With a history of ownership reaching as far back as 1086, Haddon’s Medieval Park has stood the test of time and has many stories to tell.
In the 14th Century, for the first time, land was permitted to be emparked for the pursuit of deer. In 1330 the Vernon family of Haddon Hall applied and a licence was duly received making Haddon one of the first deer parks to be created in the land.
The Haddon Estate has a long history of occupied land, with the first owner being William Peverel, a favourite of William the Conqueror, whose ownership of the Hall is recorded in 1086. Unfortunately for him, his son was embroiled in a plot against the crown, and his estates were immediately forfeited, with Haddon landing in the hands of the Vernon family in 1170.
The Vernon family were important Medieval knights in service to the king, and undisputedly influential in Tudor times. They accrued huge wealth and were active in the highest echelons of English society.
In Medieval times deer hunting was the aristocratic sport of choice and an exclusive platform for social engagement. It is therefore not surprising that when, in the 14th Century, land was permitted to be enclosed by the crown for the pursuit of deer, the Vernons at Haddon were one of the first to apply for ‘a licence to empark’, which they duly received in 1330.
To own a deer park in Medieval times was the ultimate status symbol, requiring Royal consent, land and money, and it provided a playground for sporting pursuits. But the parks also had other important virtues. They created a convenient supply of venison, the quarry of choice at the high table and the finest of all gifts; the important economic benefit of the provision of wood for fuel and construction; a place to rear and graze other livestock, including rabbits and fish; and for the first time, the facility for the landowner to manipulate and manage the enclosed landscape to its greatest potential for sport and economic benefit. The result was the creation of the first English parklands comprising open woodland pasture, which provided a mixture of cover and grazing for deer.
Deer parks stayed in vogue from the 14th century to shortly after the Civil War, when they declined in popularity, with many estates preferring to pursue more profitable agricultural ventures with their land.
Haddon’s Medieval Park stayed intact for a remarkably long time, until c.1782, when the majority of it was converted into field systems by the 4th and 5th Dukes of Rutland, the estate having transferred to the Manners family upon the marriage of Dorothy Vernon to John Manners, the son of the 1st Earl of Rutland, in 1557.
As the park remained for so long in its original form, much of its ancient essence, features and landscape survived, allowing us now in the 21st century to return it to its original, productive, beneficial state.