The People and the Peel

Period: 1316-1328

Detail from the ‘Belvoir Map’ (also known as the Sherwood Forest Map) c. 1334 showing ‘Peel Water’ near to Spa Ponds (Archives of the Duke of Rutland, held at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire). East is at the top. The red line near Spa Ponds represents the River Maun. According to the historian David Crook: “The…map indicates that it also included a pond, probably formed by damming the river, called ‘Peel Water’”.

The royal appeal of the Clipstone peel

A peel (or ‘pele’) is an area enclosed by strong wooden fence (‘palings’) and ditch. Edward II ordered the creation of such a defensive structure on the western part of Clipstone Park in 1316 and took surrounding land for food production. But why would the king need such protection in the heart of England, and why was having additional sources of food so crucial?

Let’s start by why the King might have wanted a ‘bolt hole’ to supplement King’s Houses at Clipstone which was more like a village than a fortress. Edward II was five years into a turbulent reign. In 1312 the King’s favourite – Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall – was executed after a mock trial led by the King’s cousin Thomas, the 2nd Earl of Lancaster, who had the backing of many lords and barons. England’s 1314 defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn opened up northern England to Scottish raiders, including raids by Robert Bruce (King of Scots) who wanted Edward II to accept Scottish independence. Edward’s failure at Bannockburn forced him to largely cede control to Thomas who virtually controlled England between 1315 and 1318.

Now, onto the food. Keeping the king and his retinue and visitors fed can always be a challenge, and 1316 was the middle of the Great Famine of 1315-17 where bad weather resulted in widespread crop failures. The King spent Christmas 1315 at Clipstone. Many important visitors visited the king during this time, and over 100 pike and 1,600 roach were taken from the fishpond to the east of the King’s Houses. They ate so much food that in December it was “found necessary to send horses and carts over the Trent by ferry at Marnham to forage for provisions for the household in the area towards Lincoln”.

Information inventories and itineraries

In Clipstone Park and ‘Peel’, historian David Crook wrote that: “…The full extent of its defences is not clear, but besides the palisade it certainly had a ditch outside the gates, and payments were made for two windlasses to raise bridges. The enclosure included a gatehouse, hall, royal chamber, chapel, bakehouse, kitchen, grange and sheds for cattle, oxen and sheep. Mention is made of the employment of carters, ploughmen, shepherds, a cowherd, a dairyman, reapers and mowers, and there are details of agricultural and household implements handed on by one keeper to his successor. The river below the peel was diverted to make pasture, and the extent states that there were 198 acres of arable, presumably in a field mentioned in the accounts. The first keeper, Peter le Pavour, was initially allowed sums totalling about £98 for…rye and…oats for seed corn, and detailed stock accounts for a variety of livestock are given. The accounts leave no doubt that the primary function of the peel was an agricultural one.”

In Clipstone Peel: Fortification and Politics from Bannockburn to the Treaty of Leake, 1314–1318, Crook explained that the Peel would have been primarily wooden but that documents indicate that it also featured a stone gatehouse and used, sand, lime and probably mud. He added that: “In 1317–18 the peel enclosure several times provided a refuge to people from the countryside during a period of disturbance there. It was secure enough to be used to imprison a captured adherent of Lancaster, John de Clif, for eight days in 1322…The chapel in the peel contained a cross with an image of Christ, an image of the Blessed Virgin, and a bell.”

A 1328 inventory of the Clipstone Peel stated that it held a store of arms including 90 chainmail shirts, 24 crossbows, 4 barrels of bolts, 24 lances, a springald (bolt thrower) and three ‘kysarines’, one of them broken. It is speculated that a kysarine referred to a cider press or similar.

Edward II was recorded as having lodged at Clipstone Peel in August/September 1318 and Thomas of Lancaster is recorded as having visited Clipstone Peel in 1318 en route to York Parliament. The site was explicitly referred to as “the king’s peel” in records from 1322, 1323 and 1325.

The people’s persistent peel petitions

The Clipstone Peel complex was controversial because it expanded Clipstone Park to the west and used land in Clipstone and Mansfield Woodhouse over which the locals claimed longstanding rights. It is believed that this includes Spa Ponds, which at the time was considered part of Mansfield Woodhouse.

