How Did the Buildings and Landscapes of the Secular Elite Shape Medieval Settlement and Social Relationships
Deer parks were formed only on those estates of the very rich, nobility and the great clerics, who spent much of their time hunting, however by the end of the15th century, according to Michael Reed (page 124) the wood contained in the parks had become more valuable than the deer. Deer are notorious for stripping bark and so destroying woodland and the animals would be excluded in order to allow the trees to grow undamaged. Occasionally land in private ownership would pass back into public ownership as when Henry VIII gave his private hunting ground, Sutton Park to the people of Sutton Coldfield in 1528, as described on the web page Sutton Coldfield, but this did not necessarily mean it could then be farmed. When poor men hunt it is called poaching and punishable, but it was the rich who had the horses, weapons, and birds of prey, so once again it was they who were the main beneficiaries. The deer park was of economic importance in that it provided food, leather, wood etc, but also employment for many people. Just as with the fish ponds they provided an easily available larder of fresh food before the advent of modern-day preserving methods and chill rooms and freezers. Hunting was an expensive pastime but there were other advantages in that if the king was kept happy then social advancement was possible. The Medieval Source Book recording an Inquest of the Sheriffs Regarding the Forests in 1170 mentions reward, promise, and friendship as being the products of hunting. Hunting was both a pleasure and a necessity – a way of entertaining guests and also of filling their bellies. By the later medieval period new methods of farming were being used and hunting for survival was no longer required. Instead, hunting moved on from being a necessity into a stylized pastime for the aristocracy. James III of Scotland in the 15th century had several hunting lodges, as described by Gilbert, 2003, (page 42).