A map in the museum shows the extent of the Medieval Deer park which was one of the largest areas of land in the parish, it was granted to the Bishops of Chichester by the King. A charter confirming this grant was dated 1155, in the reign of King William II, and granted “free warren” rights and hunting to the Bishop. By 1250, a park with a pale fencing was established, including woodland pasture. All the tenants both large and small in the area were responsible for the upkeep of the palings. By the year 1315, a sizable herd of deer had been bred. In 1344 the court rolls record that John Bury and William Chapman along with others unnamed, entered the bishops free warren and chase and broke his parks and chases (pulled down the paling fence) and stole hares, rabbits, partridges and pheasants. It is not recorded what happened to them, but the death penalty may have been handed down! 

The park lay to the north/west of the village on land that slopes north to the Chess Brook. The present Parsonage Farm occupies the site of the original lodge which was in the centre of the park. In 1374, the park was divided into three parts: Westlaund, a pasture land of 80 acres, Eastlaund which was in two parcels of land each of 15 acres of bracken with 100 acres of woodland in between. The woodland was said to be level, without brambles or thorn. There were also two fish ponds. The chief livestock in the park were deer and pigs. In the early fifteenth century other income was derived from rabbits and underwood. 

In 1527, at least 84 deer were kept, and it was at about this time that the Bishop let the park, but retained the right to hunt, taking two bucks per summer and two does per winter. The park was for the personal use of the Bishop and not for communal use. By 1575, the park had been reduced in size to 100 acres, but by 1629, was recorded as being 150 acres. By 1630, no rabbits or deer were recorded as being in the park and by the time of the Survey of the Manor of Stretham in 1647, the buildings were decayed and the pales were pulled down. It is said that the troubles of the civil war caused its demise. In 1780, the area was arable land and it was never enclosed again. Parsonage Wood is the last surviving part of the original medieval park. 

Steve Robotham, Assistant Curator, Henfield Museum

Image © Henfield Museum

Taken from the August 2017 edition of The Parish Magazine.
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