Saving the people's Forest for London

August 19th 2018
By: Melanie Hollidge
Saving the people's Forest for London

Saving the people’s forest in London is something to celebrate. If you live in Chigwell, Loughton or Woodford you will be delighted that Epping Forest was saved 140 years ago and remains under the protection of the 1878 Act.

If you want to see what Epping Forest looked like in the 1870s when it was saved from destruction you can see more at The View and Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, Rangers Road, Chingford, London E4 7QH. From Sun 12 Aug to Tue 18 Sep 10am-5pm (closed on Mondays) an exhibition is being held to mark 140 years of Epping Forest as a protected public space. This exhibition will reprint more than 40 historic photographs of the Forest and adjoining villages commissioned to celebrate the crucial legal judgement that saved the Forest.

Chigwell, Loughton and Woodford are some of the areas that benefit from being so close to the forest. Saving Epping Forest preserved one of London’s most important landscapes for future generations. As part of the Royal Forest of Essex, Epping Forest was one of sixty forests across England where Forest Law gave the Crown the right to hunt game across the largely privately owned land.  Changing Royal interests during the Georgian period saw Royal participation in hunting and the power of Forest Law dramatically decline. Parliamentary scrutiny of Royal finances following the Restoration saw the Royal Forest hunting rights across private land, known as Forestal Rights, begin to be sold.  

There is a long story to be explored in the exhibition but finally, on 6 May 1882, Queen Victoria was invited to open the Forest to the public. The Lord Mayor of London celebrated the substitution of royal privilege for the popular right, with the Forest being dedicated to the enjoyment of the people forever.  The Queen acknowledged the address, declaring ‘it gives me the greatest satisfaction to dedicate this beautiful Forest to the use and enjoyment of my people for all time.’  Both led to Epping Forest receiving the unique and popular accolade ‘the People’s Forest’.