Election of a Verderer for the Forest of Dean

The election of a Verderer for the Forest of Dean remains similar to the procedure used for at least seven centuries. Following the death of a Verderer, his burial is notified to the Crown by the steward of the Verderers? Court. A writ, tested at the Royal Courts of Justice is then sent to the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, commanded by the Sovereign to arrange for the election of another Verderer.

The High Sheriff fixes a date for the election and gives notice by advertisement and poster and then supervises the election in the County Court at Shire Hall, Gloucester.

If there is more than one nominee, all freeholders of the county of Gloucestershire (except those of Gloucester and Bristol) are entitled to vote and the election is decided by a show of hands. If the outcome is not clear, a poll can be demanded - the polling would be undertaken as soon as possible after the hearing.

Election in this manner was suspended for most officials as the number of freemen grew and voting by show of hands became impractical. The election of coroners continued in this way up to the nineteenth century, but the election of a Verderer continues with this special tradition.

After a successful candidate is chosen by show of hands or poll, the High Sheriff administers to him the oath of office as follows:

I swear by Almighty God that I will truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen in the office of a Verderer in the Forest of Dean, I will to the uttermost of my power and knowledge do for the profit of the Queen so far as it doth appertain unto me to do, I will preserve and maintain the ancient rights and franchises of Her Crown, I will not conceal from Her Majesty any rights or privileges nor any offence either in vert or venison nor any other thing, I will not withdraw or abridge any defaults, but will endeavour myself to manifest and redress the same, and if I cannot do that of myself I will give knowledge thereof unto the Queen or unto Her justice of the forest, I will deal indifferently with all the Queen?s liege people, I will execute the laws of the Forest and do equal right and justice as well unto the poor as unto the rich in that appertaineth unto my office, I will not oppress any person by colour thereof for any reward, favour or malice. All these things I will to the uttermost of my power observe and keep.

Dr Cyril Hart taking the Verderers oath. 18/11/1952
Dr Cyril Hart taking the Verderers oath. 18/11/1952

The High Sheriff then makes his return to the writ certifying that by assent of his full county he had caused the successful candidate to be chosen as a Verderer, and had taken his corporal oath in the usual manner to do and keep those things which concern the office.