The Fulwood Forest ‘purpresture’

Map of Fulwood Forest
Fig 1. Cunliffe Shaw’s reconstruction of the boundary of Fulwood Forest after Preston had secured its claim to its encroachments south of Eaves Brook, vaguely distinguished by the word purpresture below Preston Moor above

Sometime after the creation of that part of the Forest of Lancaster known as Fulwood Forest in the late 11th century Preston townsfolk began creating assarts, or illegal enclosures, in the forest on the edge of their then northern boundary. These incursions were recognised and legalised by a treaty of 1252. In the treaty they are named as a purpresture, a word used to denote ‘An illegal enclosure of or encroachment upon land or property belonging to another’, to quote the OED. The extent of this purpresture is sketched in a very hazy fashion in the figure above by the principal historian of the Forest of Lancaster, Cunliffe Shaw.

The impact of the Forest of Lancaster, and in particular Fulwood Forest, on the township of Preston has been considered elsewhere (Domesday Preston). The aim here is to set more definite bounds to the purpresture than are provided by Cunliffe Shaw.

The usual source for the history of the forest is Cunliffe Shaw’s The Royal Forest of Lancaster. [1] Struggling through the dense thickets of Shaw’s text, it can become difficult to see the forest for the trees. A clearer introduction, even though it deals with only a portion of the forest, is Phil Hudson’s The Early History of Man’s Activities in the Quernmore Area. [2] This is just one of a series of articles on Quernmore that Hudson has published in Contrebis, the journal of the Lancashire Archaeological and Historical Society, together providing a comprehensive landscape history of the area. All are available on line. Hudson’s account is clear and succinct, and he never makes an assertion without supplying his evidence. Hudson knows his ground and produces a comprehensive description of the historic landscape. His account of the developments at Quernmore would seem to be mirrored at Fulwood.

Since no mention of the Forest north of the Ribble is found in Domesday, both Shaw and Hudson place its emergence after 1086. Shaw suggests the forest lands north of the Ribble were carved out by Roger of Poitou. Roger had been granted extensive holdings north and south of the Ribble after the Norman Conquest but lost them when he supported a revolt against William I in 1077-78. He regained them at the accession of William II in 1088 before losing them again in 1102. Shaw argues that it is ‘[d]uring this period until count Roger’s downfall in 1102, we find the development and organisation of the forest of Lancaster.’ [3]

Shaw identifies the next important event in the development of the Forest as the creation of the honour of Lancaster by Henry 1 between 1102 and 1116, ‘… by incorporating with the confiscated fief of Count Roger certain escheated estates in other counties and the addition of some demesne land.’ Henry later gave the honour to Count (later King) Stephen. The first reference to Stephen in relation to Lancashire comes in 1124 when he grants Tulketh to the monks of Savigny. [4]

John, count of Mortain, the future King John, was granted the honour of Lancaster, including the Forest of Lancaster, by his brother Richard I on his accession in 1189. John forfeited the honour after taking part in the insurrection of 1194, regaining it when he became king in 1199. [5]

Hudson challenges the traditional image of a royal forest devoted solely to the preservation of game:

‘The description of a Royal Forest area … as tracts of land set aside as a royal preserve, used only as royal hunting grounds for sport of the king and his courtiers; areas that were wild, wooded and unpopulated wastes, does not appear to stand up in the light of the documentary and landscape evidence. … Examination of early land grants, rights and privileges, support the premise that there was continuous occupation, enclosure and primary economic activity being carried on in the Quemmore Forest area … from the eleventh century onwards.’ [6]

This is borne out by the actions of the future King John:

‘In the late twelfth century, c.1194, when Count John held all the lands north of the sands, he granted for the sum of £500 right of common, access and freedom from forest regard [a detailed survey of forest, originally held every three years] in Quernmore Forest outside the Royal Demesne Lands, to the men of Lonsdale and the Burgesses and Freemen of Lancaster. … It is also known that Count John granted pastures and other lands, which were soon enclosed, in both Quernmore and Littledale.’ [7]

Hudson cites an unpublished Sheffield MA thesis that:

