AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): CLA/077
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Date(s): 1706-2007
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 90 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Corporation of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

In 1878 Epping Forest became the first Open Space to be brought under the protection of the City of London Corporation. A large crescent of land, 19km in length and nearly 6000 acres in area, it is the largest publicly owned open space in the London area. Stretching from Epping in the north to Wanstead in the south, it is the remaining fragment of the Royal Forest of Waltham, the legal limits of which covered 60,000 acres of south-west Essex from the 14th Century until the disafforestation of Hainault Forest in 1851.

The City of London Corporation has held statutory responsibility for the care and management of Epping Forest since 1878, when they were officially invested as conservators of Epping Forest in accordance with the provisions of the Epping Forest Act 1878. This Act was the culmination of seven years continuous work in law and in parliament by the City of London (for details of this see the administrative history for the Statutory and Legal sub-fonds [CLA/077/A]) and, along with subsequent legislation, lays out the provisions by which the conservators' powers were defined. It states that the City are to act through a committee consisting of twelve persons nominated by the Court of Common Council and four Verderers (who are resident in forest parishes and are elected by the commoners of Epping Forest every seven years). This committee, formerly the Epping Forest Committee, and now called the Epping Forest and Open Spaces Committee, today also undertakes the management of some of the other open spaces outside the City owned and administered by the Corporation.

The policies and directives of the Committee are carried out by the Superintendent who directs the physical management of the forest from the conservators' administrative base at The Warren, Loughton. The first Superintendent, William D'Oyley, was a local surveyor appointed in 1876. He was succeeded in the role by three generations of the McKenzie family: Alexander McKenzie (1879-1893), Francis Fuller McKenzie (1893-1932), Colin McKenzie (1932-1949). Following Colin McKenzie's retirement the superintendents are as follows: Alfred Qvist (1949-1978), John Besent (1978 - 2001 - the last superintendent to occupy The Warren house), Jeremy Wisenfeld (2001 - 2005) and, from 2008, Paul Thomson.

Since 1876, the City of London has employed forest keepers to patrol the forest (for more information see the administrative history for CLA/077B/07). All forest keepers are special constables and their role is three-fold: to enforce bye-laws, the litter act and horse riding regulations; to assist the public in their enjoyment and understanding of the Forest; and to report to management in respect of works needing done. Today, over 80 full time and part time staff are employed to work in the Forest including information assistants, forest conservation workers, ecologists, litter pickers, forest keepers, playing fields staff, green keepers and administrative staff. Staff are based at the Warren administrative offices, interpretation centres at Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge (see administrative history CLA/077/E) and the Temple, Wanstead Park, as well as at Epping Forest Visitors Centre in High Beech.

Historic buildings within the Forest administered by the Corporation include Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, Chingford; the Temple, Wanstead Park; and the Shelter at Honey Lane. Included in the public facilities maintained by the Conservators are an 18-hole golf course at Chingford and playing fields at Wanstead Flats.

The collection was accessioned from the Warren (the former residence of the Superintendent and location of the Conservators' administrative offices) and the museum at Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, joining material already transferred to LMA from Guildhall.

The majority of items in CLA/077/A (statutory and legal) were transferred from Guildhall, exceptions to this are indicated in the relevant scope and content fields; the majority of items in CLA/077/E (museum and interpretation) and CLA/077/G (visual material) were transferred from Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, Chingford. Exceptions to this are indicated in the relevant scope and content fields. All other records have been accessioned from The Warren unless otherwise specified.

The statutory and legal foundation upon which the City of London Corporation was invested as Conservators of Epping Forest was based upon nearly a decade of work by the City of London, both at law and in parliament. During the 19th century large areas of the Forest were being enclosed for development as agricultural land thereby. The status of Epping Forest as a royal forest meant that the area was subject to forest law and had certain restrictions on land use. Common inhabitants of the forest possessed various rights on forest land, such as the rights of pasture and of lop-wood. Public interest was awakened because enclosure not only infringed upon commoners' rights, but denied Londoners access to a space which they were increasingly using for recreation.

As owners of land at Little Ilford, Essex (purchased in 1854 for the City of London Cemetery), the City of London itself held rights of common over Wanstead Flats and Epping Forest. Recognising the importance of Epping Forest as a place of recreation for working class Londoners, the City of London instigated a Chancery suit in 1871 (known as the Commissioners of Sewers v Glasse and others) in the public interest on behalf of themselves and all other owners and occupiers in Epping Forest against the lords of the Manors. The intention of this suit was to prevent further enclosures and to obtain a declaration that all owners and occupiers were entitled to rights of common over the waste lands.

In the same year the Epping Forest Commission was set up by Parliament (through the Epping Forest Act 1871) to ascertain the boundaries of Epping Forest and investigate manorial claims to and commoner's rights on forest land. Evidence was submitted to the commission by lords of the manors and those claiming commoner's rights (including the City of London Corporation).

After three years and vast expense, the City of London's lawsuit in Chancery was concluded and the Master of the Rolls decided in favour of the City, with the result that a large extent of land found to be lawfully enclosed was thrown open. The City of London Corporation then set about securing as much of the wastes as they could. In this way the Corporation purchased the wastelands in the manors of Chingford, Loughton, Waltham Holy Cross, Higham Hills, Sewardstone, Cann Hall, Chingford Earls and manorial rights in Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge. Subsequently they were able to acquire all the rights from the lords of the manors, and it is these wastes, along with some subsequent additions which constitute Epping Forest today.

