than a foot deep,
except in a few holes, and only a yard or two across.
The most likely supposition is that the thief was
trying to take an unfrequented route to Porlock
Weir, with a view to crossing to Wales, when he


might be expected to cross Exmoor by Pray Way,
the road from Simonsbath to Brendon, to avoid the
wet ground. Pray way means " drift " way, and was
the " pass " by which they drove the cattle and sheep
when the forest was driven for estrays and cattle
wrongfully agisted, and where they were taken by
the free suitors of Withypool, and carried off to the
pound there.

Of this Sir Hugh Pollard in relation to stag-
hunting we know nothing, nor how long he remained
in oflfice, or by whom he was succeeded.

Hunting — at all events, hunting "at force," as is
shown by Mr. Baillie Grohman in his introduction
to the " Master of Game " — was at a low ebb
throughout England generally, and Henry VI H. and
Elizabeth seem, to have had more taste for shooting
the deer with cross-bows, or hunting it in an enclosed
park, with a pack of hounds bred for their cry rather
than for other hunting qualities. The fashion set by
Royalty was no doubt followed by the nobility and
gentry, who were also at this time not only worn out
in purse and estate by the long civil contest
the country had only recently emerged from, but
were kept poor by the continued exactions and
increased taxation of the Crown.

This taste for park hunting is abundantly shown
by numberless references in Shakespeare and con-
temporary writers.

We find Henry, third Marquis of Dorset, the father
of Lady Jane Grey, Lord of the Manor of Porlock,


writing to complain of the broken-down state of his
"park" at Porlock to John Arundel, who had been
appointed " keeper " for Porlock and Brendon by
the marquis's grandmother Cecily Bonville : —

Cosyn Arundell aftr my herty recomendasions perscevyng
that my game and plesure which I was wont to haue in Purloke in
the ntie (countie) of Somersett is now in schuche dekaye that hit
is very nyghe vtterly destroyd, I require you hertly to take the
payne to haue the kepyng and ouershyght theroff, trustyng by
youre meanes that hit schalbe schortly in some better sorte and
order, whereby I shall haue cause to thanke you and thus most
hertly fare ye well ; in jast ffrom the kinge's Matie palayse off
Westmynstr the xxvij off January. Yor lovyng cousyn

Henry Dorsett.

That Elizabeth could on occasion appreciate a
good run over a country, and ride it right through
regardless of consequences, is related in her life by
Miss Strickland, who tells how she appointed to
meet the French Plenipotentiaries who came to
negotiate a marriage with the Due d'Alen^on at
George Pomfret's house at Easton : —

"The excitement of the chase, however, proved
more interesting to Elizabeth than the discussions
of her union with Monsieur d'Alen9on, and she kept
the procurators waiting for her two days at Easton,
for having started a large swift stag on the morning
previous to that appointed for their audience, she
pursued it all the day and till the middle of the
night, and was so greatly fatigued in consequence
that she was compelled to keep her chamber all the
next day."


The tendency to look on the forest as a grazing
rather than a sporting estate seems to have been
growing steadily during this period.

In a State paper, vol. 73, No. 50, dated Sep-
tember ist, 1570, we find William Cecil, Lord
Burghley, writing in his own hand to the Earl of
Bedford — though what he had to do with it is not
apparent — as follows : —

To Y* Earl of Bedford.

We Greet you well. Where^ our trusty and well beloved
servant Robert Colshill one of our Gentlemen Pensioners has our
present right of ye herbage of our forrest of Exemore, hath been
forced for maintenance of our rights, to implead certain psons
there in those ptes who refuse to paye such duties for y® herbage
of their Cattell in our sayd forrest, as in right they ought, and as
by our records we be informed in former tymes hath been

He goes on to urge the Earl to get the matter
settled without litigation if possible.

How long Mr. Colshill was in occupation we do
not know, but subsequently the forest rights were
vested in Peter Edgcombe, of Mount Edgcombe,
and he, in 1585, mortgaged them to Sir John
Poyntz, who appointed Roger Sydenham, of North
Quarum, as his ranger. The West Country seems
to have been in a very lawless condition, and Mr.
Roger Sydenham must have had his hands full to
protect the deer. The record of some proceedings
in the Star Chamber, in 1 592, printed by the Somerset
Record Society, discloses a curious state of affairs.
We have, of course, only one side of the story, but


it looks very much as if the disturbances were only
a part, or symptom, of a general opposition to the
exactions of the forest officers ; an opposition which
the more lawless spirits carried out in the way
described. The row began apparently by Roger
Sydenham complaining to Sir John Poyntz against
Humphrey Sydenham — a relative, presumably —
described as " the Captaine of a certain bande of
trained soldiers," and also Richard Langham,
Richard Hurford, and others for " spoile lately
committed on the deer."

Sir John ordered proceedings in the Star Chamber,
which, it will be noted, seems to have superseded
the Court of the Chief Justice of the Forests in
Eyre. In these proceedings Roger Sydenham
alleged that "there had always been kept a game
of red deare in the forest."

