Skip to main content

Monument record MDR10138 - Crich Chase medieval park and chase, Crich

Type and Period (4)

Protected Status/Designation

  • World Heritage Site
  • World Heritage Site Buffer Zone

Full Description

A medieval park is recorded in Crich by 1309. A 'chase' differed from a medieval 'park', however it is possible that Crich Chase was, at separate stages, both. The park was one of the chief hunting grounds of medieval England and was to be found in substantial numbers in almost every part of the country. It differed from the other major medieval hunting grounds, the forest and the chase, in its relatively small size and that it was securely enclosed. The hunting park was usually between 100 and 200 acres in size, though some parks were much larger, and took a roughly circular or elliptical form and was enclosed in order to retain the deer, principally fallow and red deer, both for hunting and as a source of fresh meat throughout the year. The enclosure itself normally consisted of a combination of a substantial earth bank topped with a fence of cleft oak stakes, though in some areas where stone was freely available, this was replaced by a stone wall. In some districts, quickset hedge would take the place of the fence and where the topography was suitable, the paling fence alone may serve as a barrier, as would artificial and naturally occurring rivers and streams. The medieval park was owned by the lord of the manor, typically consisting of 'unimproved land' lying beyond the cultivated fields on the edge of the manor, including woodland to provide covert for the deer. Although some Saxon 'deer folds' were in existence (unknown if any were in Derbyshire), the park was essentially a Norman creation as a product for their love of hunting. Traces of medieval parks can be seen today as earth banks, curving hedge-lines marking the line of the former park boundaries, field names and farm names. (1) On March 31 1200, King John issued a charter of liberties to Hubert fitz Ralph, lord of Crich, and his heirs. By it, his manor of Crich and its wood were to be removed from the interference of the royal foresters, effectively excluding it from the forest between the Erewash and the Derwent. Also, the royal control of hunting which had existed there was in future to be vested in Hubert himself. He was to be allowed his dogs and his hunt and hunter, and no-one else was to hunt or have common there without his permission, as if it was not in the forest. (2) By 1683 there were numerous closes and some settlement within the Chase. The main areas of woodland at that time were 'the Great Wood' of about 172 acres and 'Maycock Hag' on the Amber which was some 44 acres. Other areas such as 'Billbery piece' appear to have been partially cleared. (3) Many of the closes shown on the 1683 map had been further divided into small fields by 1849. (4) Surviving woodland is mainly within the area of the 1683 'Great Wood'. It contains various important features, including Q-pits, hollow ways, a grindstone quarry, veteran coppice trees, a walled holly hagg, and walling with raking copings of possible pre-18th century date. (The site as digitised is based mainly on the map of Crich Chase dated 1683). (5) A recent gazetteer of medieval parks states that Crich Chase was not, in fact, enclosed as a park but was a hunting area in which Hubert FitzRalph had granted rights to the Canons of Derby in 1175. (6) A number of lead smelting sites have been named within Crich Chase, although they have not been well located. Crich Chase smelting Mill was referred to in 1601 in operation between 1578 and 1585. Other sites related to Crich Chase (though not within the boundary) have also been noted. A number of 'Red Lead Mills' were listed in operation between 1574 and 1782 situated 'on the Carr' or 'in the Car'. An individual Ragge's Red Lead Mill was noted in 1611 on a stream near Coddington. A number of stream sediment anomalies high in lead have been noted in Crich at Robin Hood, Dimple Lane, Milnbrook and Wakebridge. (7) The Derwent Valley area around Duffield and Crich was probably used as a hunting forest in the early medieval by the early English kings. The woodland of Crich Chase must have been a northern outlier of Duffield Frith, since the Frith extended at least as far north as Heage. There is mention in 1244 of a Crich Wood or 'bosco de Crich' in the Cartulary of Darley Abbey. Place names of 'Hartshays' indicate native red deer would have been hunted in the area, undoubtably alongside wild boar, however the Norman barons appear to have hunted exclusively the fallow deer, which they introduced. The manor of Crich passed through a number of hands- in 1760 the Chase is described as an extent of wood, pasture, meadow and arable land. The completion of the Cromford Canal in 1793 cut through the woodland, leaving a legacy of characteristic woodland flowers alongside the towpath and bank. Farey, writing in 1813 includes part of Crich Chase on a list of Old Spring Woods of Derbyshire. On 1920s scale maps of the Chase show 'haggs' and 'hoggs' implying enclosed, individual sections of woodland. (8)

Sources/Archives (8)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Cantor, L. 1983. Medieval Parks of England: a gazetteer.
  • <2> Article in serial: Crook, D. 2001. 'The development of private hunting rights in Derbyshire, 1189-1258', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 121, pp 232-243.
  • <3> Map: Halton, I. 1683. Crich Chase in the Parish of Criche.
  • <4> Map: 1849. Map of Crich Township in the County of Derby.
  • <5> Personal Observation: Stroud, G. Personal observation, map evidence, field visit etc.. C & D group visit, 2004.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Wiltshire, M & Woore, S. 2009. Medieval Parks of Derbyshire. p 60.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Kiernan, D (University of Sheffield). 2004. Lead Smelting at Crich.
  • <8> Unpublished document: The History of Crich Chase.



Grid reference Centred SK 3459 5250 (2104m by 2025m)
World Heritage Site Derwent Valley Mills

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (0)

External Links (0)

Record last edited

Feb 4 2020 10:56AM

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.