Diaries of Georgina Bowden-Smith (1820-1906)

Georgina Eleanor Bowden-Smith (nee Long) was born on 20th April 1820. She was the daughter of Walter Long and Lady Mary Carnegie of Corhampton in Hampshire. Walter had inherited Preshaw at Upham from his father, John Long. Lady Carnegie was the daughter of the 7th Earl of Northesk.

Georgina and her husband Richard, moved to Vernalls, a large house in Lyndhurst, in 1856. At first they rented it from Admiral Aitcheson but, according to Georgina’s diaries, they purchased it in 1860. Richard died at Vernalls in 1881. Georgina lived there until she died in 1906, and her son Walter Baird Bowden-Smith until he died in 1932.

In the last year of her life, Georgina wrote: Of what I remember of Lyndhurst and the Neighbourhood nearly 50 years ago (1850-1906). The handwritten diaries, which contain a number of photographs, sketches and watercolours, have been digitised and made available online.

To access each volume, click on the links below:

Volume 1

Volume 2

Forestry Commission Lease Books

Sample Page FC Index

Forestry England, the present land manager of the New Forest Crown Lands, has a collection of leases, easements, sales, and other contractual matters dating back to 1813. These documents have been copied and bound together in large lease books by the successive managers of the Forest- The Commissioners of Woods and Forests up to 1851, The Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues from 1851-1919, and by the Forestry Commission from 1919 onwards up to the 1950s . The books are kept at the Queen’s House in Lyndhurst, but they cover more than just the New Forest. Nearby forests such as Bere and Alice Holt are included as well as others further afield such as those of Dean, Delamere, and even the Island of Alderney.

These records cover a period when the Forest underwent huge changes reflecting developments in society and technology. The first records date from the Napoleonic war when the supply of naval timber was critical for the survival of the nation. Once ships came to be built of iron this role was eclipsed and the Forest came to be valued more for its picturesque qualities. In the First World War the supply of Forest timber rapidly gained importance for its use in physically supporting the trenches and the light railways that brought supplies to the Western Front.

Under the Ecademy project, within the Our Past, Our Future Landcape Partnership scheme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, these records have been digitised.

FC Lase Book Index Page

The Christopher Tower Reference Library at the New Forest Heritage Centre has been preparing these records for publication on the web, and the first tranche, covering the period from 1813 to 1920, is now available on the New Forest Knowledge site. As well as showing how land use changed and developed over the century, these records cast light on the lives of the individuals and families who lived, worked and took their leisure in the forests, providing a rich resource for the family or social historian.

Altogether the leases comprise more than 40,000 pages of largely legalistic prose, containing often lengthy, repetitive sentences. Like the Shipping Forecast, their rhythm and cadence provide a sort of poetry. Often the documents are supported by hand sketched plans of the area in question. Only the most recent books are typed: the majority from this period are beautifully handwritten. None, however, can be searched digitally. Fortunately each book was comprehensively indexed at the time of its creation. Furthermore many of the later transactions have been inscribed in four Atlases covering the New Forest, so that a visual scan can often identify where a transaction has taken place.

Stop Press! Casual study has revealed the fact that not only are transactions about property recorded, but also employment contracts… See Lease Book 11, page 339, which records the extension of Lawrence Cumberbatch’s role as Deputy Surveyor of the New Forest to that of Deputy Surveyor of a string of other forests in the County of Southampton.

Please click on the links below to view some supplementary materials or click on the button to download them.

Click here to browse the full list of Lease Books and accompanying Atlases.

General View of the Agriculture of Hampshire including the Isle of Wight by Charles Vancouver The Board Agriculture and Internal Improvement 1813

