The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex

The Ashdown Forest Dispute 1876-1882
by Professor Brian Short
published by Sussex Record Society in 1997
Excerpts from this work have been reproduced on this site with the kind permission of Professor Brian Short

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William Augustus Raper
Robert Edwards

15.10.1879

Edwards, Robert. Of Lines Farm, Hartfield. Farmer. 73. Born at Andrews Bank, 14 December 1805.

My father's name was Robert. He died about 1848. He was employed on the Buckhurst Estate as sawyer and woodman for many years and when I was 14 or 15 years old he was appointed Wood Reeve and Bailiff and Reeve of the manors and so continued till his death. He also attended to all the forest work under the Steward. He succeeded one Eves, whom I remember. We lived at Andrews Bank till I was about 8 years old when we moved to a house in the middle of the 500 where he lived till he died. I married when I was 21 or 22 and moved back to Andrews Bank and 4 or 5 years after I took Lines Farm where I have ever since continued to reside. I went to Hartfield School till I was about 12 years old then I went under my Father at first sawing for him and afterwards assisting him in his appointments.

When I was about 11 years old I recollect going with my father to assist the Commoners [to] drive all sheep and horses off the forest. I produce a paper dated 24 July 1816 in my father's handwriting which relates to that drift. I found it amongst his papers which are in my possession.

17.10.79

When I was young the Commoners used periodically to drive all the sheep and horses found on the Forest and pound them at Nutley pound. The Duchess of Dorset's Steward did not assist but he would ride over and meet the tenants at Nutley after they had driven and take part in the dinner that followed. My Father used to help drive. He may have done so as representative of my grandfather who occupied Andrews Bank which had rights in the Forest. I used to go with him. I remember the drift of 24 July 1816 referred to in the paper I produce. I found it amongst my father's papers and it is in his handwriting. I went with my father on that occasion. Nutley pound was kept up by the Duchess and was used not only for the Forest but for the adjacent commons which were waste of Duddleswell Manor. The pound keeper was I believe appointed at the Manor Court.

While the Association of 1830 lasted the members drove the Forest more than once and pounded horses and sheep and also all cattle that belonged to persons who had no common rights The Forest has never been driven since that Association died out.

As far back as I can recollect encroachments were from time to time made by persons enclosing pieces of the Forest. Where encroachments had been taken in for some years small rents were demanded for them on behalf of the Duchess and afterwards of Lord De La Warr. When the people would not pay acknowledgement proceedings were taken to eject them. I produce letters from the solicitors relating to these proceedings land] also a memorandum in the old Lord De La Warr's writing directing that those who would not pay should be turned out and as far as I recollect all parish encroachments were regularly thrown out by the Commoners assisted by some of the old Duchess's and the old Lord De La Warr's people.

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