The earliest signs of habitation in this area date back about 4,000
years to the Bronze Age: the area is dotted with burial mounds - called
tumuli. There are a pair of such burial mounds near Latchmoor House,
Tile Barn Lane which is quite unusual since only one other pair is known
to exist in the whole of the country. It may be these are the tombs of
close relatives who died around the same time. Beyond that, few signs
remain of other habitation during the next 3,000 years, when the Saxon
period was abruptly brought to an end by the events of 1066.
The Conqueror created his Nova Foresta in 1079. It was a vast hunting
area, lying south and west of his capital at Winchester, and far larger
than the current 92,000 acres. It stretched south to the coast at
Barton and as far west as modern day Bournemouth.
later, the Domesday Book recorded that there were four small Saxon
manors in the Brockenhurst area: one, Mapleham, no longer exists, but
the name Hincheslea continues to the west of Brockenhurst. The third
manor, Brochelie, gives the modern name, Brookley, and was the most
important, having a regular weekly market and an annual fair, lasting
At that time, "forest rights" did not exist.
However, Brochelie had the right to graze sheep on the open forest, but
only between Wilverley and what is now Rhinefield Road. The manor house
of Brochelie lay between the modern Brookley Road and The Rise and
between the former Watersplash Hotel and St Saviour's Church.
fourth Saxon manor of the area was Broceste - which gives the village
its name. It is pronounced "Brockerste". This manor lay to the north
and east of what is now the Lyndhurst to Lymington road and was held by a
Saxon family called Aluric. They must have been well regarded by the
Normans as they were allowed to continue in residence after the
afforestation that turned the area into the New Forest. It also appears
they were the only family hereabouts to receive any compensation for
the losses suffered.
St Nicholas's church, at that time, was
probably little more than an outlying chapel linked to Twynham - later
Christchurch Priory. William Rufus certainly visited Brockenhurst,
probably worshiping in St Nicholas's church, as at least two writs were
issued by him from here.
In contrast to the Aluric family, the
general population suffered greatly under the forest law, introduced by
King William in 1079. Prime among these was the tearing down of all
fences in the area which allowed the deer - which were the prime reason
for the changes - to roam at will which made it almost impossible to
raise any crops not eaten by deer. Whilst some families moved away,
some probably clung on, however, the normally meticulous Domesday Book
is ominously lax in recording the presence of these families.
Norman Conquest was followed by a period of increasing population and
the pressure to grow more food caused forest law to be tested.
Gradually, the draconian measures gave way to the start of "forest
rights": allowing cattle to roam the forest and the collection of
firewood, for personal use and sale.
Even the forest law
forbidding fences was tested. The forest keepers were instructed to
destroy all fences, however, should there be a dwelling - however
hastily erected - within the fence, an order of the court was required
before taking action. This was not straightforward and often
enterprising "trespassers" were left unmolested and could then grow some
crops and prosper a little.
In 1348, the Black Death killed a
third of the population of England. This wiped out whole families,
without regard to station, and probably explains why all mention of
In 1664, during the Restoration, forest
rights were put on a more formal basis and an official register made in
a form that continues to this day:
- Estover - taking firewood. Nowadays cut by the Forestry Commission and left in certain locations for the commoners to collect.
- Mast or Pannage - grazing pigs, for sixty days, when the acorns and beech mast are on the ground.
- Pasture - grazing cattle and horses all year round. This is the most widely used right and is controlled by the Verderers.
- Turbary - the right to cut turves for fuel.
- the right to take the lime rich clay for fertiliser on the acid soils
hereabouts. There are old marl pits off Balmer Lawn Road.
- Sheep - very few properties have this right, which is why sheep are such a rare sight in the forest!
rights actually belong to the land, rather than the owner, which
explains why even some 20th century houses, such as some on Forest View,
enjoy these rights.
By the eighteenth century, nearby Lymington
was a thriving town due to the manufacture of salt from sea water. By
the end of the 1700s, the Lymington road had become a turnpike and a
regular route for the mail coaches from Lyndhurst and the North. During
this time, Brockenhurst grew in size, with dwellings and inns strung
along the main road.
In 1745, Henry Thurston, a local man who
left to make his fortune in London, died leaving a bequest to set up a
school in the village which was located at the corner of what is now
In 1770, Edward Morant, using some of the vast wealth
that flowed from the family estates in Jamaica, purchased Brokenhurst
House (an Elizabethan farmhouse) for £6,400 and subsequently rebuilt it
as a large Georgian mansion. As part of this he laid out the avenues in
the grounds and acquired adjacent land, eventually peaking at some
However, probably the greatest change to affect
Brockenhurst since 1079 was the coming of the railway in the 19th
century which transformed Brockenhurst from a rural backwater into a
popular holiday and residential centre.
By now, the Morant
family were a force to be reckoned with, so much so that when the
railway arrived in Brockenhurst, the Morants ensured that the new
buildings springing up around the station were located on the far side
of the Lymington turnpike. They also arranged for their personal level
crossing (now merely a footbridge) to allow them to pass unhindered over
the line to their magnificent entrance gate, still visible today in
At this time the "Morant Arms" was built, replacing
the existing "Bat and Ball" inn, which was so close to the railway line
smoke from the steam engines was said to have poured in through the
Brockenhurst was an important junction on the
Southampton to Dorchester line, with its link to the Isle of Wight, made
newly fashionable by the presence of Queen Victoria's Osborne House.
At that time, Bournemouth did not exist and the line passed north
The railway became a major employer but by the
end of the 19th century tourism had also increased the prosperity and
population of Brockenhurst with much of the new housing being located
between the new railway line and Wide Lane - now known as Sway Road.
family influencing the village skyline were the Walkers who were
wealthy coal mine owners from Derbyshire. Their daughter, Mabel,
married Edward Munro and, with a marriage settlement of £250,000, built
Rhinefield House. Not content with that, the Walker-Munros built their
own church, St Saviours (completed in 1905), and their "beach hut" - the
White House at Milford (completed in 1907). This must have been one of
the largest beach huts in the country, with a bridge and upper deck in
the style of an ocean liner!
Brockenhurst was not untouched by
the two world wars: in World War One, the Village was a hospital
village for wounded troops, particularly from India and New Zealand and
St Nicholas' churchyard houses a poignant reminder of those dark days.
Auckland Avenue, Auckland Place and Meerut Road are named in remembrance
of the New Zealand and Indian troops who fought so bravely alongside
In the Second World War what is now the Balmer Lawn
Hotel was the location of many of Generals Montgomery and Eisenhower's
meetings, away from their headquarters in Southsea, as they planned the
amazingly successful D Day Landings. Many an ancient oak tree in
Brockenhurst would have hidden an American jeep or Sherman tank that
summer of 1944 as they gathered to do battle in Normandy, the very place
from where much of Brockenhurst's history springs.
part of the village greatly expanded in the 1970s and, in the early
1990s, Berkeley Homes built Ober Park (now known as The Coppice)
rounding off the major greenfield developments in the village. Since
then, the replacement of older property (such as Culverley House) with
several smaller ones continues to this day on the Hayter and Morant Arms
sites.The Parish Council thanks Mr Kelly for this contribution.
© Paul Kelly