Review by Peter Roberts
This book was the first of two similar titles edited by the late David Stagg. Published in 1979, it is the third volume in the Hampshire Record Series produced by Hampshire Country Council. As stated by its title it consists of translations of New Forest documents from the medieval period, in particular those originating from the Forest Courts, mainly those of the Forest Justices but lesser courts also. The documents are placed in context by a full and reliable introduction which, although technical, is a standard work for those considering this period of Forest history. The introduction includes a very full section on Forest Law in general together with a piece concerning the application of common law within the New Forest as the 1257 Forest Eyre considered by Forest and Civil Pleas; it is often stated, incorrectly, that Common Law was not applied within Forests. The Forest Eyre itself is described as might be expected from a book which contains so much derived from that source. The lower forest courts are also considered in detail as are the forests officers. In addition to the Court records are some Accounts, Surveys and Extents which include much interesting information, including that in regard to the operation of Forest Rights at this period and these are both discussed at length in the introduction. Discussion is made regarding the medieval bounds of the Forest which were very much tied up with the politics of the day, though only the ‘large bounds’ are contained within the book itself, the small bounds being published in a number of other locations. What must be borne in mind is that the villages within the Forest area were also considered to form part of the Forest and therefore much material is included on them, the link between the forest wastes and enclosed lands was not lost on the medieval foresters. A useful discussion is also given on material contained in the Pipe Rolls and an index of Forest material from those published by the time David was writing is included as an appendix. While this information may not inspire many people to rush out and find a copy for themselves, those that do will find the main text full of entertaining entries detailing the misdemeanours of Forest people throughout the Forest often in places now lost to modern memory. But for those who wish to come to a full understanding of the Forest at this period this particular book is a must.