Needwood Forest was an ancient hunting forest or chase, a member of the Duchy of Lancaster until the accession of Henry IV, when it became a possession of the Crown. The enclosure act of 1803 empowered the commissioners to disafforest it, and divide the land between various claiments, but this was not completed until 1811.
The officers of the forest were a lieutenant and chief ranger, assisted by a deputy, four lieutenants, four keepers and an axe bearer. A court was held annually, by the King's Steward of the Honour of Tutbury, when a jury of 24 residents dealt with cases of encroaching on the forest and poaching of venison.
There were anciently eight parks within the forest, Agardsley, Stockley, Barton, Heylyns, Sherholt, Castle Hay, Hanbury, and Rolleston.
Before enclosure, the only dwellings within the forest were the lodges of Byrkeley, Ealand, Yoxall, and Sherholt, but subsequently, many villas and farmhouses were built.