‘… takes this point further and is of the opinion that John permitted extensive development in order to raise money to further his political ambitions. One easy way to obtain this was by accepting large sums of cash for respite of the forest regard. This could also have been a reason why pressure for development was put on certain areas near growing population sites like Lancaster, Caton and Halton Manor …’ [8]

A similar situation probably obtained at Preston at the same time. King John had granted to the burgesses of Preston by charter dated 1199 recognition of the rights granted by Henry II in a charter dated around 1179. Among other things, John’s charter confirmed the burgesses’ right to an annual fair lasting eight days on the feast of the assumption of St Mary (15 August) and the right to pasturage in Fulwood Forest, together with the right to take wood for house building. [9] If John was as keen to raise funds as Hudson suggests he might have been obtaining payments from the burgesses of Preston to allow other encroachments in the forest (activities covered by the words purpresture and assart).

The boundaries

Working backwards, a clear depiction of the boundary between Preston and Fulwood is found on Lang’s plan of 1774. This boundary would seem to be the one established by the town’s charter granted by Henry III in 1252. This charter was recited and confirmed in Preston’s charter of Elizabeth I which John Lingard transcribed and translated. Lingard’s book is divided into two sections: the transcriptions are at the front with pages numbered from one, followed by the translations with the pagination starting again at one. [10] The translation of the section of Elizabeth’s charter relating to the Henry III charter reads as follows:

‘Whereas it is known to us by an inquisition which we caused to be taken by our sheriff of Lancaster, that three hundred and twenty-four acres of land, as well of the old as of the new purpresture, which our burgesses of Preston in Amounderness have made under our enclosure of Fulwood, belong to our borough of Preston, and not to the said enclosure (which purpresture reaches to the following boundaries, to wit: along the rivulet of Ennisbrock at Ribbleton, as far as where that rivulet falls into the water of Sannocke, and so proceeding along that water of Sannocke as far as the old dyke, which is the division between Preston and Tulketh) we have granted, and by this our charter have confirmed for ourselves and our heirs, that the burgesses aforesaid and their heirs shall have that purpresture for ever; and that on the moor towards our wood of Fulwood, without the cover of the said wood, and within the said boundaries, they may break up ground, and bring it into cultivation as they shall please, without any impeachment of our foresters or verderors: yet so, that they come not within forty perches of the cover of the said wood. Saving also to the burgesses aforesaid, and their heirs aforesaid, their right of turbary and pasturage on the said moor, and of sufficient underwood in the same wood, without waste or impeachment of our foresters, or verderors aforesaid. Wherefore we will and strictly command, for ourselves and our heirs, that our burgesses aforesaid, and their heirs, possess for ever the aforesaid purpresture, with its appurtenances, according to the boundaries and divisions aforesaid, together with the right of turbary, pasturage, under wood, and other liberties and free customs appertaining to the said purpresture, as is aforesaid.’ [11]

‘Ennisbrock’ is Eaves Brook and ‘the water of Sannocke’ is Savick Brook. One minor point is that Lingard translates the phrase ‘apud Ribbelton Scales’ as ‘at Ribbleton’ rather than the full ‘at Ribbleton Scales’. Ribbleton Scales was the name given to the northern section of Ribbleton.

Lingard makes the point that ‘From this charter it appears that the inhabitants of Preston had, at different times, enclosed or occupied lands which were claimed as belonging to the royal forest of Fulwood. These are now granted to them by Henry III.’ This gradual encroachment on the forest lands is suggested by the phrase ‘as well of the old as of the new purpresture’. This early assarting is discussed in the treatment of Domesday Preston.

Difficulties arise with the specific measurements in the document: 324 acres of land and ‘within forty perches of the cover of the said wood’. Since the length of the perch is not specified, the areas and distances could be more or less than the statute measurement (see Lancashire land measurement). It is difficult to square the 324 acres, no matter how long the perch, with the boundaries described in the following document of Henry III’s reign, unless the surveyors were using the more generous ‘wood acre’ rather than a field acre.

