The Future of Sherwood’s Past

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Why Sherwood Forest?

Mercian Archaeological Services Community Archaeology The Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project

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Mercian Archaeological Services CIC

Community Archaeology in the East Midlands,

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Community Archaeology in Nottinghamshire

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Sherwood Forest was situated entirely within the county of Nottinghamshire, in the English Midlands.

Almost exactly in the centre of England.

There were many reasons why it was considered an ideal location for a Royal Forest when it was established sometime in the early Norman period.

Some of these are outlined below.


The area north and west of the Trent was an ideal location for a forest, especially the area of the Sherwood Sandstone geology  

These Permo-Triassic rocks (previously known as the Bunter Pebble-beds - but renamed due to the association with the forest) are porous and therefore the overlying soils are dryer and less fertile than the surrounding soils of the limestones and mudstones.

This lack of fertility resulted in less arable cultivation of this sandstone region. Domesday book of 1086 show this area to be far lower in arable land use than the corresponding areas of the Mercia Mudstones and the highly fertile area of the Trent valley.

Domesday book shows the whole of the area  north and west of the river Trent to be dominated by Wood-pasture. A form of pasturing sheep flocks etc. as opposed to intensive growing of crops.

Place name evidence

This landscape of trees, pasture and open heathland can be traced back beyond Domesday and the Norman conquest.

Placename evidence presumed to date from the Dark Ages suggests this area was characteristically well wooded.

The placename ending 'ley' is thought to indicate a clearing in woodland.

The placename field as in 'Ashfield' suggests an area of open heathland.

It is noticeable that all of these are north and west of the river Trent

Crown possessions

As well as the natural state of the land, another crucial reason for choosing Sherwood was that the crown had a significant influence in the area.

The Royal manors of Arnold, Bothamsall, Dunham, and Mansfield (the largest manor in the county in the medieval period) were all north and west of the river Trent.

All these elements combined to make this area an ideal location for a royal hunting forest.

Deer love woodland and heathland- and kings loved deer.

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