The 14th century was a dramatic time in Sherwood Forest and throughout the region around Medieval Nottinghamshire with many outlaws roaming the countryside!

It was a century of enormous social change and social strain.

Locally bands of evil doers and malefactors such as the Folville gang and the notorious Coterel gang roamed the countryside robbing and kidnapping.

Edward III would storm into Nottingham Castle and regain control of his Kingdom from the usurper Roger Mortimer -who had taken the throne along with his mistress Queen Isabella from Edward II her husband.

Nationally the peasants would revolt in 1381.

The Hundred years War was kicked off by Edward III in  1337.

and the Scottish raids of the Reivers wreaked havoc...

‘This social anarchy…’ saw ‘the creation of bands of vagabonds and outlaws in Sherwood Forest and other forests as the result of Scots’ raids and the famine of 1315-16’ (Cameron 1971).

Alongside The great political stories of the day and the impact this could have on the people; natural disasters also forced many into outlawry!


Oxen plough team from the 14th century Luttrell Psalter






Picture: Oxen plough team from the 14th century Luttrell Psalter


In 1315 great floods and famine struck the country.

The River Trent burst its banks destroying roads and bridges, and damaging crops.

The Hethbeth bridge (modern day Trent Bridge) was damaged along with the causeway linking it to Nottingham.

This would have had an impact on trade in the town.

Grain prices went through the roof as crops failed.

People began to starve!

The following dramatic entry from the Nottingham Date Book 850-1884 demonstrates the panic of the time:

Nottingham, at this time, along with the rest of the kingdom was grievously affected with famine… children were stolen and converted to food, and prisoners newly brought into jails, were, in several instances, torn to pieces by previous inmates , and eaten half alive…
(Nottingham Date Book 850-1884).

Perhaps a little dramatic- but not likely to be entirely inaccurate…

This famine was followed by a sheep moraine and panic must have engulfed the area.

Many people died, and many of those who survived seem to have been forced by circumstance to take to the forest as outlaws- perhaps because they were behind on their rents and payments...

Normality did eventually return to Sherwood Forest and the rest of the country in the aftermath of the great famine, and life settled back into the cycle of the seasons…

…. But it would not be long before King Death was roaming again… in 1348/9 up to a quarter of the population would fall to the horror of the Black Death as it spread like wildfire around the kingdom….

The Great famine of 1315 is a stark reminder of how difficult and hard life could be in Medieval Sherwood Forest.



(Andy Gaunt, first published 25/10/2011)


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The Sherwood Forest
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