In 1228 a perambulation of the Forest of Lancaster was carried out for Henry. This gave a detailed description of the boundaries of Quernmore, but a much vaguer delineation of the Fulwood Forest bounds. Farrer transcribes and translates the Fulwood bounds thus (his interpretation of place names in bold):

‘Item except Fulewood (Fulwood) by the bounds, to wit from the Hay of Ravenkel (near Plungington house) unto the way of Dunepul (north of Preston Moor), and thence as the watercourse runs to Dupedale (Deepdale Road) and thence unto Lund to the upper head, and thence as the water course of Dupedale goes to Fulwude, and thence as that water course falls in Huctredescate (Ughtred’s gate), and thence as the way goes to lower Coleford, and thence as it falls down to the Cadileisahe (Cadley-shaw) and thence unto the Hay of Ravnekil. And [herein] the men of Preston ought to have timber for their buildings and to burn, and pasture for their beasts.’ [12]

Unfortunately, Farrer does not explain why he places the hay or enclosure of Ravenkel or Ravnekil near Plungington House, the way of Dunepul north of Preston Moor, nor Dupedale at Deepdale Road. Shaw, who copies Farrer’s translation, adopts Farrer’s locations without adding any explanation. He varies only in opting for the simpler Deepdale rather than Deepdale Road. [13]

A fairly recent history of Fulwood offers many tantalising clues to the people and locations in the above documents. Sadly, the authors provide no references. They identify two of the persons mentioned in the above documents thus:

‘There were two Norsemen called Ravenkel and Mamegil who owned land in Fulwood. Ravenkel, who held Woodplumpton in thegnage, had a hay for enclosing wild cattle (at the site of the present Plungington Hotel). Mamegil’s plot was at the west of Cadley near to Woodplumpton. [14]

And they write:

‘Regular inspections of the forest boundaries were made by the King’s men. After a perambulation by twelve knights in 1255, they reported that Fulwood Forest covered 2117 acres in the valley of the Savock rivulet, stretching from Cowford Bridge in the west to Grimsargh in the east.’ [15]

Plungington Hotel is the Plungington House of Farrer and Shaw, and again it begs the question, how do the authors know this is the location of the enclosure? It would be especially helpful to know the source for the 1255 perambulation which established an extent of 2117 acres.

The southern bounds of the post-1252 Fulwood Forest and the land that the Preston burgesses acquired are set out in later documents. The forest eyre of 1334 sets out those bounds:

‘And that their moor towards the wood of Fullewood outside the covert of the same wood within their metes, that is to say by the stream of Evesbrok at Ribletonscales, to where the stream falls into the water of Savok, and that descends by the water of Savok to the old ditch, (which is the boundary between Preston and Tulkyd) they may leave uncultivated or bring it back to cultivation as they shall wish without contradiction of the foresters and verderers, (excepting forty perches of land adjoining the covert of the same wood) … and that the lord Henry once king of England, great-grandfather of the now king, by his charter here produced , granted to the burgesses pasture of the wood and of the forest such oaks to be used in building their town by view of the foresters; the same charter given at Windsor 29 October, 1252.’ [16]

In 1338 a perambulation of the forest of Amounderness was carried out to establish which areas were forest and which were disafforested. Fulwood forest was defined thus

‘And except Folewode by these bounds, from the Hay of Mamesgil [near Cadley House] towards the south unto the Merehoke [near Cowford Bridge] and from Merehoke in a straight line unto Savoke, and so following Savoke towards the east in ascending unto there where the little syke of Evesbroke [the brook between Fulwood and Preston which forms the parliamentary boundary], falls into Savoke and so following Evesbroke in ascending unto the head of the Scalefeld, and so from the head of the Scalefeld towards the north, unto the Holdeputtes upon Longlegh [probably near Balshaw falls] and so be the Holdeputtes towards the north unto the Hydeschay-broke [Balshaw brook] and so following the Hydeschagbroke towards the east, unto a certain field, which is called the Forthes, and so following the ditch of the Forthes unto the old ditch in the park [Hyde park] and so following the old ditch in the park unto Noteschagheved [Cow Hill] and from the Noteschagheved towards the north, unto Colleforthe [probably near Old Gerard hall] and from Colleforthe descending Savoke unto Charaudhoke [Sharoe] and from the Charaudhoke unto the head of Fullescarsyke [the brook crossed by the north road] and from the Fullescarsyke unto the corner of Cadilegh [Cadley] in the Whitinsyke [near Ingolhead] and so following the Whitinsyke in descending towards the west unto the aforesaid Mamesgil, which is the first division.’ This was followed by a perambulation of the forests of Amounderness and Lonsdale in 1352. It started and finished at the Ribble bridge at Preston. [17]

Shaw’s interpretations of locations are in bold; again, he does not supply any evidence for his speculations. The Scalefeld or Scale Field mentioned could be the north-west corner of Ribbleton Scales.

