The Speech House was built in 1676 as a hunting lodge for Charles II (his arms can still be seen in the stonework above the exit door to the Verders Court). It soon was recognized as the administrative center of the forest and the largest room became the Verders' Court. It became the place one went to talk or to make a Speech-hence the "Speech House".


The office of the Verder is usually understood to have been instituted by King Canute I in the early 11th century. There were four to each Royal Forest and their chief duty was the guarding of the 'vert' and the 'venison' on behalf of the King. The Verder's Court of attachment is still scheduled to be held every 40 days at The Speech House. If there is no business to be dealt with the court is formally adjourned for another 40 days. In actual fact the court now sits on an average of four times a year when matters concerning the forest are discussed in the Verderer's Court.


The Verderer's are still appointed by the crown and are paid a doe and a buck a year (although none of the present Verderers have claimed their "salary" since taking office). Few deer are now in the main area of the forest, so offences concerning venison are rare. Since 1924 such offences have been dealt with by the local magistrates court.





Speech House in the Forest of Dean, built in 1676 as a hunting lodge for Charles II. The Verderer of the Forest of Dean held Court here as early as 1216.




The Court Room is on the ground floor still with much of its original decoration. Three massive beams support the entire length of the ceiling. The death penalty can still be imposed for making off with the Forest's royal deer, but there's a condition to its imposition: the sentence must be carried out on the gibbet outside the hotel. The gibbet, however, has been mislaid. Therefore, no gibbet...no hanging, enabling peace and quiet to be maintained.


The Verder's also have eratin administration functions and continue to act as intermediaries between the local public and the Forestry Commission, and they manifest a great concern regarding beauty and amenities of the Forest.


The earliest allusion to the office of Verderer in the Forest of Dean is in 1216. From that year practically unbroken records have been maintained. The present Senior Verderer is Dr. C. Hart. The Speech House is now a tiny 14 bedroom hotel.


(Extracted from the leaflet brochure form The Speech House Hotel, Forest of Dean Gloucestershire, England)