Humphrey Sydenham, Edmund Horner, Humphrey
Quircke, and the other defendants at once filed a
cross complaint against Roger, but on what ground
is not stated — probably they alleged overstocking of
the common, wrongfully extorting agistment moneys,
&c. ; the usual charges against forest officers, of
which we shall see a specimen presently. Humphrey
and his friends, looking around for money to sustain
their suit, hit on the device of holding a Church Ale.
The subsequent events, though not strictly con-
nected with staghunting, throw such a curious
light on the state of the country as to be worth
recording : —


" And it was agreed that a certain Ale should be
made in the name of some poor man, without any
license or authority, to procure the people and
inhabitants of sundry Parishes thereabouts to come
to the said Ale, and then to expend divers sums of
money, which w^as indeed to no other end than that
such benefit as should arise and come by means
therof should be bestowed on the maintenance of
such suits so commenced against your subject . . .
which Ale the said Robert Langham proclaimed to
be sold at Skilgate Church," of which Robert
Sydenham, the ranger, was churchwarden. Langham
and others put the ale in the church, which Roger,
not liking, put it out and some of it was wasted.
Whereupon Langham and his friends " did in very
riotous and disordered manner break open the
Church " and put in some 300 or 400 gallons, and
about Easter sent to sixteen or seventeen churches
near Skilgate, requiring the parson, vicar, or curate
"openly in their Churches, at the tyme of Divine
Service, upon some Sunday or HoUyday to signify
and make proclamation to the Parishioners to come
and spend their money at the aforesaid Ale, which
was done at every one of the aforesaid Parishes

This looks very much as if there was a strong local
sympathy with the malcontent party. Humphrey
Sydenham, " Captain of a certain Band of trained
soldiers in the s'' county," sent to them to come
to Skilgate and muster there "with their furniture,"


and " were there employed only in the drinkinge of
Ale, and for fear of their Captain's displeasure were
made to spend money at the Ale, more than some of
them had gotten in money before." On another
occasion Humphrey called up 100 of his men, whose
total strength was 300, to Dulverton, to a " Byd
Ale" of one John Glasse. Upon Thursday in Easter
week they gathered in great troupes or companies
from Taunton, which was a score of miles away, and
other places to Skilgate. A man named Milton was
stationed on the hill above the church where he
could see a mile of road to give notice of their
approach. In the middle of Divine service, when
the curate was begmning the Homily, Milton ran
into the church crying, " They are come, they are
come. Ring out the bells." Mr. Langham com-
manded the curate to surcease the service, and
had the bells rung and caused " dyvers bagg-
pipes to be blown to the great dishonour of
Almighty God and in contempt of your Majesty's

They appear not to have been content with this, but
to have gone round the country levying exactions —
probably they called it collecting subscriptions — and
realised altogether £^0. The scene then shifts to
London. It is alleged that the conspirators met and
tried to waylay Roger Sydenham on his way to his
lodging at a public-house in the Strand, and not
succeeding they hired a bravo, or bully, named
Rattenbury, to go to his lodging and "pike" a


quarrel with him, and challenge him to fight, which
Roger prudently declined. Roger escaped home,
though he alleges that the conspirators agreed to
waylay and murder him in the Strand. We next
hear that Edward Horner, " being a bad man " —
and, indeed, he cannot have been a pleasant neigh-
bour — collected twenty - eight armed men at
Taunton on fair day, and professing to act as
bailiff paraded the fair and extorted money and

In the following year the same set of men went at
night to the house of George Webb in Taunton,
" which did there keep a beare or beares," and
demanded that he should bring out the bear, which
he refused. They then broke open his house "and
forcibly did take from him his beare and carried him
through the streets of Taunton . . . hooping
and hollowing and making most strange outcrys and
unwonted noyses . . . and some of the doors
they did break open and suffered the said beare to
rome about loose thereby disturbing the whole town,
whereby many of the inhabitants were likely to have
been driven out of their wittes and fallen madd
and so in that sort they carried the said
beare into the open market place at Taunton, then
being between the hours of 12 and i in the night,
and by the space of three hours with dogs and other
devices, with whippes and wheelbarrows bayte the
said beare and did not tye the said beare but in this
manner bayted him lose, and did then and there fall


at variance with divers very honest inhabitants of
good account and credit, which came out of their
houses to view the said outrage " and remon-
strate. On the precise method of baiting a bear
with a wheelbarrow the old books are silent,
but, after all, something must be left to the

It is stated by Mr. Greswell, in his history of the
Forests of Somerset, that the Forest of Petherton
was a sort of Alsatia long after disafforestation, and
drew together restless and unquiet spirits. Even so
late as 17 19 this was a grievance. "At a meeting
of parishioners in vestry assembled it was voted
that all who did not belong to the parish should be
sent out of it . . . that all unlicensed ale
houses should be utterly repressed as recep-
tacles of thieves and nurseries of lewdness and

These are probably the people whom Edmund
Horner, " the bad man," collected to help the mal-
contents on Exmoor against the ranger. The
trouble seems to have lasted several years, though
what came of it finally we do not know, but there
clearly was more in it than a casual case of deer
stealing. The ranger's task, even with the help of
the fifty-two "free suitors" of Hawkridge and
Withypool, men who, if tradition be correct, were
not likely to stick at trifles, cannot have been an
easy or pleasant one during the concluding years of
Elizabeth's reign.



