The Forest of Dean Verderers

800 years of history

Office and Role

HM Verderers are a direct descendent from the Norman’s administration of Forest Law. The Royal Forests in England were recorded by the Doomsday survey in 1086. The earliest surviving record of Deans Verderers dates from 1221.

The principal duty of Verderers was the protection of the vert and the venison within the bounds of royal forests. Verderers had their own court which tried minor offences such as encroachment and stealing timber. For more serious crimes such as poaching the Kings’ deer, Verderers would remand the miscreant to jail in St Briavels castle to await the justices of the forest Eyre (the high court of Forest Law). They also had duties to attend all courts and acted as the “eyes” and the “ears” of the Sovereign.

John Manwood writing in 1598 said: “It is to be understood that there are most commonly in every one of the Kings forests within his realm, four officers of the forest called Verderers (which ought to be esquires or gentlemen of good account, ability, and living) which are wise and discreet men, and well learned in the laws of the forest. A Verderer is a judicial officer of the Kings forest chosen by the Kings writ in the full county of the same shire in which the forest is, and sworn to maintain and keep the assizes of the forest, and also to view, receive, and inroll the attachments and presentiments of all manner of trespasses of the forest, of vert and venison.”

The legal powers of Verderers were replaced at the end of the 19th Century by Magistrates and other courts. Today, the role of Verderers remains the safe guarding of the vert and venison of the forest. Their significant concern is with the environment, wildlife and conservation and they keep an eye on issues relating to the Statutory Forest including character and traditions.

They also serve as a conduit for the public to raise questions about the management and future of the Forest of Dean.