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.

Setley POW Camp – Post war civilian occupation – Linda’s story

A new collection of photos has come to light offering another glimpse into the post war civilian occupation at Setley Camp.

Linda Fletcher spent the first 2 years of her life, 1951-1953, at 11 Larch Close, Setley Camp.

Post war living at Setley Camp. Courtesy of Linda Fletcher. New Forest Remembers WWII.

Linda went on to say, I don’t know when Mum and Dad (Mr & Mrs Collins) moved in, possibly 1949 after Dad was demobbed.  I have some photos, if you ignore the baby (me) in them you will be able to see the Nissen Huts up close, they all had a little fenced garden at the front obviously added on after the war.

Post war living at Setley Camp. Courtesy of Linda Fletcher. New Forest Remembers WWII.

In the background of a few of the pictures you will see other brick buildings. The child with a dolly, at the communal washing lines, is me again but this time I am visiting my parent’s good friends Mr & Mrs Horne, we had been rehoused to Boldre and eventually Mr & Mrs Horne went to live in Brockenhurst. Quite a lot of the Camp people settled in the area.  The last picture is of me on Dad’s motorbike and sidecar with the Camp’s perimeter fence in the background probably taken at the end of the 50’s.

Linda on her dads motorbike and sidecar. Post war living at Setley Camp. Courtesy of Linda Fletcher. New Forest Remembers WWII.

If you have any memories or photos of the camp please do get in touch.

The Drivers’ Map of the New Forest

Published 1789 by William Faden, Geographer to the King. Surveyed by Thomas Richardson, William King, and Abraham and William Driver.

Scale: three and a half inches to one mile

One of the oldest maps in the Christopher Tower Library collection is known as the Drivers’ map after two of its original four surveyors. It was published in 1789 by William Faden, Geographer to the King, in support of a parliamentary report into the New Forest. At that time the forest was in a desperate condition, pulled apart by powerful conflicting interests. The Lord Warden of the New Forest was appointed to preserve the Forest for the King’s sport but was mainly concerned with dispensing patronage to loyal cronies. The Surveyor General of Woods had responsibility for the development of timber, mainly for the navy, and the generation of revenue for the state. Almost in despair at the contradictions within the management of the Forest, the Report draws the conclusion that no person would manage their own property in such a manner.

Parliament was determined to resolve this problem and commissioned a large scale map to help clarify the exact state of the forest. As well as marking the timber enclosures in the Forest, encroachments on Crown property were shown in red, crown leases in purple and intermediate land holdings in yellow. Such is the attention to detail in this map that even a misplaced boundary stone is recorded. Such is the accuracy that it was used as a base map for most parliamentary reports into the Forest for the following 75 years. Several later copies are also available in the library, showing the rolling program of enclosing and dis-enclosing parcels of woodland over the years.

The Map

Click on a tile to view a larger image. In some browsers a low resolution image may appear. Clicking again on the image will give a clear view of that tile. Each tile corresponds with one of the original 18 linen panels from which the map is constructed.

For a modern audience it is interesting to see the detail of the development of villages such as Burley, Wood Green and East Boldre from their original encroachments. Landmarks such as Puttle’s Bridge and the Naked Man near Wilverly Enclosure are clearly visible. It is also interesting to note that the word Enclosure is spelled on the map in the orthodox way as it is in Johnson’s Dictionary rather than Inclosure as it is written locally.

The Cartouche, the decorative title in the top right corner of the map, offers a summary of the political vision for the Forest’s future, confirming its role to be a place for growing naval timber. Components of the image include:

  • a crown at the top centre of the image
  • two woodsmen with axes
  • the broad arrow on a log in the foreground designating government property
  • a warship under construction
  • a plough and a harrow, the tools for preparing the enclosures for timber growth.

The only reference to the Forest’s previous function as a royal sporting ground is on the mound between the woodsmen and the oak tree. It is an image of the memorial to King William Rufus who died a violent and mysterious death while hunting in the Forest.