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Throughout Western Europe in the Middle Ages, men hunted wild animals. While game was at times an important source of food, it was rarely the principal source of nutrition. Hunting was engaged by all classes, but by the High Middle Ages, the necessity of hunting was transformed into a stylised pastime of the aristocracy. More than a pastime, it was an important arena for social interaction, essential training for war, and a privilege and measurement of nobility.

As with heraldry, too, the conventions and vocabulary of hunting were originally French in origin, via the transmission of Roman property laws through Frankish monarchs.

There exists a rich corpus of Medieval poetry and literature, manuals, art and ceremonies surrounding the hunt, increasingly elaborated in the 14th and 15th centuries as part of the vocabulary of aristocratic bearing.

Hieratic formalized recreational hunting has been taking place since Assyrian kings hunted lions from chariots in a demonstration of their royal nature. In Roman law, property included the right to hunt, a concept which continued under the Frankish Merovingian and Carolingian monarchs who considered the entire kingdom to be their property, but who also controlled enormous royal domains as hunting reserves (forestes). The biography of the Merovingian noble Saint Hubert (died c 728 A.D.) recounts how hunting could become an obsession. Charlemagne loved to hunt and did so up until his death at age seventy-two.

With the break-up of the Carolingian Empire, local lords strove to maintain and monopolize the reserves and the taking of big game in forest reserves, and small game in warrens.

The choicest areas in England for hunting purposes were well known by the Anglo-Saxon period, to be re-designated by the Danish kings after the year 1003 A.D. with all deer anywhere in the realm being claimed as ‘sole royal property’. The application and severity of ‘forest law’ is often mistakenly blamed on the Normans, but this law existed in England well before 1066; only the enforcement of the law differed after that date, beginning with William

I and continuing through to Charles I - though by 1500 the legal machinery of ‘forest law’ had largely collapsed through disuse and the attempted resurrection of it in 1620 by the latter monarch to raise revenue for the Crown was widely opposed and hence failed.

Emparkment was most successful in England after the Norman Conquest. These large sanctuaries of woodland where populations of game animals were kept and watched over by gamekeepers was a preserve where the peasantry were forbidden to hunt, poaching being subject to severe punishment. The injustice of such "emparked" preserves was a common cause of complaint in populist vernacular literature. The lower classes mostly had to content themselves with snaring birds and smaller game outside of forest reserves and warrens.

By the 16th century, areas of land reserved for breeding and hunting of game were of three kinds, according to their degree of enclosure and being subject to Forest Laws: Forests, large unenclosed areas of wilderness; Chases, which normally belonged to nobles, rather than the crown; and Parks, which were enclosed, and not subject to Forest Laws.

A deer park was not just a status symbol, it was a valuable economic asset. The larger parks were used for hunting; the smaller ones were carefully managed to provide venison. Parks were also a useful source of timber and coppice wood, as well as providing pasture for domestic animals. There is documentary evidence that horses were being kept in the parks at Dedisham.

On 20 th December 27 Edward III (1353) Sir Henry “Tregors” did fealty to the Venerable Father Robert (de Stratford), Bishop of Chichester for a parcel of land formerly called Plattere within his park of “Gatesham” (Dedisham) being 60 acres of land in Slyndefold by fealty and service of 5 shillings rent payable in equal parts at Christmas, Lady day, Midsummer, and Michaelmas. He owed relief and heriot, a horse and gear with all purtenance, for suit and all other services.

Parks, if properly managed, were able to support large herds of deer, and were efficient producers of venison. It was normally necessary to obtain royal permission to enclose a park as deer were held to be the property of the king. Parks were normally between 100 and 200 acres, although some were considerably larger. Often, they were not large enough to enable deer to be hunted on horseback within their bounds, but would serve as reserves to ensure that game was available to be released into open forests, chases and warrens for hunting.

The use of parks as live larders was more important than their occasional use for recreational hunting. Deer would be killed by beaters driving them past archers standing on foot. Deer parks had a long tradition on the Continent, and a few existed in England under the last Saxon kings, but they multiplied rapidly after the Norman Conquest. Increasing numbers are recorded in the



century, but the peak period of creation was between the second half of

the 13th century up to the time of the Black Death. It has been estimated that

around the year 1300 some 3200 deer parks existed, covering two per cent of England’s area.