A later document, of 1679, contains a copy of a perambulation of Fulwood which Shaw dates to between 1338 and 1350:

‘Perambulation of Menegnheye of Fulwood … commencing eastwards at the ancient waingate in the Torneleigh [and] so going in a straight line to the Monedake, which is the boundary between the Meaneheye and the new improvement of Ribbleton and so from the Monedake following the paling of the park of Hyde to the boundaries of Grimesarch, and thence northwards to the boundary of Haighton by following palings, and from Haighton to the water of Savoke, and thence westwards to the Charkendake, and thence to the Fernyhalgh, and thence following the boundary of Broughton Fullescarsike, and thence to the boundary of Schaghgreene, and thence to Cadilegh parke yorde, and thence by way of the Sike to Rammeslich, and thence following the scaghebroke to Ingelbroke, and thence southwards to the Merake through the boundaries of Ingoll and thence to the water of Savocke eastwards to Esbrocke, where it falls into, and so folling the Esbrocke to the ancient Waingate, which is the first boundary.’

The 17th-century transcriber confesses to being unsure ‘… if it be Cornelegh or Tornelegh, and Grimesarch or Wrimesarch … but I rather think they are Tornelegh and Grimesarch …’ [18]

The southern boundary of Fulwood Forest and the area appropriated by Preston in the 13th century was again defined in 1481, in the course of a court action between Sir Thomas Molyneux and the burgesses of Preston, ‘by these bounds following, that is to say by the ryver of Evesbroke at Ribelton Scalez unto a place where the same river falleth into the water of Savok, and so descending by the water of Savok unto an old dyke, which is a severaunce between our towns of Preston and Tulked …’ [19]

Mapping the purpresture

Map of Fulwood Foreston and the Preston 'purpresture'

Fig 2. An attempt to define the boundaries of Fulwood Forest with the township of Preston based on Lang’s 1774 plan (in green) reorientated to the first edition of the Ordnance Survey

In attempting to establish the boundaries of Fulwood Forest before the encroachments by Preston burgesses were accepted and made legal in 1252 assertions about locations by Farrer and Shaw not backed by evidence have been ignored. What is clear from the above charters and forest surveys is that the 1252 charter established the southern boundary of the forest along the line of Eaves Brook and Savick Brook. Previous to 1252 the western boundary would appear to have followed the dyke which marked the division between Tulketh and Preston. The phrase ‘as the watercourse runs to Dupedale’ in the 1228 survey would seem to indicate the stream named Moor Brook to the west and Deepdale Brook to the east as the original southern boundary of the forest. In his treatment of Fulwood Forest David Hunt favours this early southern boundary, ‘Prior to the growth of the town in the 12th and 13th centuries the southern limits of the forest probably lay close to the line of St George’s Road [which flanks the now-culverted Moor Brook], clearly visible from the town centre.’ [20] The eastern boundary of the forest, from examining the above documents, would appear to have started at the boundary with Ribbleton Scales in the north-east and have followed the ‘ancient waingate’ or cart road to the medieval cross marked on the early ordnance survey maps and then to the small stream, a tributary of Deepdale Brook. A court leet record of February 1704/5 describes a watercourse, which does not appear on the OS maps, leading from Holme Slack to the Moor Brook (indicated by a dotted line on the above map). [21]

The base of the medieval cross mentioned above remained in place until 1913, when it was moved to a new site besides the northern entrance to Moor Park, next to the North Lodge.

If Moor Brook and Deepdale Brook did not form the pre-1252 southern boundary of the forest, what is the alternative? The more detailed delineation of Fulwood Forest north of Eaves Brook makes it clear that the boundary followed natural features, especially streams and ditches, where possible. No obvious natural features for a pre-1252 southern boundary between Eaves Brook and Moor/Deepdale Brook suggest themselves.

