Sample Chapter – English Deer Parks

Sample Chapter - English Deer Parks
Sample Chapter – English Deer Parks


Sample Chapter
Short History of Public Parks
Chapter title – English Deer Parks

The English Deer Park gave rise to the first English parks. After the successful Norman invasion in 1066, the invaders confiscated most of the lands held by the former Anglo-Saxon nobility. At first the Norman kings had exclusive right to establish a deer park. Since serving venison at banquets was a sign of great status, many of the minor nobles also desired them. The kings eventually allowed the nobles to establish their own deer parks to supply venison to their guests. To establish a deer park, the noble had to acquire a document called a “licence to empark,” from the king. The noble usually placed the park inside, or near, a royal forest. They usually surrounded the park with a ditch. A high bank with a stone, brick or wooden fence at the top bounded the ditch. The construction prevented deer from leaving the park. Sometimes the noble built a device called a deer leap outside, which allowed wild deer to enter the park, but not escape. Most of the time these were illegal, as it could deprive the king of his deer that roamed the open forest. Many nobles built hunting lodges inside the park, many of which were protected by moats. Inside the park was a mix of wild pasture land, forest and heath. The trees consisted of mainly oaks, whose acorns provided winter forage for the deer. Many of the ancient oaks now living in England were preserved inside these parks. The nobles imported deer from the European continent to stock their parks. Native red deer roamed the forests outside. The usual method of hunting deer was to drive them into nets. After slaughtering them, they became the “noble meat,” of feasts. Historians estimate that at their height, around 1300 AD, deer parks occupied about 2% of the English countryside. Many of these parks were abandoned after the deer park became unfashionable after the 1642 – 1651 English Civil War. Some were used as fields to grow crops, some reverted to wild lands and some found use as public parks. Many of these parks are still in existence.

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