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Accredited Museum Arts Council England

Dorset Museums Association

Gillingham's Royal Forest

A NEW BOOK Gillingham's Royal Forest; The Medieval Centuries by John Porter was published at the end of December. Price £9.95

A royal residence set in a deer park, surrounded by forest with harts, fallow deer, and other game for the king’s table; a place for a royal party to relax and draw breath after a day’s journey. This was the palace of King’s Court and the Forest of Gillingham in Angevin times. King’s Court and its forest have long ago faded into the rural scenery of north Dorset, but at the time of King John featured prominently in the journeys made by itinerant monarchs across the south of England.

This book describes the origins of King’s Court and its later rebuilding under John and Henry III. In the adjoining park and forest, venison and other game were hunted for the royal sport and larder. From the forest, timbers were supplied to royal buildings and religious houses for many miles around. Wardens and foresters endeavoured, not always successfully, to keep the forest exclusively for royal use. With the passage of the medieval centuries, kings lost interest in the forest and it was to change from a hunting ground into the farming community of later times. This is a portrait of one of England’s lesser known royal forests, and is also a study of the origins of the Dorset village of Motcombe.

Dr. John Porter is a member of the Gillingham Local History Society and researches into the history of the Dorset area. He is the author of Discover Dorset Towns (Dovecote Press) and of Gillingham: The Making of a Dorset Town. He lectures widely for the WEA.

The book is illustrated with maps, sketches, and colour plates. It is available for £9.95 from Crocker’s shop, Orchard Park garden centre, and from the Gillingham Museum website,