The Dedisham hunting parks survived for over four hundred years for the sole purpose of hunting large animals such as deer; the ‘extras’ of revenue from timber and controlled agriculture playing a far lesser role. Gradually, with the increasing population and expansion of Slinfold and surrounding villages, coupled with rising administration costs and decreasing numbers of game, these roles had reversed by the year 1600.

In 1256, Henry Tregoz had obtained a charter of free warren for his manors at Goring and Dedisham, which meant that he was granted a licence to create a deer park. In 1321, the extent of the manor of Dedisham mentions three deer parks: Midelpark - the Middle Park (in which Huntingrove Farm now stands), Suthpark - the South Park, (in which Lower Lodge Farm now stands), and the Hertpark - Hart Park, later known as the North Park (in which Lodge Farm stands), as if there were three distinct areas of park, perhaps emparked at different times.

Before the Norman Conquest, there were only two types of deer in Britain, the red and the roe. Although fallow deer were present in interglacial times, they did not return after the last Ice Age, but were re-established successfully by the Normans. Since fallow deer are very difficult to contain, the perimeter fences needed to be particularly strong, with tall paling of cleft posts, dense hedging or a stone wall often set on a large earth bank. Efforts were made to allow wild deer to enter but not leave the park, by having a ditch on the inside of the bank.

around the year 1300 some 3200 deer parks existed, covering two per cent of England’s area.

This bank was generally surmounted by a pale or palisade extending right round the park. (from medieval sieges, it’s where the old saying beyond the pale originates) This is a fence to keep deer inside the park from straying and not primarily a boundary or giving some security from poachers.

The pale would have taken a great deal of work to create and required regular work to maintain as it would have had to have been at least eight feet high to serve the single purpose. The height of the fence could be lowered to something more manageable and still avoid potential wind damage and excessive raw material while still serving the purpose, by digging a deep ditch and throwing up the excavated soil to create a bank. This technique stems from standard medieval siege-works inherited from the Romans; a useful

construction that can be thrown up very quickly (the Legions did it every night when on the march to protect their camp). Another applied military term was the ‘wolf-pit’, a deep hole dug on a battlefield or siege covered with branches with the bottom of the pit lined with broken arrows or sharp stakes for the enemy to fall onto, standard practice against large predators in a royal forest or park from well before 1066 for obvious reasons.

Outside the perimeter ran a roadway or freeboard to allow the pale to be maintained. This strip of land would run along the entire length of the park boundary and have a width of some five to seven metres from the pale. Also known as a ‘buck’s leap’, a term sometimes confused with ‘deer leap’ or 'salter' which is another name for the park pale itself.

The plan would first be approved and surveyed by the Chief Agister and the ‘woodwards’ informed from whence the raw materials for the pale could come; the next step would be for the appointed ‘reeve’ to assemble work parties on certain days (probably supervised by foresters, verderers or lesser agisters) from local villages under the terms of ‘boon work’ or simply as paid labourers. The fence, being made of wood, would deteriorate and eventually become derelict over time. However, parts of the bank and ditch often remain today and can be seen on this estate. On examining it one can see the logic behind the construction - the thought is to enable deer to enter the park but preventing them from escaping. ‘Verderers’ would encourage deer through the careful preservation of their natural foodstuffs, and any deer would be attracted by the relative privacy and edible greenery within the Park. The main problem would be for foresters along those parts of the park intersected by a highway. For example, along the eastern part of the Middle park at Dedisham runs the ancient highway of “Staine Street” (A29): for travellers this was by far the easiest way to approach or access the park and an obvious temptation for any existing or potential poachers. Offences such as trespassing or poaching in the hunting parks came under ‘common law’ so were handled in the court of Oyer & Terminer,

Ten years after the 1321 survey Thomas de Tregoz had a second grant of free warren on his demesnes of Goring, Preston, Ham, Bargham, Storrington, Parham, Greatham, Walderton, and Deddisham, (Cal. Chart. R. iv. 258), and he complains that a host of men broke his park, hunted there and carried away deer with other goods (Feb 5 - CPR Edw III V.2. p128). Also April 27, Appointment of William Northo, now sheriff of the county, commissioner of Oyer and Terminer on complaint of Henry Tregoz that Wer, prior of Tortington and others broke his park (CPR Edw III V.2. p142).