When Sir John Poyntz ceased to be forester is
not known, but in 1598 we find Hugh Pollard, Esq.,
probably grandson of the old Sir Hugh, established
as ranger or forester, it is not clear which, and,
according to tradition, keeping a pack of staghounds
at Simonsbath.

IPhotograph by C. Mardon, Esq.
Run to a standstill.



Wind, jolly huntsmen, your neat bugles shrilly,
Hounds make a lusty cry. — John Ford,

We have seen how complete was the organisation of
a Royal forest, what an array of officials were charged
with the enforcement of the law, and with what
strictness they carried out their duties. For whose
benefit was all this done ? That the Crown derived
a certain amount of revenue from a forest is admitted,
but there can have been but little from Exmoor. A
few fines and a few customary payments, such as the
bull and fourteen heifers, or \od. each, payable
on the descent of the hereditary forestorship. Even
at a later date, when the agistment of cattle and sheep
had become valuable, the annual rental payable in
respect of Exmoor was only £^6 13^. ^d.

Whatever may have been the case in other forests,
such as Sherwood and Selwood and the Forest of
Dean, where much valuable timber was grown, the
barren hills of West Somerset must have been main-
tained as Royal forests mainly, if not entirely, for
the sake of the deer. Who had a right to hunt

P 2


these deer ? The answer is the King, and those
only who held licences from the King. Licences
were rarely granted. The only record in those early
days of a licence to kill deer, which is to be found in
the very meagre collection of forest rolls contained
in the Record Office, is a presentation by the foresters
and verderers in 1257 that Reginald de Mohun killed
four stags and three roebucks by writ of the Lord
King, The Mohuns, who held the Manor of Exford,
at that time included in the forest, exercised " jura
regalia," which included the right of hunting over
their extensive possessions at and around Dunster.
This leads to an examination as to what was the
King's hunting establishment in early days, and what
was the practice with regard to staghunting in the
Royal forests.

The first thing which becomes quite clear from
such an inquiry is that the primary object of pre-
serving the deer was to insure a supply of venison
for the Royal larder ; sport was, except where the
King or some great noble was present, of quite
secondary consideration.

The King's huntsman, under whatever title the
office was described, was responsible for the killing,
salting, or powdering, and despatching to the Court
of a due supply of venison. His appointment as
huntsman itself carried with it the authority to hunt
and kill deer. This is important to notice, because
an appomtment as forester, even as forester in fee,
or of warden, or of ranger of a forest, carried with


it of itself no right of hunting ; the duties were solely
to preserve the "game of red deer." It is only
when we find the two offices combined that the
forester had any right of hunting. Whether this
held good under the rule of the Saxon Kings there
is no means of knowing, but it seems safe to affirm
that after the dispossession of Dodo, Ulmar, and
Godric, Robert d'Auberville, Lord of the Manors of
Withypool and Hawkridge, forester in fee of Exmoor,
and huntsman to William I., was the first to hold the
office of Master of the Staghounds on Exmoor.

We also find the family of Lovell established in a
similar manner at a very early time at Hunter's
Manor, Little Weldon, Northamptonshire, holding
the lands " in capite," or direct from the King, by
the service of keeping up a pack of hounds to hunt
the fallow buck, primarily in the adjacent Forest of
Rockingham. The hounds are carefully described
as buckhounds, not as harthounds.

The Lovells and their descendants held this manor
and kept up the hounds for many generations until
the lands and office passed, in 1395, to Sir Bernard
Brocas, of Beaurepaire and Clewer, in right of his
wife, Mary, daughter of Sir Thomas de Borhunte,
who had married Mary, the heiress of the Lovells.
The Mastership of the Buckhounds remained in the
Brocas family till 1633, when the office and manor
were sold to Sir Lewis Watson, afterwards Lord
Rockingham. This pack of hounds, which for many
generations travelled with the Court and was that


with which the King took his sport, had fallen from
its high estate and practically ceased to exist since
Henry VIII. started an independent pack, paid for
out of the Privy Purse, at Windsor, under the
Mastership of Lord Rochester, brother of Anne
Boleyn. This latter pack continued under the name
of the Royal Buckhounds until the accession of the
present King.

There seem, however, to have existed quite inde-
pendently of the buckhounds one or sometimes more
packs of harthounds, whose sole duty seems to have
been that of purveying venison for the Royal larder.

The complete hunting establishment of the early
Kings seems to have consisted of two justices of the
forest for the two districts north and south of the
Trent, under whom were all the forest officers carry-

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Online LibraryArchibald HamiltonThe red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 → online text (page 13 of 22)