1) The practice of marking trees, as a sign that they were to be felled or not felled.
It was traced back to the fourteenth century by Stephen Moorhouse. In the woods of west Yorkshire they were marked with an axe and the process was supervised: an owner would have his own mark and felling might only take place where the marks were in evidence: 1316 ‘Adam Sprigonel with a certain false mark newly made on the pattern of the mark of the lord the Earl has marked 4 oaks in Thurstanhagh’, Wakefield
1377 set nichil succidit in quodam loco illius bosci ubi nichil est signatum, Calverley
1395 ‘except certain trees which had been marked by Richard … in the presence of John’s workmen’, Creskeld
1503 fellyd and not marked with the kings axe, Roundhay.
2) Individual cutlers used marks to identify their wares, and the practice had its origins in the Middle Ages.
In York in the 1400s, each bladesmith had to coupe et use son propre merkes sur ses cotels. In 1552, a scythesmith named John Parker made provision in his will for his son to have his trademark. In Sheffield the earliest surviving examples of marks being granted by the manorial court are those of William Elles, cutler, and John White, shearsmith, in 1554. The manorial court roll of 1564-5 has hand-drawn images of the marks and a list of those who came to the Court and took of the Lord these Marks for their knives.