John Wintour and the Forest of Dean
October 1, 2008
John Wintour was a Catholic ironmaster and courtier, and his family owned a large portion of land in the forest. The wealth embodied in the resources of the forest belonged to the crown, and in 1621 Wintour was granted 40,000 cords of wood, for 21 years, to fuel his ironworks. The issue rapidly became political as the poor in the forest rallied against Wintour and his enclosures, led by Sir Baynham Throckmorton. In the Interregnum timber from the forest was used in Naval ship-building projects, and Charles II continued to promote this, issuing Wintour with another grant to fell over thirty-thousand timber trees. Samuel Pepys records several meetings with Wintour concerning this issue.
Wintour’s religion and his environmental/commerical activities were assimilated in criticisim that was levied at him, and his Sir John Wintours Vindication from the Aspersion of Destroying the Ship-Timber of the Forrest of Deane (1660) opens with a defence against Romish deforestation:
Whereas it hath been given out that the destruction of the Ship-Timber in the Forrest of Deane was long-since plotted by Papists upon intelligence with the Pope and Spanyard for the weakening of the Naval force of this Realm, and that is persuance thereof, the said Ship-Timber, hath been very much destroyed, and Sir John Wintour hath been, and is a principal promoter of the said design of destroying the said Ship-Timber by verue of certain Letters Patents obtained from the late KING (of Blessed memory) whereby the greatest part of the Soyl, Woods, Under-Woods, Tymber-trees, & other trees, of that Forrest were granted unto him…
You can read about ancient Freemining rights granted to the people of Dean here.