There are difficulties with the measurements in the 1252 charter. The purpresture on the above map has an area of 616 statute acres, whereas the charter mentions an area of 324 acres. However, it is not stipulated what size of acre was being specified (this measure varied considerably, see Lancashire land measurement). Another possibility is that this measure related to just the new purpresture and did not include the older purpresture mentioned in the 1252 charter, but this seems unlikely. Similar difficulties arise in the meaning of the phrase ‘that they come not within forty perches of the cover of the said wood’ in the charter, since the length of the perch is not specified.

An interesting feature on the above map is the positioning of the stock funnels at the head of the ‘ancient waingate’ at the Preston/Ribbleton Scales/Fulwood border and the second leading off Preston Moor and into Church Street. Enormous herds of cattle would be brought from the north for the annual eight-day fair every August. The first funnel would allow these beasts to be brought to the moor, skirting the forest in its early days, to be gathered on the moor before being funnelled from there in batches into the Church Street cattle market (identified by Kuerden: ‘the cattell market ordinarily in the Church-street’ [22]) during the fair and for the weekly markets.

The ‘new field below Fulwood’ on the map above is first mentioned in 1311/12 in the Towneley manuscripts, according to the VCH [23] and is referred to several times in the next few years in the Gormanston Registers (Nos. 37 and 40). The field indicated on the map is the land owned by the Preston corporation in 1774, as shown in the Lang Survey. Another possibility is that the new field could have been enclosed on the north-west, for a deed of 1312 in the Gormanston Register (No. 64) mentions ‘the New field near the highway which leads to Broghtonbrygges [Broughton Bridge]’, which bridge was probably on the west of the forest (see Domesday Preston).

Much of the above argument is speculative and the names of many places and people remain obscure. What is clear is that by the 14th century much of Preston’s waste or moorland had been enclosed. These enclosures are considered in more detail in the section under construction on the town’s pre-industrial landscape.

Map showing the areas of Fulwood Forest and the Preston 'purpresture' superimposed on the six-inch first edition of the Ordnance Survey
Fig 3. The areas of Fulwood Forest and the Preston ‘purpresture’ superimposed on the six-inch first edition of the Ordnance Survey
[1] R. Cunliffe Shaw, The Royal Forest of Lancaster (Preston: Guardian Press, 1956).
[2] Phil Hudson, ‘The Early History of Man’s Activities in the Quernmore Area’, Contrebis – Journal of the Lancaster Archaeological and Historical Society 25 (2000): 51–66.
[3] Shaw, The Royal Forest of Lancaster, 8; Hudson, ‘Quernmore’, 53.
[4] Shaw, The Royal Forest of Lancaster, 12.
[5] Shaw, 13.
[6] Hudson, ‘Quernmore’, 53.
[7] Hudson, 56.
[8] Hudson, 58.
[9] W. A. Abram, Memorials of the Preston Guilds (Preston: Preston Guardian, 1882), 3.
[10] John Lingard, The Charters Granted by Different Sovereigns to the Burgesses of Preston (Preston: I. Wilcockson, 1821).
[11] Lingard, translation section 8-9.
[12] W. Farrer, The Lancashire Pipe Rolls (Liverpool: Henry Young and Sons, 1902), 423,
[13] Shaw, The Royal Forest of Lancaster, 107.
[14] Carole Knight and Margaret Burscough, Historic Fulwood and Cadley (Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing, 1998), 7.
[15] Knight and Burscough, 13.
[16] Shaw, The Royal Forest of Lancaster, 150–51.
[17] Shaw, 169.
[18] Shaw, 170.
[19] Shaw, 445–46.
[20] David Hunt, A History of Preston, 2nd ed. (Lancaster: Carnegie, 2009), 51.
[21] ‘Preston Court Leet Records’, accessed 29 January 2017,
[22] R. Kuerden, A Brief Description of the Burrough and Town of Preston, and Its Government: Originally Composed Between the Years 1682 and 1686 … (Wilcockson, 1818), 7,
[23] William Farrer and J. Brownbill, eds., The Victoria History of the County of Lancaster, vol. 7 (London: Constable, 1912), 94, fn. 52.


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