Plan of Dedisham estate, showing location of the three hunting parks (plan courtesy of Mrs Dana

Plan of Dedisham estate, showing location of the three hunting parks (plan courtesy of Mrs Dana Chatwin)

The labour and expense involved in maintaining these boundaries meant that the optimum shape for a deer park was a circle, to minimise the length of the boundary. This was not always the case, although the South Park at Dedisham comes close to this ideal. Parks were particularly numerous in the Weald. It was the intermediate land between the uplands, “the Downs” to the north and to the south, and where there were significant amounts of woodland and wood pasture. They were often located at the edge of estates, some

distance from the manor house to which they belonged, so as not to conflict with the needs of agricultural production.

The medieval lords valued their hunting and often made the holding of land dependent upon the performance of certain services whenever they came to hunt. In 1321 Sir Thomas Tregoz’s brother, Henry, had a messuage and some 50 acres of arable and meadow called “La Violette” (Violets Farm, to the west of the manor house), which he held serving the lord at his parks at Goring and Dedisham and by render of two bows, each worth 3 shillings, and 10 barbed arrows and two bolts (a much heavier kind of arrow for larger game, possibly boar). Originally the tenant would have had to provide the lord with bows and arrows every time he visited the park to hunt, and in time this became fixed as a bi-annual rent (half at the Feast of the Assumption and the other half at the Feast of All Saints).

Deer parks were already in decline by 1400. Even in 1321 areas within the Parks had been converted to farm land. In South Park:

“in 22 pieces of land in Pinkhurst lying on the west side of Huntshaie (huntsman’s enclosure) are 64 a 1r worth 10s 8½d at 2d an acre and it can be sown with 1½ bushels of wheat or rye or 3½ bushels of oats.

In 13 pieces of land in le Suthpark on the north side of the south park and towards Wythberdesdik are 55½ a ½ r 4 p worth 9s 3¼d. And it can be sown as Pinchurst.”

In Middle Park:

“In le Middelpark’ Pendehame are 4 a. and 6 p. worth 12d. at 3d. and it can be sown with 2 bushels of wheat or rye or 4 bushels of oats.”

In North Park:

“In Longgefelde within part of Hertpark contains 7½ a. worth 2s. 6d.”

In 1563, the Northend Parke, the Middel Parke, and the Southend Parke are still being mentioned as three separate entities. By the 1550s the park was no longer being used for its original purpose of hunting, and although there were clearly three parks, they were often referred to as if they were parts of the same park. Thus the South Park was the South End of Dedisham Park and the Hart Park became the North end of Dedisham Park. John Speed’s map of 1610 shows just one park, but this may just be artistic licence (see below). By the end of the century its area was split up into separate farms, such as Lodge Farm (now Slinfold Lodge), Southlands Park (now Lower Lodge Farm), Park Street Farm (now Random Hall Hotel), and Lodge Farm in Rudgwick.

Pinkhurst Fields are mentioned in 17 th and 18 th century descriptions of Lower Lodge Farm, but their exact location is not clear. The dyke called Wytberdesdik may either be to the north-west or north-east of the South Park; an alternative name for Park Farm was West Whiteberds and the modern

Whitebreads on Stane Street was known as South Whiteberds. However, the dyke is more likely to be towards the north-east, as Wytberdesbrok, which is also mentioned in 1321, is probably the stream rising near Whitebreads.

Farming within the park gradually increased as its importance as a deer park

declined. By the mid-16


century the park was no longer being actively

managed by the Lord of the Manor, but was leased out. In 1563 Richard Puttocke was paying £20 a year for the “Southend park of Dedisham”. He, in

turn, would have let the various farms to sub-tenants.

Whitebreads on Stane Street was known as South Whiteberds. However, the dyke is more likely to

Map of 1610 showing the old medieval hunting park for Dedisham (see red arrow). note the encircling 'pele' (a pale or palisade).

