History: 4 - 1600 to 1729

An overgrown pillow mound in the Warren

In the 1600's, the soil of all the Forest and the trees to the west of Shermore Brook was owned initially by Lord Morely and the Parker family, from Hallingbury Park, until 1666, and then by the Turnor family. The Barrington family, from Barrington Hall, in Hatfield Broad Oak, owned the trees in the Bush End and Takeley quarters, to the east of Shermore Brook. This was a period of friction between these two families and also between the families and the commoners.

The Parker Family 

In 1592, the Rich family sold their interests in the soil of all the Forest, hunting rights and the rights to the timber to the west of Shermore Brook to Lord Morley and the Parker family. They were a distinguished local family who had owned the ancient estate of Hallingbury Place in Great Hallingbury, situated to the west of the Forest, since the 14th century. 

The Barrington Family 

In 1612, the Rich family sold the remainder of their interests in the Hatfield Estate, including the lordship on the Manor, with all its rights to hold court and fine offenders against the by-laws, to Sir Francis Barrington.

The Barringtons were another long established local family who had their family seat at nearby Barrington Hall, to the east of the Forest. They had owned the timber in the northern eastern third of the Forest, to the east of Shermore Brook, since 1576, in return for surrendering their claim to the office of Woodward.

Sir Francis’ father, Sir Thomas, received Queen Elizabeth in Hatfield Broad Oak in 1576 and 1578. Sir Francis and his son, Sir Thomas, were both Members of Parliament for Essex. Sir Francis was imprisoned by the King Charles I, for over a year in 1628, for refusing to support a loan to the King.

Sir Thomas was caught up in the politics preceding and during the English Civil War, sitting in both the Short and Long Parliaments. 

Forest Disputes 

This period was marked by a series of disputes between the Parkers and the Barringtons, as they tested the limits of their rights, as well as between the commoners and the landed gentry. 

Thus, in the early 1600’s, there was dispute as to which family had the right to hold the annual St James Fair, at Thremhall Green, in the north west of the Forest, just south of Stane Street. There was a riot in 1613 and this was eventually resolved in favour of the Lord of the Manor, the Barringtons, rather than the landowner, Lord Morley. 

In 1639, Lord Morley caused great anger amongst the commoners with a scheme to to make his ownership absolute and so remove the common-rights, through a Royal Commission. Opposition to the scheme was led by the vicar of the church at Hatfield Broad Oak. An appeal to the Inner Star Chamber was successful and the scheme was rejected. 
 
The Parker family were Catholic sympathisers whilst the Barrington family were staunch Puritans, related through marriage to Oliver Cromwell, giving rise to extra tensions across the Forest.
 

The Turnor Family

The Parker family’s fortunes continued to decline, not helped by supporting the losing Royalist cause in the Civil War, and by 1665 they were heavily in debt, with many parts of their land and rights having been sub-let.
 
In 1666 they sold Hallingbury Park and the rights to the soil and deer of all the Forest, and the timber to the west of Shermore Brook, to Sir Edward Turnor.
 
He came from Little Parndon, now part of Harlow, and was a Member of Parliament, for Essex from 1654 to 61 and the Hertford, from 1661 to 1671. He was knighted in 1660, elected Speaker of the House of Commons for 10 years from 1661 to 1671 and then Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer until his death in 1676.
 

A revival of interest in the Warren

There was a brief revival of interest in the Warren in the 1680’s when a Warrener was appointed and Warren House built to provide accommodation, and new rabbits introduced. The present Warren House is a 19th century replacement, slightly to the side of the original building.
 

A less talented son 

Otherwise, the Turnors had a relatively quiet ownership of the forest. Sir Edwards’s son, also Sir Edward, had none of his father’s talents. He was a church warden in his local parish of Great Hallingbury for 34 years, until his death. He did finally manage to become an MP, for Orford, Suffolk, in 1701 after several earlier failed efforts. He died in debt in 1721. 
 
He was probably responsible for introducing the distinctive sets of intersecting rides into the centres of several of the coppices, such as Six Wantz Ways and Eight Wantz Ways.
 

Sale of the Forest to the Houblon family  

The Forest was sold in 1729 to the Houblon family who were to become the last private owners, before the Forest was bequeathed to the National Trust, nearly 200 years later, in 1924.