Next Wednesday, there will be a public meeting at Gloucester Cathedral to elect a new Verderer for the Forest of Dean. It will elect a replacement for Clearwell Caves owner Ray Wright, who sadly died in August 2015. The role of Verderer dates back 800 years, and is a remnant of the organisational structure developed during the Norman times to administer and protect the Forest of Dean.
The qualification for a Verderer continues by custom - there are no official conditions or regulations. The only qualification is to own land within or near the Forest, have good health and be free from other engrossing duties. Verderers are elected for life, and they receive no salary.
The Verderers now usually meet four times a year when they consider issues of relevance to ‘the vert and the venison’, i.e the land and animals within the Forest of Dean. They advise the Deputy Surveyor and his staff on topical issues and also make representations to other administering bodies on issues affecting their interests.
Following the death of a Verderer, his burial is notified to the Crown by the steward of the Verderer’s Court. A writ, tested at the Royal Courts of Justice, is then sent to the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire to arrange for the election of another Verderer. The High Sheriff fixes a date for the election and gives notice by advertisement and poster and then supervises the election in the County Court at Shire Hall, Gloucester.
If there is more than one nominee, all freeholders of the ceremonial county of Gloucestershire (except those of Gloucester and Bristol) are entitled to vote and the election is decided by a show of hands. If the outcome is not clear, a poll can be demanded. This tradition is an important part of Verderer heritage, and is certainly different to my election!
I was able to attend one of the Verderers’ meetings last October, and saw first-hand the deliberations they make in order to best protect the Forest. I wish whoever is elected next week the best of luck in their new role, and look forward to working with them in the future.