A Guide to the New Forest by Heywood Sumner

A review by Peter Roberts

A Guide to the New Forest was published in 1923 by Charles Brown and son of Ringwood. The guide, although produced more than 90 years ago, is in many ways the best guide to the woods of the New Forest.  Sumner shows their character by loving description as well as his very attractive drawings and map.  Two editions appeared; without advertisements for 2s 6d (12½p) and with for 1s 6d (7½p)

Sumner, in his preface, said:

This little guide-book is planned for the wayfarer – to suit his pocket both in size and cost.  It is written by one who has known and loved the Forest for forty years.  It claims to be a handy companion, giving a brief account of the District, past and present, of its topography, history, traditions and scenery; and it aims at supplying a useful introduction to the subject, reminiscent of the past, and of the varied beauty that pervades this wild expanse of wood and heathland….

It is difficult to add to that.  He deliberately ignored the church architecture as being described elsewhere but included such delightful descriptions of the real Forest that the book was reprinted not only in his lifetime but also fifty years later.  Following the descriptions of the Forest area by area he included chapters on ‘Natural Landmarks’, ‘Forest Terms’ and ‘Forest Notes’.  This allowed his readers, then and now, the opportunity to become familiar with Forest terms such as Agister, Assart, Vert, Estover and Turbary.  He listed the rights of common and of fuel and even gave brief notes on population in the villages as well as rainfall figures.  Lymington had an average of 33 inches for the years 1910-1919 as against nearly 36 inches at Cuckoo Hill where he lived at Gorley and 39 inches at Lyndhurst.

In the areas he works through the place names alphabetically making this a most useful reference book as well as a pleasure to read.  Under ‘Picked Post’ he states ‘This place is now usually spelt “Picket,” but “picked” was the spelling in the Ordnance Map of 1817, and in all maps previous to that date…Picked is a Wessex word in present use, meaning pointed…. The name probably referred to the pointed angle of the roads that join here.’

A New Commoning Archive

Fascinating accounts of commoning life have been brought together in a new collection of memories and photographs.

Through Our Ancestors’ Eyes features the stories of 20 families and hundreds of photographs depicting commoning, forestry and agriculture in the Forest.

The project was part of Our Past, Our Future, a £4.4 million Landscape Partnership Scheme for the New Forest supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Led by the New Forest National Park Authority in partnership with 10 other organisations, the scheme has undertaken 21 projects to restore lost habitats, develop skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the New Forest. 

The archive, which includes audio clips plus transcriptions, was created by the Commoners Defence Association (CDA) with help from the New Forest Heritage Centre. Volunteer Patrick Keane, with the help of Kerry Barrass, spent many hours preparing the records for publication on the web.

Hear members of well-known commoning families talk about their ancestors and life in the forest.

All the photographs, audio files and transcripts are stored at the Christopher Tower Library at the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst, and are available on the New Forest Knowledge website. https://nfknowledge.org/groups/through-our-ancestors-eyes/

A new website for Milford

Congratulations to Milford-On-Sea Historical Records Society on the launch of their new website:  www.milfordhistory.org.

Explore their history pages, read about Milford down the ages; from houses to jobs, from education to religion, from families to personalities. Search their archives for records from the past and find house deeds, wills, old maps and even ration books. Look through this window on to the past. You can also find information on their meeting, events and publications.

MOSHRS were supported by Heritage Lottery funding to digitise their archive and build this wonderful new site, so once again thanks to all of you who buy lottery tickets and congratulations MOSHRS. Great work!

Built Environment Conference 1 Nov 2019

New Forest Knowledge Conference 2019

Built Environments in the New Forest: Past, Present and Future


Date: Friday 1 November 2019, 9:45am – 4:30pm

Venue: Lyndhurst Community Centre, Lyndhurst  SO43 7NY

Price: £20

Today’s New Forest is a largely woodland and heathland environment, yet integral to its special qualities and unique sense of place are its many buildings and structures. Built environments are both shaped by and shape the people who inhabit them, work in them, admire them and ignore them. They are at the heart of some of the current opportunities and challenges we face in creating a sustainable future for the New Forest. Inspired by the revised Pevsner architecture guide to southern Hampshire, this conference will consider the built environment of the New Forest.


