Forest Lodge is a timber framed and plastered building dating from the later-16th century, located in a prominent position on the edge of the main plain. It may have served as a viewing platform, to watch the progress of the hunt.
16th century origins
Forest Lodge stands south west of The Shell House, in a prominent position on the edge of the main ride, London Road. It is a timber-framed and plastered building dating from the later 16th century, with an overhanging or "jettied" first floor.
The oldest part is thought to be the western (right hand) end of the main, north facing, range, including a small middle bay containing a large, brick built, chimney. The present eastern (left hand) end of the main range is of a more clumsy style internally and is probably the consequence of rebuilding following some large scale damage to the original structure. The external symmetry of the outside of the main range disappears on the inside.
The original building was subsequently extended to the south by a timber-framed rear wing and to the west by a timber cladded building.
The Lodge originally lay with an large enclosure of about 7 acres, Lodge Pasture. This is shown on the 1757 Hollingworth- Lander map of the Forest. It was surrounded by a bank and ditch and continued as a separate entity throughout the Houblon era.
A grandstand view?
The location of the building is of interest. Rackham, in "The Last Forest", speculates that this this was sited at the best point for overlooking the plains, and would probably have originally included an observation tower or standing, similar to those found in Epping Forest, notably Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge. A standing served as a grandstand from which visitors could watch the progress of a hunt. It would also allow the Foresters to keep a watch on the Forest. If there was a standing, then this may have been at the eastern end of the main range. It then suffered some damage which led to the rebuilding referred to above.
The earthworks of a possible infilled moat are visible in the plain to the north of Forest Lodge. These form a rough parallelogram, measuring about 83m by 73 m. There is a raised interior platform surrounded by a an infilled ditch varying in width from 4 to 12 m. Like Forest Lodge, it is centrally located with good lines of sight, and may have been a functional predecessor of the Lodge.
An interesting tenant
In the late eigthteenth century, the Head Ranger was Daniel Gilbey II (b 1759). He was father of Henry Gilbey and grandfather of Walter and Alfred Gilbey, founders of the Gilbeys gin empire.
The Last Forest; Rackham, O; J M Dent & Sons Ltd, London; 1989; 172.
The Lodge and its garden are private.