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Forest, New, Hampshire

Historical Description

Forest, New, a forest and a district in Hants. The forest is a triangular tract in the SW of the county, bounded on the E by Southampton Water, on the S by the Solent and the English Channel, on the W by the river Avon, and on the N or NW by Wiltshire. It seems to have been covered with wood and thinly peopled in very early times. It probably was the Natan Leaga of the Saxon chronicle, which took name from a victory over the British chief Natanleod by Cerdic and Cynric in 508; it was the Ytene or Ythene of the later Saxons-a name probably corrupted from the previous one; and it got its present designation of New Forest in the time of William the Conqueror. It was regularly afforested at some time between the end of Edward the Confessor's reign and the date of the compilation of Domes-day book, but it then included very many manors; and though thirty of these in its central part ceased to be cultivated after the afforestation, the great majority of them continued to be cultivated as before, and retained their serfs and villains. William the Conqueror is affirmed by the monkish writers to have destroyed churches, villages, and towns throughout it, and to have driven away its inhabitants in order to " convert  it to the use of wild beasts and the sport of his dogs;" but he probably did little else than reduce it to better forest order than it previously had, or at least inflicted no greater injury upon it than subject it to the Norman forest law. Its limits, as ascertained or fixed in the time of Charles II., comprehend about 92,365 acres; but these include manors, estates, and enclosed lands belonging to private individuals amounting to about 28,133 acres; so that the actual forest has an area of no more than about 64,235 acres. The Crown is the proprietor of all this area subject to rights of commonage and other ancient claims, and has also certain but various interests in all the manors and other enclosed lands within the full limits. The forest is divided into nine bailiwicks and subdivided into fifteen walks, and is managed by the surveyor-general of woods and forests, a purveyor for the navy, and a number of subordinate officers. Its chief value hitherto has consisted in its produce of timber for the navy. Its prin-I cipal trees are oak and beech, with undergrowths of holly, I and the oaks for the most part have a peculiar character, seldom rising into lofty stems, usually twisting their branches into picturesque forms, and serving well for what shipbuilders call knees and elbows. All round its coast the forest both l presents and commands a profusion of rich scenery; in its northern division it affords striking examples of noble glades and grand forest scenes; and throughout most of its interior it abounds in the thrilling harmonies of wildness and woodland. Deer, both red and fallow, were formerly preserved in it, but all have been either destroyed or sent away. Rabbits abound, squirrels are plentiful, foxes are numerous, badgers are becoming scarce; ponies of a peculiar breed occur in herds of twenty or thirty; pigs of a peculiar breed, the parents of the sort which yield the famous Hampshire bacon, run wild in herds; and great numbers of swine from the surrounding country are sent into the forest during six weeks in autumn to fatten on acorns and beech-mast.

The New Forest Parliamentary Division of Hampshire, formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 51,328. The division includes the following:-Lymington and New Forest-Beaulieu, Boldre, Bramshaw, Brockenhurst, Denny Lodge, Dibden, Eling, Exbury, Fawley, Hordle, Lymington, Lyndhurst, Milford, Milton, Minstead, Rhinefield; Ringwood-Ashley Walk Township, Breamore, Broomy Township, Burley Township, Christchurch, Ellingham, Ford-ingbridge, Hale, Harbridge. Holdenhurst, Ibsley, North Charford, Rockbourne, Ringwood, Sopley, South Charford, Wood-green; Romsey (except the parishes in the Stockbridge union)-Dunwood, East Dean, East Wellow, Lockerley, Mottisfont, Mitchelmersh, Nursling, North Baddesley, Romsey (Extra), Romsey (Infra), Sherfield English, Timsbury, West Dean (part of); Southampton (part of)-Chilworth, North Stoneham; Romsey, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Hampshire (County Southampton) is available to browse.