Our focus will be on how buildings and structures have shaped and themselves been shaped by the Forest. Speakers include independent researchers and representatives from the University of Winchester, New Forest District Council and New Forest National Park Authority.


Conference poster 2019

Conference timetable 2019


To book tickets, visit


or telephone 023 8028 3444


Christopher Tower New Forest Reference Library

The Christopher Tower New Forest Reference Library houses one of the most comprehensive collections of books, maps, reports and ephemera on the New Forest available to the public in a single location. The Library is stewarded by a team of volunteers.

The Library is open to the public at the following times:
Wednesdays 10.00am – 4.00pm and Fridays 10.00am – 12.30pm and outside of these times by appointment with seven days’ notice.

Christopher Tower New Forest Reference Library Open Day Saturday 11 November 2017

The New Forest’s past can be discovered at the Christopher Tower New Forest Reference Library’s Open Day on Saturday 11 November. Situated on the first floor of the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst, the facility was opened in 2004 following the building’s renovation funded by the Heritage Lottery and the Christopher Tower Foundation.


Christopher Tower, who was educated at Eton Christ Church, Oxford, was the author of nine poetry books and travelled extensively in the Middle East. He spent his later years in Athens and the New Forest.


The Library contains one of the largest collections of books, maps, photographs, reports and ephemera on the Forest, available to the public in a single location. It is also home of the Ecademy Project, one half of the team behind New Forest Knowledge.


As it is Armistice Day, the recently acquired Simmons collection of WW1 photographs, medals and ephemera relating to East Boldre airbase will be on display along with other sources on the subject. The WW1 aerodrome at East Boldre first started in May 1910 as the New Forest Flying School, the second flying school in the UK. The site then became a RFC and then an RAF base during WWI.


Staff and volunteers will be on hand to help with enquiries in the Library between 10am and 3pm when members of the public are invited to drop in. There is no need to book.


“We have held several successful library open days in the past year and plan to make these a regular occurrence” said Centre Manager, Hilary Marshall. “I hope our visitors will take advantage of this opportunity to explore this wonderful historical resource.”

Collection of Historic Posters Online

The New Forest Heritage Centre has made its historic poster collection available to view on the New Forest Knowledge website. Volunteers have catalogued the posters and digitised them by scanning and using image composite software to stitch the individual scans together. The results are seamless. They put each of the posters into its own preservation grade sleeves to protect it.

The collection includes:

It also includes recent acquisitions such as a list of people entitled to vote in the election of a knight of the shire, the formal title for a member of parliament (MP) representing a county constituency in the House of Commons, for the parish of Eling dated 1878.

Explore the complete collection here.

Commoning Conference 29 Oct 2018

New Forest Knowledge Conference 2018

The Role of Commoning in the Maintenance of Landscape and Ecology: A New Forest, National and Global Perspective.


Date: Monday 29th October 2018, 9:30am-5pm.

Venue: Lyndhurst Community Centre, Lyndhurst  SO43 7NY

Price: £15


Commoning is recognised as important in the survival of the New Forest: a prized reserve for endangered species and a beautiful landscape enjoyed for recreation.

The New Forest commoning system has been described as unique in North Western Europe, characterised by the exercise of common rights by 700 commoners.

This conference will consider the use and significance of common pool resources from a historical, local, national and international perspective. Speakers include researchers from HIWWT, Foundation for Common Land, University of Southampton and Community Research Institute.

Conference programme 2018

Click here to purchase tickets

Organisers reserve the right to make changes to the programme.

Commoning Voices: Interpreting the Real New Forest – Abstract & Video

This paper was presented at the New Forest Knowledge Conference 2018 entitled: The Role of Commoning in the Maintenance of Landscape and Ecology: A New Forest, National and Global Perspective.


Lyndsey Stride, Commoning Voices


‘If you are silent someone else will tell your story.’

Commoning Voices is an interpretation project, developed to complement the Shared Forest behaviour change work. Commoners are by their nature private people and as a result are largely invisible in the general discourse about the New Forest. Whilst people talk about commoning they rarely talk about commoners. Through the project we have empowered commoners to tell their own stories in their own words. With professional support commoners have embarked on social media and people are fascinated by the Real New Forest commoning stories which are emerging. Commoning Voices is showing people who are dedicated to the commoning way of life and the important contribution it makes to the New Forest.

To know us is to love us.

The Talk