In January 1317 the men of Mansfield Woodhouse (including Alan and Richard Stuffyn, Walter Wolfhunt, Robert Kirklington, and John Athelsay) presented a petition to Edward II complaining about the enclosure in the Park of ‘les Holms’ and about the loss of important common land and the loss of the right to take wood from that part of the forest. The petition called for the return of land, later described as pasture in Woodhouse Wood, that amounted to at least 200 timbered acres and 100 acres of waste land. The King refused to give back the land, but conceded that they would not be penalised if their beasts entered the ‘new assart’ because of gaps in the enclosure.

Edward II’s son Edward III became king in January 1327. In May 1327 the men of Mansfield Woodhouse petitioned the king’s council complaining that Edward II had ten years previously enclosed about 200 acres of Woodhouse Wood and about 100 acres of waste in the park, depriving them of pasture for their beasts and due profits, In 1328 Edward III finally agreed to the removal of ditches and hedges enclosing an area outside the Park boundary and to the restoration of the common rights over it. In return, petitioners relinquished their claim to the part of the wood recently taken into the Park proper.

In 1328 the Peel was mostly dismantled by order of Edward III and access to some of the land was granted. It seems that the stone gatehouse from the Peel remained as it survived as ‘Beeston Lodge’ which was featured on the William Senior Map of 1630 (see the previous entry on ‘The King’s creation of Clipstone Park’).

Beeston Lodge is now ruins, consisting of a registered monument that consists of a few stones in the farmer’s field to the east of Spa Ponds. The legacy of the peel lives in place names such as Peafield Lane, with peafield being a corruption of ‘peel field’.

Extract from M/492 Downman, E A. Ancient earthworks in Nottinghamshire (1905 – 1912). Shows ditch and ramparts before any modern ploughing of the field.

Historic documents

Much of what we know about these incidents are from royal records made at the time and the historians who have used these documents to understand what was happening. These were generally written in medieval French or Latin and so what we set out below are English translations.

6th January 1317

Initial complaint from the tenants of Mansfield Woodhouse regarding the enclosure of ‘les Holms’.

Extract from the Calendar of Chancery Warrants, 1244-1326, page 456 (C 81/97/3916)

Jan 6 1317. Clipstone. The king sends enclosed a petition of his tenants of Maunesfeld Wodehous in the forest of Shirewood. Mandate to attend to it and make letters according to the Endorsement. French.

The petition, that in view of the enclosure in Clipstone park of ‘les Holms’ which was the best part of their common and the taking of their corn, beasts, and hay (?) without full payment, they may have protection, housbote and haybote as their ancestors had, and …. if their bests enter the assarted lands through default of the Enclosre. French. Much faded.

Endorsed:- The king grants them housebote and haibote by view of the forester at his will, and if it happens that their beats scape in the new assart for lack of enclosure they shall not be impeached.

Item, they shall have the king’s protection, at his will, that none of his ministers take anything from the against their will. Cancelled, because under the privy seal.

16 November 1323

Use of the peel associated with the impact of the ‘Battle of Burton’ where in March 1323 Lancaster tried to stop the advance of Edward II’s army (who was attempting to engage Lancaster) by fortifying a bridge that provided a key crossing on the River Trent.

“November 16 [1323]. Nottingham. To the keeper of the king’s peel (peli) of Clipston. Order to deliver to Joan de Boys, Petronilla de la Dale, Robert de Couelond, and Joan de Oselaston, poor tenants of Edward de Chaundos, four oxen, six cows, and three calves, which were taken from them by certain men who were pursuing Thomas, late earl of Lancaster, on his flight from the bridge of Burton, when the said men took many beasts in co. Derby from those who were believed to be the earl’s adherents, and drove them to the said peel, and delivered them to the keeper for custody. By K. and C.” (Page 40)

Source: Calendar of the Close Rolls AD 1318-1323 (EDWARD II ) [1895]. Available from:

8th May 1327

Men of Woodhouse complain again.

