John Done was born in c1575 and died in his early 50s in 1629.
For over a quarter of a century (1601-1629), John Done's connection with the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge was his position as 'Master Forester' at Delamere, then known as the forests of Mara and Mondrem (one of the three hunting forests of the Earls of Chester). The title remained in the Done family for over 400 years.
Historically, Delamere Forest was an extensive medieval Royal hunting ground, fiercely guarded through laws which had been introduced by William the Conqueror to ensure that all hunting and game preservation remained vested in the Crown. Done's role was principally concerned with the preservation of fallow and roe deer and wild boar as well as the safeguarding of trees in the forest for the Earls of Chester.
The Crown's representative in the forest, and holding almost exclusive powers over life and death, was the hereditary Master Forester and Chief Bowbearer.
During the early Norman period, penalties for the killing of game were blinding, mutilation or execution. These brutal punishments were gradually replaced by hefty fines, and in 1215, the Magna Carta reduced the maximum penalty for breaking forest law nationally to fines or imprisonment. Ranulf de Blondeville, the 6th Earl of Chester, issued a charter which granted a more humane legal code for the Cheshire hunting forests.
In 1617 and following a day's hunting in the forest, John Done was knighted by King James 1 at Utkinton Hall — 'Arise Sir John — a gentleman very complete in many excellencies of nature, wit and ingenuity'. James I described the Forest as 'this delectable place'.
Utkinton Hall is recognised as another high status residence on the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge and which receives mention in LCT2 (Landscape Character Type 2, Cheshire Sandstone Ridge).
The symbol of the Master Forester's authority was a black horn that came to be known as the 'Delamere Horn' and which remains in the collection of The Grosvenor Museum, Chester.
The Master Forester had a hunting lodge, known as the 'Chamber in the Forest', in which he occasionally stayed; it was originally built in Peckforton and later moved to Eddisbury Hill. In fact, during his excavation of Eddisbury Hill, Varley uncovered the remains of a series of medieval buildings on Merrick's Hill, which are likely to have been connected with the administration of the Forest of Delamere
Sir John Done is buried in St Helen's Church, Tarporley.