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Preparation for Verderer elections in February 2020 is underway. Would you like to stand? Are you eligible to vote? Find out below.

What is a Verderer?

Epping Forest is managed by the Epping Forest and Commons Committee. This committee consists of twelve members of the City of London Court of Common Council who have been elected by wards in the Square Mile. Unlike other committees, Epping Forest's also has four Verderers who are elected locally and aren't members of the Court of Common Council.

In matters concerning the Forest, Verderers have the same “powers, authorities, rights, and privileges as the members thereof selected from the Court of Common Council, and no other or different powers, authorities, rights, or privileges”.

Members and Verderers give their services in an entirely voluntary capacity and receive no remuneration for their time. See our Verderer role description (124KB) for more information on what being a Verderer entails.

The history of Verderers

From the year 1130, Verderers administered Forest Law on behalf of the King or Queen, literally protecting the flora and fauna of the Forest. Epping Forest ceased to be a Royal Forest when the Epping Forest Act (315KB) was written in 1878; but the authors of that Act - which created the modern Epping Forest - decided that the role of Verderer would remain.

They decided that there would be four Verderers on our Committee, two representing the northern and two representing the southern Forest parishes; and that they would represent the interests of Commoners: local residents who used the Forest to graze their cattle.

As the character of the Forest has changed, and with the decline in commoning, the Verderers have increasingly considered their role as more widely representing both Commoners and the public living around the Forest.

How do Verderer elections work?

There are some strict criteria for who can be Verderers, who can elect them and how elections are carried out.

These rules haven't changed since Victorian times and remain mostly unchanged by the Representation of the People Act 1918 that has shaped most other modern electoral voting. This means that the elections themselves are conducted in a way that isn't very familiar to modern voters. The main difference is that only Epping Forest Commoners are eligible to vote in Verderer elections.

What is a Commoner?

Commoners are 'owners and occupiers of land and tenements lying within the ancient boundary of Epping Forest (also known as the Perambulation of Charles I)' and within one of the ancient parishes - a map of both is available at the bottom of this page.

Case law made since then limits this a bit more to 'owners and occupiers of land comprising at least half an acre of old enclosure and not covered by buildings and capable of receiving cattle'.

Groups, businesses and organisations who occupy sites also qualify but have to nominate just one representative to vote on their behalf.

The draft Register of Commoners will be available to view at The Warren and Guildhall. Persons interested may apply to the Conservators to correct the Register by inserting or expunging any name.

The draft Register is available to view until 18 December 2019. The settled Register will then be available to view in January and until the nomination meeting.

Who can be a Verderer?

Verderers themselves don't have to be Commoners, but do have to live in one of those ancient parishes (a map of these is available at the foot of this page). Verderers also must not be members of the City of London's Court of Common Council.

How else are Verderer elections different?

To begin with, Verderer elections are 'septennial' meaning they only happen every seven years.

Beyond that, nominations, canvassing and elections are held very quickly and close together. Polling is only necessary if there are more nominees than vacancies; when that's the case then the election is held 'not less than one clear day or more than three clear days' after the nomination meeting. That doesn't leave much time for candidates to prepare or canvass their electorate.

The most surprising detail of these elections is that on polling day itself - unlike all modern elections - this is not a secret ballot. If you are a Commoner and want to vote, you will be asked to identify yourself and your voting intention when entering the polling station – this will be recorded by the Poll Clerk in a ledger that may be visible to everyone who votes after you!

When and where are the elections?

The nominations, and elections if required, must be held by 20 March 2020. Dates and locations are below.

If polling is necessary, there have to be polling stations in the North and South of the Forest - at least one must be in Epping - and nominations and polling take place on different days in the North and South.

After the election are concluded, the newly-appointed Verderers will then take office by 25 March.

Dates and locations

  • Monday 24 February: nomination meetings for North and South of the Forest, location to be confirmed
  • Wednesday 26 February: Election in the North, location to be confirmed
  • Thursday 27 February: Election in the South, location to be confirmed

How can I vote or stand in the elections?

See our Parish and Perambulation Map (1.91MB) to see whether you live in an area that may make you a Commoner or make you eligible to stand as a Verderer.

To qualify as a Commoner, you must own or occupy at least half an acre of unbuilt-upon land within both the Perambulation (red line) and within an ancient parish. To qualify to stand as a Verderer, you must reside in the same area; but there is no requirement of land holding.

To stand for election as Verderer, you must attend the appropriate nomination meeting in the North or South of the Forest on Monday 24 February 2020. You must have a nominator and seconder who must both be Commoners from that area. It is likely that you will be invited to give a short speech (10 minutes maximum) to attendees if a poll is demanded by the returning officer (if there are more than 2 candidates in that area).

If you think you qualify as a Commoner or are interested in standing as a Verderer, please contact Alex Berry, City of London Electoral Services Manager or Jo Hurst, Epping Forest Business Manager.

Who are our current Epping Forest Verderers?

Nicholas Munday

Nicholas lives in Woodford Green. He is the former global head of litigation of an international law firm and now runs his own small firm specialising in business law.

He takes a special interest in the management of the Forest, in the local community, and in what the two can offer each other - particularly in the South of the Forest where urban neighbourhoods meet Forest land.

​Melissa Murphy

Melissa lives in Epping. She works as a planning and environmental law barrister in London. She takes a keen interest in local authority matters. Her legal practice focuses on heritage conservation, planning enforcement, air quality and sustainability.

Like many people living in the communities surrounding Epping Forest, Melissa and her young family visit the Forest in all seasons, enjoying walking, running, cycling and horseriding in particular.

Dr Jo Thomas

Born in the Forest Parish of Chigwell, Jo has lived and worked for most of her life in Loughton, where she also worked as a GP – Dr Jo Ide – for some 30 years. Jo has always been, and still is, a keen and regular Forest walker, dog walker and rider which Jo combines with an involvement in many local charities.

Michael Chapman DL

Michael is a Notary Public and Solicitor who has lived all his life either in the Forest parishes of Theydon Bois or Epping. He was educated at Leyton County High and then articled to solicitors in Loughton. Michael is currently Deputy Lieutenant of Essex and a former Chairman and now Vice President of the Theydon Bois Rural Preservation Society. Michael also serves as Chairman of St Clare Hospice and Associate of the Epping Forest Field Centre.

Published:
19 March 2012
Last Modified:
08 November 2019

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