Forest Books relating to Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, c.1700-1744

Scope and Content

The collection comprises two manuscript volumes bound in leather, relating to the administration and legislation of Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. The volumes include copies of statutes and ordinances, perambulations of forest bounds, inquisitions, examples of writs, chapters of regard, and extracts from the forest eyres. Matters such as the status of people living in the forest, felling of trees, hunting of animals, and boundary marks are discussed. Names of places and people associated with the forest are occasionally given. Both volumes are based on earlier forest books, particularly the late-fifteenth century Middleton Forest Book also held at The University of Nottingham, and also transcribe authenticated copies of the public records in London (now held at The National Archives), sent to Nottinghamshire. The identity of the compilers of both volumes is unknown.

The first volume (MS 72/1), containing 147 folios of text and a further c.100 folios of blank pages, begins with the following statement: 'A forest book containing the laws, statutes and ordinances of the forest of Sherwood in the County of Nottingham'. The first 54 folios contain the same material as the Middleton Forest Book and parts of the early-seventeenth century Forest Book in The National Archives (Exchequer KR Accounts Various 534/1). It then goes on to include other material of later date. The latest dated item is dated 1666. The volume is accompanied by four items of correspondence, 1903-1953, relating to its loan to various people for study purposes. It is sometimes known as 'The Carding Forest Book'.

The second volume (MS 72/2) begins with the following statement: 'A book: Concerning the Forest of Sherwood extracted from two old forest books one in the possession of Sir George Savile Bart [this book is now held by Nottinghamshire Archives] and the other of Mr William Watson of Farnsfield [possibly MS 72/1, mentioned above].' The volume is dated 1744 and is written in a single hand of contemporary date. The first 100 pages closely match the first 54 folios of MS 72/1, the Middleton Forest Book and the Exchequer Forest Book. However, it also contains other items suggesting that it was compiled for antiquarian interest rather than working reference. It includes: list of meanings of certain blasts on a hunting horn heard in the forest, terms describing deer and rabbits, descriptions of forest terms and offices, hunting restrictions, plea concerning the Abbey of Rufford, perambulations, and articles. The volume was re-bound, probably in the late eighteenth or early-nineteenth century. At this time, a printed engraving of a deer hunter, published in London in 1782, was inserted at the beginning of the volume.

Administrative / Biographical History

The first volume in this collection (MS 72/1) was apparently compiled as a precedent book for reference by local forest officials. It was suggested by Helen Boulton, in 'The Sherwood Forest Book', Thoroton Society Record Series: volume 23 (Nottingham: Thoroton Society, 1965), that the volume dates to 'before 1680', and could have been compiled by or for William Cartwright, gentleman of Southwell, who was appointed keeper of the walk of Farnsfield in Sherwood in 1673, and whose deputy was one of the Warren family. However, the first 61 folios are written in a lawyer's hand of the early to mid-eighteenth century. The remainder, following straight on from the first hand, is in a round hand of similar date. The book was transcribed in the early twentieth century by W.A. James, prebendary of South Muskham, who dated it at 'about 1700-1725 by the writing and contents of the book'. It is possible that it is a slightly later copy of a compilation created in the seventeenth century.

The second volume (MS 72/2), written in 1744, has similarities with the first, but has additional entries suggesting that it was compiled by an antiquarian with an interest in Sherwood Forest, rather than as a working document. There is nothing within the volume to identify the compiler.


No archival arrangement has been necessary.

Access Information

Accessible to all registered readers.

Other Finding Aids

This description is the only finding aid available for the volumes. Copyright on the description belongs to The University of Nottingham.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Good but the cover of MS 72/1 is loose and the binding would benefit from attention.

Conditions Governing Use

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email

Custodial History

MS 72/1 is is marked with the signature of Richard Becher [of South Muskham, d 1800], in a different hand from the rest of the text. By 1880 it was in the possession of the Carding family of Combs Farm, Farnsfield, descendents of the Warren family of the same place. The Warren family had been for many years connected with the forest. It is probably a coincidence that a Michael Carding or Carden was deputy keeper of Roomwood and Osland from around 1665 to at least 1673.

MS 72/2 bears the bookplates of the naturalist Salvin Osbert (1835-1898), and of an unidentified individual named James Comerford, with the family motto 'So Ho Ho Dea Ne' [Comerford family of Kilkenny, Ireland].

The volumes were acquired by the library of The University of Nottingham in 1952 and 1955.

Related Material

The University of Nottingham; Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections: 'The Middleton Forest Book', 15th-16th century. Reference: Mi L 3/1-2

Nottinghamshire Archives: 'The Savile Forest Book' and 'The County Forest Book'. 16th-17th century.

British Library: 'The Manvers Forest Book'. 16th century. Reference: Egerton MS 3596

Bodleian Library, Oxford: Manuscript book relating to Sherwood Forest. 16th-17th century. Reference: Ashmole MS 1145

The National Archives: Two manuscript books relating to Sherwood Forest. 17th century. Reference: Exchequer KR Accounts Various 534/20, 534/1

Bromley House Library, Nottingham: Manuscript book relating to Sherwood Forest, 17th-18th century and transcription of MS 72/1 by W.A. James, 1933.


Helen Boulton, ed., 'The Sherwood Forest Book', Thoroton Society Record Series: volume 23 (Nottingham: Thoroton Society, 1965).