The object
On the desk in front of me is a modest looking book measuring approximately 24.5 cm x 15cm x 5cm. It appears to have been rebound at some stage of its life. It has pasteboard covers and quarter cover binding in brown leather. What may have been the original title lettering, in gold, on red leather, has been retained, cut out from the former covering and attached to the spine.
The pagination indicates that the book contains several pages of introduction, 520 pages of main text and an additional 16 pages advertising other publications. Interestingly, pages 9 to 16 of this latter section are uncut – the folded sheets of paper have been sewn into the book but were never cut open during the binding process. As was fashionable at the time, the pages are untrimmed and have uneven or ‘deckled’ edges.
The book also features a coloured fold out map of the county of Hampshire and Isle of Wight, as well as fold out pages of data tables and several plates featuring images of agricultural equipment. It seems that one or more of the book’s earlier users may have been so taken with the image plates of two ploughs and a Patent Hampshire waggon, that they cut or tore out the pages containing them. However, if we look carefully at the bottom of the page, below the text describing the waggon we can see a palimpsest or ghost image of a spoked waggon wheel.
A printer’s note to potential binders with directions for where within the text to incorporate the image plates is an interesting reminder to us that the notion of buying a book ready-bound from a bookshop is comparatively recent. The original purchaser of this book in 1813 would have bought the bundle of pages unbound and taken them to a bookbinder to select a binding style according to taste and budget.The content
The 1813 edition of the General View of the Agriculture of Hampshire including the Isle of Wight, contains an introduction written in Brockenhurst in March 1809. By the time he came to write about the state of agriculture in Hampshire, James Vancouver had already been involved in the production of agricultural surveys of Cambridgeshire, Essex, and Devon as part of a series of reports on the state of agriculture in English counties commissioned by the then recently established Board of Agriculture (1793).
The book’s scope is extensive. Vancouver explores the condition of buildings, agriculture implements used, crop types, gardens and orchards, methods of soil improvement and crop production, animals, woods and plantations, agricultural labour, transport links and the fairs and markets in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
To modern eyes some passages of the text may appear quaint, archaic, and longwinded and evoke an image of a bygone rural idyl. For instance, Vancouver conveys a concern with ‘dry weather during the autumnal months’ (much like we have recently experienced) which, he worries, ‘will have left more strong beer than water within the boundaries of a parish’. (p48)
Describing cob walls, Vancouver notes their ‘rough-cast or white-washed’ appearance, with ‘a neat coping of thatch’ and ‘having neither a mean or deforming character, but on the side of a verdant lawn, or partly concealed in the skirting woods or pleasure ground, serve much to vary the verdure, and harmonize vary agreeably in such places’.
Mr St Barbe’s large red brick wall near Lymington was picked out for special praise by Charles Vancouver who described it as ‘very neat’ and of a ‘waving character’, six feet in height above its foundations and ‘75 yards in length’. The cost of the wall came to 5l 12 s ‘per perch’, (5 1/2 yards) including materials and workmanship’. This walling can still be seen in Lymington today. (p.287)
Yet, these passages also tell us much about contemporary concerns with aesthetics – how gardens appeared, and how buildings affected the local neighbourhood and environment – at least for the privileged wealthy people of early 19th century Hampshire. Vancouver notes, for instance, that ‘Colonel Mitford, of Exbury, has also erected several new and convenient cottages. In placing these buildings, the Colonel has had it no less in view to prevent the appearance of any nuisance from the street’ (p73).
Vancouver points out that Hampshire ‘seem[ed] generally to be much better supplied with comfortable dwellings for the peasantry’ (p.70) and cites examples of landowners building dwellings for labourers and their families using techniques and materials (including recycled ships’ planking) to limit damp and unpleasant conditions. Nevertheless, when Vancouver refers to ‘cottages built for a superior class of labourer’ it is a sharp and uncomfortable reminder to us of the social hierarchy and inequality in rural England at the beginning of the 19th century.

Modern relevance
Many of the issues that gave rise to this book are echoed in concerns today. At the time this book was published there was deep concern about national security – England was embroiled in a global conflict with France (the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), at war with the very young United States (1812-1815); the country was experiencing deep social division, unrest and uncertainty, which culminated, a few years after this book was written, in the Peterloo Massacre (1819); and there were widespread concerns over resources and national economic sustainability.
Vancouver’s agricultural survey of Hampshire also provides telling insight into contemporary attitudes towards nature and the environment and describes agricultural practices that have played a key part in shaping the local landscapes we live in today.

Wider context
James Vancouver’s younger brother, George was a protégé of James Cook and led an expedition to the Pacific northwest coast in the 1790s’s. George Vancouver is remembered by the island and city in modern British Columbia, Canada, that bear his name.
George’s professional and personal life was not without difficulties, and these may be behind James Gillray’s 1796 cartoon entitled ‘Caneing in Conduit Street’ (the street in which George lived in London). The cartoon is now in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery. Gillray’s cartoon features George, seemingly involved in a lively dispute with Thomas Pitt (2nd Baron Camelford), but most intriguingly for us perhaps, is that Gillray’s cartoon seems to feature a picture of Charles Vancouver – a rare if not unique image of the author of General View of the Agriculture of Hampshire, including the Isle of Wight. James is thought to be the figure standing between the two protagonists.

Time traveller
But perhaps most remarkable of all is that this book object has travelled across time and geographical space, transcended historical categories and human life spans, enabling us opportunities not only to read it over two hundred years after it was written but, to share in the experiences of the book’s original users who would held it, felt its heft, the texture of its pages, smelled the odour of its paper, and the sound of its pages being turned, just as we can today.

Contents pages showing sections on a diverse range of topics, including arable crops, woods, roads, canals, labour, and soil conditions.