964. Writ to John de Crumbwell, keeper of the forest north of Trent. Nottingham. 8 May I Edward III. [1327.] By petition of the Council. Inquisition: -Warsop. Sunday before St. Dunstan. The king’s tenants of his manor of Mansfield and the soke therof from time beyond memory used to have pasture in a place called Wodehouswode. Cf. Close Roll, p. 360. C. Inq Misc. File 105 (17.)


Original writ in French from the National Archives at Kew. Available from:

Petitioners: Tenants of the King’s ancient demesne of his soke of Mansfield.

Addressees: King and council.

Nature of request: [This petition is damaged and faded.] The tenants of the King’s ancient demesne of his soke of Mansfield state that the King has enclosed certain woods and pasture in his park of Clipstone, and made some of it into arable land; and this land contributes to their farm at the Exchequer, and they have to find a woodward for this and answer to the justices of the forest at each eyre for any waste [i.e. heathland], when there has been considerable waste to create the park. They request a remedy.

Nature of endorsement: A writ is to be sent to the justice of the Forest etc. that he is to institute an inquiry etc. if the tenants were seised of the pasture etc., as is claimed by the petition, and when the park was created and the pasture enclosed etc. and if the tenants have sufficient pasture for their tenements outside that enclosure, and into other necessary articles etc. And the inquisition is to be returned in Chancery and the King advised of this etc.

10th January 1328

Peel mostly dismantled and re-used at the King’s House

Jan 10 [1328]. Clipstone. To Robert de Clypston, keeper of the manor and peel of Clypston. Order to cause all the houses at the peel aforesaid built by the late king, except the great gate of the peel and the house over it, to be removed, and to cause certain of them to be re-erected in the manor according to his discretion.” (Page 194)

Source: Calendar of the Close Rolls AD 1327-1330 (Edward III) [1896] is available from:; where specified the Calendar of the Patent Rolls (Edward II), some of which is available from

1st February 1328

Men of Woodhouse and Mansfield regain access to enclosures of hedge and ditch but lose their claim on those parts of Woodhouse Wood enclosed by pale and ditch and included in the deer park.

Calendar of the Close Rolls AD 1327-1330 (Edward III) [1896] is available from:

“Feb 1 [1328]. Knaresborough. To Robert de Clipston, keeper of the manor and park of Clipston.
Whereas the king has granted – in recompense for the losses sustained by the men and tenants of the town of Mammesfeld Wodhous by the enclosure with ditch and palings by the late king of a part of the wood called ‘Wodhouswod ‘ in Shirewod forest adjoining the old park called ‘Clipston Park,’ for the enlargement of that park, and of certain other adjoining plots by a ditch and hedge (haia), in which part and plots the men and tenants and their ancestors had common of pasture and divers other profits – that the ditch and hedge whereby the said plots, to wit those that are outside the palings of the park, are thus enclosed shall be thrown down, and that the said plots shall not be enclosed hereafter by the king, his heirs or his ministers, and that the men and tenants and others who had such common and profits there, and their heirs shall have for ever in the said places enclosed with ditch and hedge common of pasture for all their beasts and all other profits, in the same manner as they and their ancestors had therein before the enclosure, without hindrance from the king or his ministers, provided that the said men and tenants or their heirs shall not claim here- after anything in the said part of the wood that is enclosed with ditch and paling for the enlargement of the park, and the king has caused this grant to be enrolled in the rolls of chancery : the king therefore orders the keeper to permit the men and tenants to throw down the ditch and hedge whereby the said plots outside the paling of the park are enclosed, and to permit them and others who had such common and profits in the same plots to have the common and profits without hindrance. By K.

Memorandum, that Alan Stuffyn, Walter le Wolfhunt, Robert de Kirlyngton, John de Hathelslay, Alan son of Matthew, Richard Stuffyn, and other men and tenants of Mammesfeld Wodhous came before the king at Kynges Clipston on 14 January, in the first year of his reign, and com-plained to him that the late king caused a part of the wood to be enclosed [etc. as in preceding enrolment], and they prayed the king to cause justice to be done to them, and the king granted that the ditch and hedge [etc., as above]. And hereupon order was given to Robert de Clipston, keeper of the manor and park of Clipston, to permit the men and tenants to throw down the ditch and hedge [etc. as above].” (Page 360)”

History of Spa Ponds:

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