In 1877 the Epping Forest Commission, after a number of delays and many objections, delivered its final report to Parliament. In 1878 the Corporation introduced a bill to Parliament to confirm the arrangements already made by them in acquiring additional land, and to authorise them to acquire the remainder of the forest by agreement. This bill became the Corporation of London (Open Spaces) Act 1878 which granted the City of London the right to acquire land within a 25 mile radius of the City boundaries to preserve as open space. A separate act dealing specifically with Epping Forest became law under the title of the Epping Forest Act 1878. Through its provisions, Epping Forest ceased to be a royal forest and the City of London Corporation were formally constituted the as Conservators of the Forest stipulating that the Conservators "shall at all times keep Epping Forest unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the people". The Crown's right to venison was ended, and pollarding was no longer allowed, however grazing rights continued. The Corporation were formally authorised to acquire the remainder of the Forest by agreement and purchase, and this enabled them to arrange compensation accordingly for forfeited commoner's rights (as decided by the Epping Forest Arbitration). Under the provisions of the Act Lord Hobhouse was appointed as arbitrator for the adjustment of matters still requiring settlement. He was responsible for determining which of the illegally included lands should remain enclosed (and the conditions, if any, to be imposed upon such lands) and which were to be open again. Commoners were paid compensation as pollarding was no longer allowed, although grazing rights continued. He made his final award in 1882 after 114 public sittings attended by the City Solicitor.

In 1879 Queen Victoria appointed HRH the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn as Ranger of the Forest and on 6th May 1882 visited the forest herself declaring it open to the people forever.

Since 1882 various additions have been made to the forest by way of gift, purchase or in consideration of grants of rights of way. Such lands include Wanstead Park (opened to the public in 1882); the Oak Hall enclosure at Theydon Bois (1889); Highams Park (1891); Yardley Hill (1899 and 1903); Bell Common (1902); Knighton Wood (1930); Pole Hill (1930); Hatch Grove and Bluehouse Grove (1941); land on the Copped Hall Estate (1992). Some of these lands are classed as buffer lands which are not officially part of Epping Forest but are areas purchased by the Corporation of London to protect the links between the Forest and the wider countryside.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records pertain to the management of Epping Forest by the City of London Corporation.

The collection includes records which detail the City of London Corporation's statutory responsibilities in administering the forest (including bills and acts of parliament, legal cases, bye-laws and the election of verderers); administrative records (including Superintendent's correspondence, committee papers, forest keepers' diaries and reports and information relating to licences and land alterations); financial records (including annual accounts, ledgers of income and expenditure and cash books); staff records (including wages books and staff registers); records concerning the museum at Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge (including visitors books, research and interpretation materials and documents collected for their historical interest); printed materials (books, leaflets, posters and invitations produced both by the City of London and other organisations connected with Epping Forest); visual material (including photographs, postcards and slides); maps and plans.

The collection is particularly rich in visual material (see CLA/077/G) with photographs and slides covering the period 1880 to 2007.

Records of particular interest include: incoming and outgoing letters to the Superintendent comprehensively cover an 82 year period from 1880 to 1962 (CLA/077/B/01; CLA/077/B/02; CLA/077/B/03; CLA/077/B/15) . These letters illuminate many aspects of the history of the forest including forest management decisions, land-use changes and the relationship between forest staff and local residents and the central role played by the Superintendent.

Those researching individuals may be interested in the staff records for example, staff registers (CLA/077/D/03) and wages books (CLA/077/D/01) as well as the records kept by Forest Keepers (CLA/077/B/07 and CLA/077/B/08).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In sections according to catalogue.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

The collection was accessioned from the Warren (the former residence of the Superintendent and location of the Conservators' administrative offices) and the museum at Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge in 2008-2009, joining material generated at Guildhall and already transferred to LMA from COLRO.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Corporation of London Records Office.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For Corporation of London records relating to open spaces, parks, forests and gardens, see: CLA/077: Epping Forest, CLA/078: Open Spaces, COL/CC/BFC: Bunhill Fields Committee, COL/CC/CCF: Coal, Corn and Finance Committee, COL/CC/CCR: Coal, Corn and Rates Finance Committee, COL/CC/EFC: Epping Forest and Open Spaces Committee, COL/CC/HHM: Hampstead Heath Management Committee, COL/CC/HWJ: Highgate Wood Joint Consultative Committee, COL/CC/MGC: Metage on Grain Committee, COL/CC/WHP: Committee of Managers of West Ham Park, and see COL/CCS/PL, COL/PL, COL/PLD/PL and COL/SVD/PL for plans and maps. The D'Oyley collection (1641 - 1880) CLC/232, includes maps, surveys, plans and documents relating to Epping Forest created and collected by William D'Oyley (surveyor and Superintendent of Epping Forest 1876-1879).

Graphic material held at LMA (maps and prints) include satires (c.1790 - 1810), later satire by Pollard, engravings of forest scenes (early 20th century), postcards (early 20th century), newscuttings and illustrated London news extracts, material concerning the visit of Queen Victoria (1882).

Records relating to the legal battle to save the Forest and the City of London Corporation's case in Chancery (Commissioner of Sewers v Glasse and others), the Epping Forest Commission and the Epping Forest Act 1878 can be found at The National Archives (C16 and WORK 9), at the Parliamentary Archives (HC/LB/1/132 ands FCP/1) and at Essex Record office (D/DXj). Records relating to the Epping Forest Preservation Society can be found at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (S/MIS).

Records relating to Epping Forest prior to the involvement of the City of London Corporation can be found at Essex Record Office

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Description compiled by Katie Keys.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2009

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Placename Search

* To search for other records with similar placenames, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"