Special Collections

Sylva

'To slowly trace the forest's shady scene'

Foresters and felons, poets and poachers, discover the unusual tales of Nottinghamshire’s woodlands and the people who have worked, lived and been inspired by them.

The word forest conjures up images of places dominated by trees and wildness, of sylvan nature untouched by the hands of humans. But the reality of forest history is much more complicated. Rather than natural woodlands, they are places dominated by the management of wild and domesticated animals, and by the commercial control of trees. Forests are sites where the competing interests and demands of villagers, aristocrats, farmers and kings have been played out over centuries; but they are also places of myth whose landscapes and legends have provided
inspiration to countless artists.

Documents of landownership, hunting records, maps and nineteenth-century topographical drawings are used to explore the complex interactions between people, animals and trees. A fifteenth-century translation of documents on forest law for example indicates that it was generally forbidden to keep greyhounds and spaniels in a forest. But mastiffs were allowed, so long as they’d had three claws or the ball of a forefoot cut off.

Open Tuesday - Friday, 11am-4pm
Saturday & Sunday, 12noon-4pm
Closed on Mondays

The exhibition has been curated by Professor Charles Watkins of the School of Geography and Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham.