New Forest Squatters’ Settlements in the Eighteenth Century’ – Abstract

Author: Nfknowledge

The following paper was presented at the New Forest Knowledge Conference 2017 entitled: New Forest Historical Research and Archaeology: who’s doing it? Below you will find the abstract of the paper and a video of the paper given if permission to film it was given by the speaker.


Sylvia Crocker, New Forest History and Archaeology Group


This paper is concerned with the migration of people into the New Forest who settled as squatters on waste land – a long-established activity that had been tolerated for generations, but which became perceived as a major problem in the eighteenth century. Then in the nineteenth century it became a criminal act, enforced by legislation and liable to prosecution. This paper attempts to explain who these migrants were, when they came to settle in the New Forest, where they settled and why they came. It also analyses the issues – why migration became such a big issue in the eighteenth century, what the migrants were accused of, who were making the allegations and why. Lastly, it examines what action the government took and how it was finally resolved.  A study of contemporary documents has revealed a fascinating story of illicit activity, corroboration, corruption, and scapegoating, all uncovered in an official investigation, resulting in wide-reaching legislation and prosecutions, but with surprising results.


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