Illegal hunting was damaging because it destroyed the valuable
warrens, parks and chases of lords' estates. But it also provided
an opportunity for secret meetings of the lower orders, where conspiracies
and seditious gossip could be exchanged beyond the reach of authority.
For much of the later medieval period, the danger from secret gatherings
of peasants was more worrying to the Crown and nobility than the
loss of game. After the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and further rebellions
of the lower orders, such as Jack Cade's rising of 1450 and the
Western Rebellion of 1497, numerous laws and proclamations were
made to restrict hunting and to prevent gatherings of groups of
tenants and servants.
This Act of 1390 neatly involved the church, too, since many conspirators,
under the guise of hunting, enjoyed their crimes when loyal and
honest citizens were at church. The aim of this Act and many others
- such as 'sumptuary laws' restricting the colours and material
of garments allowed to different social levels - was to ensure that
economic status would be the sole criterion determining whether
individuals were able to enter the upper echelons of society and
enjoy the benefits thus conferred.
Catalogue reference: C 65/49, m. 1 (1390)