‘Plate XIII’: Images of garden walls typical of those found in the southern part of Hampshire, ‘built only half a brick thick’ and in ‘waved’ or ‘diverging from a straight line’.

See more images of this book  https://nfknowledge.org/record/nfc-106368/

The crash that saved my life!

Paul Simmons had a collection of photographs from his Grandfather’s (Arthur George Simmons) time in the fledgling British Air Force during the First World War. Paul was keen to find a new permanent home for this collection. After considering donating the collection to the IWM or The National Archive or even selling it at auction Paul’s family did a little online searching to try and find a more suitable long term home for the collection.

After searching they discovered one of our articles about the WWI airbase and flying school at East Boldre, then called RAF Beaulieu where Arthur was stationed and training.

Paul got in touch with the New Forest Remembers team to talk about donating the collection. On receiving Paul’s very kind offer the NFR team got in touch with the New Forest Heritage Centre as it was felt that they would be the best long term home for this wonderful collection.

All the photographs have now been digitized and are available to view via this online archive. And we can now bring you Arthur’s story:


Arthur George Simmons was born in 1898, aged 19 ‘Simmons A. (4975)’ joined the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in 1917. He was soon posted to RFC (later RAF) Beaulieu, a Training Airfield, at East Boldre, Hampshire. During the first six months of 1918 the flying training for the British pilots at RAF Beaulieu was carried out by three training squadrons, No. 1, 73 and later 29.

The majority of the initial training was conducted using Avro 504 aircraft, with pilots then progressing to fly the more advanced Sopwith Camel fighter. The airspace over East Boldre would have been busy as the American 93rd Aero squadron was also being trained by the RAF at Beaulieu during early 1918.

On 1 April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) amalgamated to form a new service the Royal Air Force (RAF).


The Collection:

The Arthur Simmons collection comprises of two photograph album, loose paperwork (relating to his training), his book ‘Technical Notes – Royal Flying Corps’, his Aviator’s Certificate and his two medals. The two photo albums date from 1917 to around 1920 and hold some personal family photos as well as images for such places as East Boldre (RAF Beaulieu) airfield, Lymington, the No.1 New Zealand Hospital in Brockenhurst, the aerodrome at West Blatchington and a number of crashed aircraft to name just a few.


That crash

Arthur had already survived an earlier crash. But on 13 April 1918 while flying an Avro 504A (A8600) Arthur crashed for the second time. Following this severe crash landing at East Boldre he was discharged. Paul (Arthur’s grandson) recalls his grandfather commenting “That crash saved my life!”


Arthur Simmons’ crashed Avro 504 (A8600) bi-plane at RAF Beaulieu (East Boldre). 13 April 1918.


The report from the official enquiry of Arthur’s last crash.

Avro 504A, A8600, 13.04.18, Stalled on turn and spun. A/Sgt: A.G. Simmons inj.
Court of Enquiry             22/03/1918                   A/SGT: A.G. Simmons.

The court, having viewed the wreckage and examined the evidence, are of the opinion the Sgt. Simmons the pilot of Avro N0.8600. lost flying speed whilst turning to the left & that owing to lack of height, he was unable to extricate his machine from the resultant spin.


RAF Museum Archives – Casualty Card: RAFM 285302

RAFM 285302 Casualty Card (RAF Museum Archives)
Full name Simmons, A.G.
ID OC0241910
Object CC2_21826
Collection Archives
Classification Casualty Record Series
Series Casualty Card Type – Incident
Initials A.G.
First names
Surname Simmons
Service no
Rank Ac Sgt
Organisation Royal Air Force
Prisoner of war No
Casualty date April 13th 1918
Result of accident Injured
Terms of enlistment
Attached from
Place UK
Death details
Aircraft serial A8600
Engine type Gnome Monosoupape
War Department


Arthur’s aircraft was an Avro 504A, serial No. A8600. It had a Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine. The aircraft was made by A.V. Roe & Co of Manchester during contract 87/A/1213 dated: 24 November 1916

Avro 504A was the first modified variant of the Avro 504 with smaller ailerons and broader struts and a Gnome Monosoupape 7 Type A seven-cylinder rotary engine offering 80 hp (60 kW) of power.


The collection is now held and looked after at the: Christopher Tower Reference Library
New Forest Heritage Centre
NFC Ref: E0409

More photographs from this collection will be added over the coming weeks.

You can see them by following this link: Simmons Search


Since the Simmons collection went live, we’ve been contacted by descendants of those included in the photos with some of their stories. Here is one of those relating to the photos of the crashed Bi-plane E.2602, 9 June 1919: James Gamble in Arthur Simmons’ Images.