Surveyors are odious to farmers
By C[HURCHE], R[ooke] , 1612

An Olde Thrift newly Revived Wherein is declared the manner of planting, preserving, and husbanding yong trees of divers kindes for timber and fuell. And of sowing acorned, chesnuts, beech-mast, the seedes of elmes, ashen-keyes, &c. With the commodities and discommodities of inclusing decayed forrests, commons, and waste grounds. And also the use of a small portable instrument for measuring of board,and the solid content and height of any tree standing. Discoursed in dialogued betweene a surveyour, woodward, gentleman, and a farmer.

Natural History, Science & Medicine
  • Author: C[HURCHE], R[ooke]
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: Printed by W.S. for Richard Moore, and are to be sold at his shop in St. Dunstanes Chuchyard
  • Publication date: 1612.
  • Physical description: First edition quarto (175 by 125mm), three preliminary pages including title page, 1-108pp, [4]pp with a table of contents, one folding woodcut plate of an instrument, woodcut initials, decoration and diagrams throughout, occasional minor browning and spotting to margins, library stamp to upper and lower pastedown, later tanned calf, gilt fillet border, the gilt spine in six compartments separated by raised bands, lettering-piece in two.

    Collation: A-P4.
  • Dimensions: 176 by 134mm. (7 by 5.25 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 14787


In this short volume, Churche contributes to the ongoing debate in the seventeenth century over the problem of the kingdom’s forests. England’s natural resources had gradually been depleted throughout the previous century by the expansion of the British navy, as well as its the failure to properly preserve woodlands. With the upcoming Civil Wars, this issue was fated to continue indefinitely, but was already a contentious topic during Churche’s time, with many parties weighing in on how the problem could be solved. In this dialogue, the surveyor advocates enclosure as a means of maintaining England’s forests, claiming that it will “converteth all such bad and wast grounds to be good and profitable”. After 11 pages of discussion, his interlocutors are eventually won over, with the woodward conceding that the royal forests should be privatised to ensure their proper care.

As well as a lengthy discourse on the cultivation of acorns, and advice on preserving certain trees, Churche also addresses the common anxiety about the growing number of unfamiliar seeds being introduced from abroad. The final section of the book is dedicated to a measuring instrument, which the surveyor assures his companions can be used by anyone with “any understanding in the science of Arithmeticke”. It is perhaps no surprise that the surveyor is the voice of wisdom and reason in this dialogue, since this was Churche’s own profession. He lived at Drury Lane in London, and held the positions of Surveyor of the Woods in the counties of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. He had previously served in the army of the Holy Roman Empire, and began his writing career with a translation of Martin Fumée’s ‘Historie of the Troubles of Hungarie’. This work was disseminated far more widely, however, and was considered an important contribution to the debate over enclosure, as well as a useful guide for gardeners and foresters.

The ESTC records three variants of this publication, this copy without “as sharking catch-poles…” after “Surveyors are odious to farmers” on on p21.


Rothamsted collection.

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