Newchurch (Needwood Forest)

Extract from Kelly's Directory of Staffordshire, 1896.
Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2012

NEEDWOOD-FOREST, a district in the northern division of the hundred of OFFLOW, county of STAFFORD, formerly extra-parochial, but now included in the several parishes to which it was allotted for enclosure, viz. Hanbury, Tatenhill, Tutbury, and Yoxhall. This forest, in its ancient state, was divided into five districts, called Barton Ward, Marchington Ward, Tutbury Ward, Yoxhall Ward, and Uttoxeter Ward, and included thirteen parks, which were given to the earls of Mercia. It was about twenty three miles and a half in compass, and the nearest part of it was one mile from the castle of Tutbury. The kings of England often enjoyed the diversion of hunting here, down to the time of Charles I., who disafforested a great portion of the district, by selling and granting away various parts of it.

In 1797, it consisted of the four first-named wards only, each having its separate lodge and keeper, and then comprised nearly ten thousand acres; but it was subsequently enclosed by act of parliament, the bill for that purpose having received the royal assent in 1801; up to that period, it having been extra-parochial, no less than twenty-two neighbouring townships had right of pasturage upon it, independently of a numerous herd of deer belonging to the king. At the enclosure, an allotment of land was made to each of the above-mentioned parishes, and, from that reserved to the crown, timber valued at £60,000 was sold; and upwards of sixty miles of road were formed in various directions throughout its extent. The crown still possesses a considerable portion of it, chiefly woodland, for the preservation of deer, &c. It is under the superintendence of a lieutenant, chief ranger, and other officers, viz., a surveyor, or axe-bearer, four keepers, &c.

The king's steward of the honour of Tutbury holds an annual court for the forest, called the woodmote, at which these officers attend, and a jury of twenty-four men, residing within the jurisdiction, present and amerce for all encroachments and offences committed therein. This fine tract now contains many elegant mansions, with extensive parks, &c., the property of individuals vying with each other in efforts to render their possessions at once beautiful and of public utility. A church, called Christchurch in Needwood, was erected from funds left by Isaac Hawkins, Esq., and consecrated in 1809; it is a handsome structure, situated at an equal distance from each of the parish churches, of which the living is independent, being a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry of Stafford, and diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, endowed, by his late Majesty, George III., with one hundred and sixty acres of the forest land, and in the patronage of the Crown.
[Kelly's Directory of Staffordshire, 1896]

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