19th May 1337. Old and New Money Departs.

Needwood Forest in Staffordshire, once the home of the wolf and boar was enclosed following the 1803 Enclosure Acts which saw over 9,000 acres deforested.

Affecting the rights of local commoners, the land was carved up between the big landowners.

Thorn was planted as coverts for game and hunting lodges were now inhabited by those looking for fashionable picturesque cottages, the sylvan retreat for poets, philosophers and painters.(1)

Cottage in Needwood Forest. Painting by Wright of Derby 1790.

It was different in medieval times when Today in 1337 the Chief Forester (Judge) of Needwood Forest) dealt with several cases of infringement of Forest Law. One victim was the Rector of Tatenhill who was fined 12 pennies for trespassing 140 sheep. Another of Tatenhill was fined 2 shillings for stealing three tops from fallen oak trees near Byrkley Fishpond. 

The powerful landowners de Ferrers. earls of Derby, were lords of the area after the Conquest, based at Tutbury Castle, with Needwood Forest their preserve as the collective estate of the Honour of Tutbury.


In 1267 Thomas de Byrkley, 1st Baron, of Berkeley Castle was Keeper in the Tutbury Ward married Joan de Ferrers daughter of William de Ferrers 5th Earl of Derby who was to lose his estates when he allied with the rebel de Montforth against the King Henry III.

This resulted in Edmund Crouchback, his son, taking the estates as earl of Lancaster to became the hunting Forest and Chase of the Duchy of Lancaster until Henry IV in 1399, when it became a possession of the Crown. Officers included a lieutenant or Chief Ranger four Keepers, and axe-bearer. There was an annual Court of the King’s Steward with 24 residents as Jury for encroachments, trespass and poaching of venison.(2)

The Ferrers connection with the area continued when in 1677 Charles II ended the abeyance of the barony of Chartley so a de Ferrers became 13th Baron of Chartley.

In 1751 Lady Charlotte Compton grandniece of the new creation 1st earl Ferrers married Lord George Townshend of Rainham.

Three years later Charlotte had inherited Tamworth Castle and succeeded to the Ferrers Barony and acquired the leasehold of Byrkley Lodge as a hunting seat.(3)

Game laws were zealously maintained with man traps and spring guns and after 1817 a poacher without lights and unarmed could be transported for seven years.

Byrkley Lodge rebuilt 1887-91. Demolished 1952.

Now part of Needwood was invaded by new money namely the Bass brewing family who built Rangemore Hall, and rebuilt Byrkley Lodge (1887-91) for Hamar Bass, whose son William succeeded to his uncle’s baronetcy.

Rangemore Hall built for Michael Arthur Bass, the grandson of the founder of brewers, Bass ,Ratcliffe and Gretton in the 1850.s.

The Bass Family as their predecessors moved on: Byrkley Lodge was demolished in 1952, the remnants of the garden buildings becoming a garden centre; Rangemore Hall became a school for the deaf, with the related Bass and Baillie families absconding to their Scottish estates. 

However there is still a Byrkely Street in nearby Burton-on-Trent, the Author’s home town, to remind us of those days.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi indeed.

(1)  ‘The Fall of Needwood Forest’ by the Swan of Lichfield Anna Seward described the forest after enclosure. (1).

(2) Tutbury Castle was the centre of Wapentake of Appletree which included Duffield Frith.

(3) On a 1775 map only Byrkley, Yoxall Lodge are shown on the Needwood Forest plateau came into the hands of the Duchy of Lancaster and Hanbury Park Farm. (4)


burton-on-trent.local history.Needwood/Pics

wikipedia,org/Pic of Wright painting.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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