In countless stories and films about Robin Hood the people were always unwilling to give poachers away to the foresters. Historical evidence also shows that during the medieval period this was true and that they also refused to answer questions. A good example of this is recorded from an inquest held in 1248 about a poaching incident in Weybridge Forest in Huntingdonshire.

On 2 August the walking foresters were going about midnight to watch over their bailiwick and met a red greyhound worrying a doe, they called the greyhound and took it. Afterwards twelve men came...one of them with an axe in his hand, another with a long stick, and the other ten with bows and arrows. And they led three greyhounds in a leash, of which one was white, another speckled with black and white, and of what colour the third was they know not.

The foresters called the men, who shot six arrows at them.........and the foresers shot at the men, who entered the wood, and on account of the thickness of the wood and the darkness of the night the foresters know not what became of them.

One of the men was recognised by the foresters as Gervase of Dene in Bedfordshire who was captured a fortnight later and put in Huntingdon gaol.

After the ninth hour there came to the foresters, Walter the chaplain of Huntingdon and other chaplains of the same place and William of Leicester, the bishop of Lincoln's bailiff, with book and with candle intending to excomunicate all who had laid hands on Gervase, and they sought him as a clerk and a servant of the bishop and commanded the forester to free him from prison.

When the foresters said that it was beyond their power to let him go they went to the prison and took the said Gervase as a clerk. And they took off his cap and he had his head newly shaved, and the foresters suspected that it had been shaved that day in prison

The foresters doubted whether Gervase was a clerk at all and when the Justice of the Forest visited in 1255, Walter the chaplain was summoned to appear. He was later convicted of the rescue and handed over to the archdeacon of Huntingdon. Gervase was also convicted.

(English Society in the Early Middle Ages-Doris Mary Stenton)

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Clement of the Glen said...