I will first begin with beastes of venerie, whereof there hath been great plenty in this countie, and as good as any in England. Mr. J. Speed, who wrote the description of Wiltshire, anno Domini , reckons nine forests, one chace, and twenty-nine parkes.
This whole island was anciently one great forest. A stagge might have raunged from Bradon Forest to the New Forest; sc. from forest to forest, and not above four or five miles intervall (sc. from Bradon Forest to Grettenham and Clockwoods; thence to the forest by Boughwood-parke, by Calne and Pewsham Forest, Blackmore Forest, Gillingham Forest, Cranbourn Chase, Holt Forest, to the New Forest.) Most of those forests were given away by King James the First. Pewsham Forest was given to the Duke of Buckingham, who gave it, I thinke, to his brother, the Earle of Anglesey. Upon the disafforesting of it, the poor people made this rhythme:-
“When Chipnam stood in Pewsham’s wood, Before it was destroy’d, A cow might have gone for a groat a yeare- but now it is denyed”.
The metre is lamentable; but the cry of the poor was
more lamentable. I knew severall that did remember
the going of a cowe for 4d. per annum. The order
was, how many they could winter they might summer:
and pigges did cost nothing the going. Now the
highwayes are encombred with cottages, and the travellers
with the beggars that dwell in them.
The deer of the forest of Groveley were the largest
of fallow deer in England, but some doe affirm the
deer of Cranborne Chase to be larger than Groveley.
Quaere Mr. Francis Wroughton of Wilton concerning the
weight of the deer; as also Jack Harris, now keeper
of Bere Forest, can tell the weight of the best deere
of Verneditch and Groveley: he uses to come to
the inne at Sutton. Verneditch is in the parish
of Broad Chalke. ’Tis agreed that Groveley
deer were generally the heaviest; but there was one,
a buck, killed at Verneditch about an°. 165-, that
out-weighed Groveley by two pounds. Dr. Randal
Caldicot told me that it was weighed at his house,
and it weighed eight score pounds. About the
yeare 1650 there were in Verneditch-walke, which is
a part of Cranborne Chase, a thousand or twelve hundred
fallow deere; and now, 1689, there are not above five
hundred. A glover at Tysbury will give sixpence
more for a buckskin of Cranborne Chase than of Groveley;
and he saies that he can afford it.
Clarendon Parke was the best parke in the King’s
dominions. Hunt and Palmer, keepers there, did
averre that they knew seven thousand head of deere
in that parke; all fallow deere. This parke was
seven miles about. Here were twenty coppices,
and every one a mile round.
Upon these disafforestations the marterns were utterly destroyed in North Wilts. It is a pretty little beast and of a deep chesnutt colour, a kind of polecat, lesse than a fox; and the furre is much esteemed: not much inferior to sables. It is the richest furre of our nation. Martial saies of it —