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 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”.
The People and the Peel
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 presented a petition 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. 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 II 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 Peel mostly dismantled by order of Edward III and access to some of the land is granted.
According to Crook: “Tenants from Woodhouse took their complaints to Edward III at the very beginning of his reign, presenting a petition in Clipstone. This led to an Inquisition held in Warsop. They refer to King Edward II enclosing at least 200 timbered acres and at least 100 acres of waste, causing an estimated loss of value of 100 shillings a year. No settlement is recorded.”
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 weill, that none of his ministers take anything from the against their will. Cancelled, because under the privy seal.
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, 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.
Previous: The creation of Clipstone Park (1176-1180)
Sources and further reading:
- David Crook (1976). Clipstone Park and ‘Peel’. Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire. 80,
- Palace for Our Kings (James Wright, 2016)
- Britannica entry on Ordainers
- Britannica entry on Thomas of Lancaster
- Wikipedia entry on Edward II
- The History of England: The Ordinances Of 1311
- The Battle of Bannockburn
- The rise and triumph of Robert Bruce
- Petitioners: Tenants of the King’s ancient demesne of his soke of Mansfield.