London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:

1706 - 2009

Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Records pertain to the management of Epping Forest by the City of London Corporation. The majority of the material dates from the 1870s onwards.

    The collection includes records relating to the City of London Corporation's statutory responsibilities in administering the forest (including the legal battle to safeguard the forest, bills and acts of parliament, 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.

    Those researching specific individuals may be interested in the staff records which include registers (CLA/077/D/02 which has details for the years 1895-1902 and CLA/077/D/03 which covers 1901 and 1927-1965) and wages books (1881 and 1900-1955: CLA/077/D/01). Records held by the Superintendent also contain information about staff including forest keepers diaries (1895-1948: CLA/077/B/08) and reports (1912-1962: CLA/077/B/07). Information about the recruitment of the first Superintendent and his staff can be found in CLA/077/A/06. Reference to individuals may also be found in the minutes (indexed) and papers of the Epping Forest Committee (COL/CC/EFC/01 and 02).

    The collection is particularly rich in visual material, with photographs and slides covering the period 1880 to 2007 (CLA/077/G) as well as a number of prints, paintings and drawings (CLA/077/E).

    The archive also contains a long series of incoming and outgoing letters to/from the Superintendent. The letters cover the years 1880-1962 and illuminate many aspects of the history of the forest including forest management decisions, land-use changes, the central role played by the Superintendent and the relationship between forest staff and local residents. The files are not indexed, and are simply arranged alphabetically by correspondent for each year covered (this follows the original filing arrangement used by the Superintendent). A team of volunteers have looked through the correspondence to highlight letters of particular interest and these are included in the 'scope' description of individual files (please note, these are available on the online catalogue only). These examples serve to give a flavour of the type of information which can be found in individual letters and should not be considered as a comprehensive list.


    The records are divided into 8 sub-fonds:-

    ·Statutory and legal (1792, 1850 - 2006): CLA/077/A
    ·Administration (1876 - 1999): CLA/077/B
    ·Finance: (1878 - 1985): CLA/077/C
    ·Staff: (1889 - 1965): CLA/077/D
    ·Museum and interpretation (Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge) (1706 - 1999): CLA/077/E
    ·Printed material (1850 - 2009): CLA/077/F
    ·Visual material (1880 - 2009): CLA/077/G
    ·Maps and plans (1820 - 2002): CLA/077/H

Extent: 66.83 linear metres
Classification: CITY OF LONDON
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • Epping Forest is the largest publicly-owned open space in the London area and has been under the care and management of the City of London Corporation since 1878. The forest extends for twelve miles from Manor Park in East London, to a point just north of Epping in Essex. At approximately 6000 acres, it is the last remaining fragment of the Royal Forest of Waltham, the majority of which had been enclosed and often developed for farmland by the mid-nineteenth century.

    The survival of Epping Forest as an open space is largely the result of radical legal action instigated by the City in 1871. Through purchase of a small piece of land in Little Ilford in 1854 (later the City Cemetery) the City acquired commoners' rights in the Forest. It then used these to fight a test case in the Court of Chancery on behalf of all commoners of Epping Forest to prevent further enclosure of land by local lords of the manor. After three years and considerable expense the Master of the Rolls decided in the City's favour. It took a further four years of work to decide how Epping Forest should be disafforested and managed and, in 1878, two ground-breaking Acts of Parliament were passed: the Epping Forest Act and the Corporation of London (Open Spaces) Act. These granted the City of London the right to acquire and protect both Epping Forest and land within 25 miles of the City for the recreation and enjoyment of the public. These acts are of major significance not only because they mark the victory of the common man over the lords of the manor, but because they enshrine in law the notion that people have a right of access to open space regardless of where they live.

    The Epping Forest Act invested the City of London Corporation as conservators of the City of London specifying that the City should 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 was first known as the Epping Forest Committee and, more recently as the Epping Forest and Open Spaces Committee then as the Epping Forest and Commons Committee and also undertakes the management of some of the other open spaces outside the City owned and administered by the Corporation including Highgate Wood and Burnham Beeches.

    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) and 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. 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.

    Epping Forest contains a hunting lodge, now known as Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge but actually built for Henry VIII in 1543; Wanstead Park, the landscaped grounds of the long-demolished Wanstead House; an 18-hole golf course at Chingford; and playing fields at Wanstead Flats.

    Further administrative history details can be found within the sub-fonds descriptions (printed and online catalogues) and series level descriptions (online catalogue only).

    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 the City of London Record Office.

    The majority of the items transferred from Guildhall can be found in CLA/077/A (statutory and legal), 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 accessioned from Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge; exceptions to this are indicated in the relevant scope and content fields. All other records have been accessioned from The Warren unless otherwise specified.
Creator: City of London Corporation
Custodial 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
Copyright: City of London
Source of Acquisition:
  • B08/174
  • B09/164
  • B10/006
  • B10/008
  • B10/058
  • B10/059
  • B10/139
  • B11/010
  • B11/087
Access Restrictions: These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 2018
Physical Condition: Fit
Arrangement: In sections according to catalogue.
Related Material: The records of the Epping Forest and Commons Committee (including Committee minutes and papers) can be found in COL/CC/EFC.

The D'Oyley collection (CLC/232) includes maps, plans and documents relating to Epping Forest (1641 - 1880)

For Corporation of London records relating to open spaces, parks, forests and gardens see 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/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.

LMA also holds a number of items related to Epping Forest in its graphical collections (Reference SC). These include satires (c.1790 - c.1810), engravings of forest scenes (early 20th century), postcards (early 20th century), news-cuttings, illustrated London news extracts and material concerning the visit of Queen Victoria (1882).

Records relating to the 'battle for 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 and 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 in the 1870s can be found at Essex Record Office.

For records of Alexander McKenzie, landscape gardener who become Superintendent of Epping Forest, see CLC/B/227/MS16861-2

A database of information about Forest Keepers is being compiled by Visitor Services Staff at Epping Forest.
Appraisal: Some material consisting of photocopies, duplicate copies and records of information that can be found elsewhere in the collection and was not considered worthy of long term preservation
Publication Notes:

Turner, Luke 'Out of the Woods', 2019 (LMA Library: 40.451 TUR): a young man's exploration of his sexuality, a meditation on nature and faith, a family history and history of Epping Forest, as a charged location on the edge of London that has seen opportunities for transgression and healing for Londoners for generations. Turner made extensive use of the records of Epping Forest particularly superintendent's letters, and also describes the experience of researching at London Metropolitan Archives