In 1623 Richard Blount, Lord of the Manor of Dedisham, sold 220 acres of the South Park to his son-in-law, Reginald Mohun. These lands were described in 1636 as Lodge Farm, Hoggetts Farm, Pinkhurst Fields, and Riddon. There is no documentary evidence to show when Reginald Mohun sold his land, although he was still resident in Slinfold in 1642 at the time of the Protestation Oath Returns. It is clear, however, that the estate must have been sold as two separate lots; Lodge Farm developed into the present Slinfold Lodge whereas the other parts became Lower Lodge Farm.

The document of 1623 calls the parks by three completely different names:

Sharpes Park, Mansells Park and Reeds Park. This is the only mention of Sharpes Park and Reeds Park, but the name Mansells Park, or Mansfield


continued to be used into the 19 th century. It is difficult to be sure,

however, exactly what is meant by Mansfield Park. It is used in the Land Tax

as if it were a particular area of farmland (i.e. it could represent one of the deer parks). However, Mansfield Park occasionally appears to refer to the whole manor. Elwes in his History of the Castles, Mansions and Manors of Western Sussex, published in 1876 states “We may observe that the park attached to Dedisham in part survives, and bears the name of Mansfield Park”, and he refers to the Burrell MSS 5687, p.232, in which the manor is described as “Daddesham, als Dedisham, als Dodesham, als Deddesham, als Deadsome, als Mansfield Park.”

Even at late as 1695, Dedisham Park was still shown on county maps. However, by this























seriously into decay and the








The elliptical outline of the South Park is still clearly visible on the modern Ordnance Survey map; the outlines of the other two parks are less well defined. Most deer parks were created in the 12 th and 13 th centuries. Certainly the South Park was in existence by the time the parish of Slinfold was formed, as the parish boundary follows the curving western edge of the park for some considerable distance. The parish probably came into being when the Bishop of Chichester gained control of Slinfold Church in 1231.






















Even at late as 1695, Dedisham Park was still shown on county maps. However, by this

The freeboard to the north of the South Park is now the road to Park Farm and old maps show that the freeboard survived to the south-west of the park as a road leading to Ridden Farm (now named Gemsbrook). Traces of the freeboard can also bee seen by the park boundary within Slinfold Park Golf Course and in the field to the south of the drive leading to Lower Lodge Farmhouse (Tithe Map No 805).

The remnants of the Middle Park can also still be found both on maps and on
Middle Park can also
be found both on
for 1880,
can be clearly traced.

The freeboard for the Middle Park is still also present, fossilised into the landscape surrounding the park on at least two sides, and part of a third. Here on the O.S. map of 1888 one can see that its usage had continued on as lanes. To the east and south, it was bounded by Parkstreet Lane, which linked Stane Street with Park Farm, and to the west by Pensfold Lane, which also gave access to Huntingrove Farm.

This may more clearly be seen on the Slinfold 1843 Tithe map (below) where Pensfold Lane continued northwards, and then west to Pensfold Farm. To the east of this lane where it travels northwards from Huntingrove Farm, lies a field named Pale Field (No 952 on map), a reminder of the park boundary bank and ditch.

The freeboard for the Middle Park is still also present, fossilised into the landscape surrounding the

Most deer parks also have their lodge or “base-camp”, where the “parkers” did their business, set so as to command a view of whatever was not hidden by trees. In this park, such a lodge is still preserved and named Huntingrove Farm. The word “Grove” probably stems from Anglo Saxon word “Graf” Also, in Huntingrove we find an example of a Sussex minor name of a late use of the element ing as a connective element between a place-name and a

following further significant word, and meaning “the place where case, the grove where Hunting is carried out.


” – in this

The northernmost park, (Hart Park or Northende Parke), actually lay within the Parish of Rudgwick, and remains mainly forested unto this day. The Hart is a woodland creature, so the North Park would always have been more heavily wooded than the other two which would have been stocked with fallow or red deer.

