The People and the Peel

Period: 1316-1328

Detail from the ‘Belvoir 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,

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.”


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 weill, that none of his ministers take anything from the against their will. Cancelled, because under the privy seal.

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)”

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.



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