Grovely Forest, Wilts

Grovely Forest, or Grovely Wood, was the largest royal forest in Wiltshire and the only one mentioned in Doomsday. Originally occupying about twenty square miles extending west and south from Great Wishford, the forest had been reduced by 1603 to fourteen coppices covering approximately 7.5 square miles. At this time, William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke, whose country seat was Wilton House, near the southeast corner of the forest, held the wood in socage. The inhabitants of Great Wishford and Barford St. Martin had ancient rights to the use of the forest, including the right to gather boughs, take fallen wood, and fell some timber each year. They celebrated these rights annually on Whit Tuesday until 1660, when ‘Oak Apple Day’ (29 May) became the day of the celebration. In accordance with their custom, the people gathered boughs in the forest, which they then carried in procession to Salisbury; there they entered the cathedral chanting ‘Grovely, Grovely, Grovely’ or ‘Grovely, Grovely, and all Grovely’.

The case of Garrett v. Perkins is one of several Star Chamber cases that followed King James I’s attempt in the first years of his reign ‘to revive the forest system and enforce the forest laws’. (1) His commissioners investigated illegal uses of land within the forests and unlawful taking of timber and game, and those responsible for the management of the forests intensified their efforts to enforce the laws, as they were under pressure to do. King James’s policy, which may have been implemented more rigorously by Edward Garrett because he was a recent appointee as one of the game keepers of the earl of Pembroke, challenged accepted practices and, as a result, sparked the kind of resistance recorded in the bill of complaint, resistance that allegedly involved a violent attack on Garrett’s person and mocking libel of his good name, resistance that allegedly involved a threatened attack on Garrett’s person and a mocking libel of his good name.

(1) A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 4. Ed. Elizabeth Crittall. London: Victoria County History, 1959. P. 432. British History Online. Web. 17 December 2015.

Garrett v. Perkins