AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF ROUNDHAY PARK
Although its prime function was that of a hunting park, this large tract of enclosed land provided other forms of income for the holder of the estate. The natural riches of the park were exploited to the full by medieval landlords.
Throughout the medieval period wood remained the chief form of building material and source of fuel. It was a carefully guarded asset, yet the landlord was dependent on the honesty and diligence of the forester and his men to ensure that wood was not removed from the park without due authority. Coppicing and pollarding ensured that the woods remained productive for long periods and even the bark was harvested for use in the tanning process.
Surviving accounts show that timber was regularly sent for the repair of manorial buildings in Leeds. Initially wood for the town had been supplied from 'Leeds Park', a medieval enclosure that stretched westwards from Park Row towards what is today the Yorkshire Post building on Wellington Street.15 This woodland was quickly depleted and landowners had to go farther afield for their timber. In 1399 fifty eight shillings was paid for the wages of nine carpenters involved in cutting timber at Roundhay, Seacroft and Rothwell for the repair of Leeds Dam, swept away in ' the great flood'.16 This dam held back the waters of the River Aire and diverted them to the waterwheels at the King's Mill, Swinegate, the main corn grinding mill of the district and a monopoly that provided a useful form of income for the Lord of the Manor. Another manorial monopoly was the common oven, located off Kirkgate, where the townsfolk had to bake their bread. This also became dependent on wood from the 'Round Hay' and in 1507 over 1800 faggots were carted to the town to be burnt in the common oven.17 Thus the park became a vital source of timber and fuel for the burgeoning town of Leeds.
· Medieval foresters hard at work chopping down trees and removing the wood by cart
Rights of grazing and pasturage
In 1152, Henry de Lacy helped Abbot Alexander and a small number of Cistercian monks from Barnoldswick, helped to establish a monastery at Kirkstall.18 The family were generous benefactors and in addition to the site at Kirkstall bestowed certain lands upon them, including around two hundred acres of land at Roundhay, just to the east of the enclosed hunting park. Here they constructed a substantial farmhouse with extensive outbuildings, later called Roundhay Grange.
Around 1200 Robert de Lacy, provided the abbot with a new charter that not only confirmed his father's gift of land at Roundhay, but also reaffirms the monks' valuable grazing rights within the park for ' …forty cows with their bull calves and their sheep they have customarily held there, plus forty swine at the acorn time'.19 In addition Roger instructed his forester to provide them with two oak trees a year for the repair of their farm buildings.
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15. John Le Patourel, ed., The Manor and Borough of Leeds, 1066-1400,
Thoresby Soc., XLV (Leeds, 1957) p.76.
16. Morkill pp.21-24. (pp.231-234)
17. Joan W. Kirby, ed., The Manor and Borough of Leeds, 1425-1662, Thoresby Soc., LVll (Leeds, 1983) p.30 and p.36.
18. G.D.Barnes, Kirkstall Abbey, 1147-1539: An Historical Study, Thoresby Soc., LVlll (Leeds, 1984) pp.6-16.
19. W.T.Lancaster and W.P.Baildon, ed., Coucher Book of Kirkstall Abbey, Thoresby Soc., Vlll (Leeds, 1904) pp.50-7.