Lodge Farmhouse in Rudgwick parish, stands on rising ground overlooking the Arun, and lies within the old North Park. The ancient Solar survives from a high class building of the first half of the 15 th century. It may well date back to the 1321 survey, for one wall of this building, between the high end and the lost hall is infilled with the unusual form of plank and stud (plank and muntin). This high-class building may well have been the original hunting lodge used by the lord of the manor and his guests as the quality of the work and its name suggests. Its position on high ground affording good views southwards may indicate that the building incorporated a standing or observation tower which would have acted as a grandstand from which visitors could watch the hunt. (Rackham, 1989)

The northernmost park, (Hart Park or Northende Parke), actually lay within the Parish of Rudgwick, and

Extent of the Hart Park (or North Park), taken from the Rudgwick Tithe Map, 1843. To the east of the park, the aggers and ditches of the old Staine Street, would have been modified to act as the park pale. Stane Street would have fallen into disuse between here and Ockley, certainly by the Middle Ages, and it would have made sense for the lord of the manor to have adapted the old roadway to become the freeboard along this side of the park. Much of the aggers and ditches still exist today and the entire stretch is considered to be of national importance and has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument (S.A.M. WS223).

So what remnants remain of the three parks in the landscape today? We have dealt with the freeboards, but what of the pales? The Horsham District Archaeology Group is currently recording surviving embankments and ditches, which appear mainly to occur in the coppices and woodland on the estate.

So what remnants remain of the three parks in the landscape today? We have dealt with

The banks and ditches bounding the north side of the middle park still survive but are problematic in that it would appear the ditch is on the wrong side! This requires further investigation to understand. Elsewhere, the ditches appear to conform to the standard configuration.

So what remnants remain of the three parks in the landscape today? We have dealt with

It may very well be that the northern boundary of the Middle park lies further north than is supposed, and that this feature is just a boundary ditch. Could it be that no northern pale was needed? There is one possibility that the Middle Park was originally of a comparable size to the other two parks. I would assume that it is the length of the chase that entertains, and not the size of the prey that matters here. If one draws a line from the North-east corner of South Park to Violets Farm, and to the west of that line and bounded by the river, we would then have a park of comparable size. There are indeed several field boundaries that would respect that line. Were this to be the case, then the moat at Dedisham, rather than being defensive, would act as a Ha- Ha to keep the livestock away from the manor.

I owe much of this article to the combined works of Richard Rutherford-Moore, Diana Chatwin, and V Wass, with the initial historical synopsis from Wikipedia, upon which I heavily relied. For a fuller bibliography, please see the list of papers below.


André, J. L. (1896) Slinfold. S.A.C. Vol. XL pps. 38-57

Birrell, J, (1992) Deer & Deer Farming in Medieval England. Agricultural History Review.

Brandon, P. (1969) Medieval clearances in the East Sussex Weald. Inst. British Geographers No 48. Transactions & papers.

Chatwin, D. (1996) The Development of Timber-Framed Buildings in the Sussex Weald. Rudgwick Preservation Society.

Chatwin, D. (Feb, 1989) Article in West Sussex County Times

Chatwin, D. (1997) Lower Lodge Farmhouse, MS Monograph.

Chatwin, D. (1987-2005) Misc MS notes.

Dallaway, Revd J. (1815) History of the Rape of Arundel

Horsfield, T. W. (1835) History, Antiquities & Topography of the County of Sussex. Sussex Press, Lewes ..

Liddiard, R. (2007) The Medieval Park: New Perspectives.

Margery, I. D. (1949) Roman Ways in the Weald, Phoenix, London



(2009) Parks


Medieval England

Archaeology OUP

Medieval History and

Peckham, W.D.





Chichester, SRS 46.






Rackham, O. (1994) Illustrated History of the Countryside. Duncan Baird Publ.

Rackham, O. (1989) The Last Forest. The Story of Hatfield Forest. Dent. London.

Readman, A. (2000) West Sussex Land Tax 1785. SRS 82.

Rooney, A. (1993) Hunting in Middle English Literature

Rutherford-Moore, R. (Current) Prevention is better than the cure! The Medieval deer-leaps of Sherwood Forest.

Salzman, L. F. (1955) Tregoz SAC Vol XCIII pps 34-58

Thomas, R. (2007) Chasing the Ideal? Ritualism, Pragmatism and the Later Medieval Hunt. Tempus.

Wass, V. (Current) Kickback: The Archaeology of Hunting.

Wikipedia. (Current) Medieval Hunting

Wilson, A.E. (1961) Customals of the Manors of Laughton, Willingdon and Goring. SRS 60.

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