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Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Cornwallis Remembered: Maritime history of the New Forest

As part Cornwallis Remembered Celebrations to take place in July, the Milford on Sea Historical Record Society have provided this article on: 

A glimpse at the maritime history of the New Forest

New Forest Oak
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Following the Norman Conquest, the New Forest became subject to special laws to protect the beasts and limiting the cutting of wood. Timber could only be removed by Royal Warrant for fuel, domestic and military building repairs, ship building but only on a small scale. However, in 1418 some 3,906 New Forest oaks were felled for the construction of Grace Dieu, the flag ship of Henry V.

As timber removal increased the New Forest changed from a hunting realm to a large timber plantation. An Act of Parliament in 1698 allowed 6,000 acres to be enclosed for timber growth for the Navy. In the same year HMS Salisbury, a 50-gun ship, was built for the Royal Navy at Baileys Hard on the Beaulieu River, the first record of New Forest ship-building.

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In 1743 established shipbuilders Wyatt & Co opened a shipbuilding yard at Buckler’s Hard and along with the Admiralty contracts came the Adams family. In 1748 the yard was transferred to Henry Adams who secured his first Admiralty contract for the 24-gun vessel HMS Mermaid.

While ship building was carried out at Bailey’s Hard and Lepe, Buckler’s Hard was the big success. In just over 70 years some 52 vessels had been built for the Admiralty. The last ship to be launched from the slips at Buckler’s Hard was the Repulse in 1818.

With a growing demand for timber for ships both nationally and within the New Forest, it was vital to secure sustainable and regular supplies. In 1786 a commission was set up to investigate the condition of the forest resulting in the publication of the ‘Survey of the New Forest’ by Abraham Driver accompanied by the first detailed map of the New Forest and commonly known as ‘Drivers Map'. From this point government actions focused on making the New Forest more productive for timber at the expense of the wildlife and sometimes even the human residents.

In-closures permitted under the 1698 New Forest Act, the 1808 Declaratory Act and the 1851 Deer Removal Act still survive today and are managed by Forestry England, totalling 7,115 hectares. The arrival of the Royal Navy’s first iron ship HMS Warrior, a 40-gun steam-powered armoured frigate, in 1860 saw the start of the decline in timber for ship building.

To find out more about the fascinating maritime history of the Forest, visit:
‘Command of the Seas! The Navy and the New Forest against Napoleon’ exhibition at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in Lymington between 8 June and 31 August.

Tree with Government Mark
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“There are fine examples of ancient trees across the New Forest, some of which are carved with a rather distinct marking: The Kings Mark or Broad Arrow. This was used to mark government property, which included stores, guns, nails and certain trees deemed suitable or destined for ship construction. 

During their regular visits to the New Forest to inspect the inclosures, naval surveyors from Portsmouth would also decide to claim trees outside the inclosed Forest. As inclosures were originally created to grow and supply timber solely for the Navy, surveyors would not need to mark trees within them. All of the surviving Broad Arrows in the Forest today date from before 1871, when felling individual trees in the open forest was halted. It was ultimately banned in 1877. 

The Broad Arrow was particularly associated with the Office or Board of Ordnance, the principal duty of which was to supply guns, ammunition, stores and equipment to the King's Navy. The mark signified property of the crown and made it unlawful to fell or damage these trees.”

Acknowledgements for funding and support go to: Heritage Lottery funding NPA and OPOF. 

To find our more about all of the Cornwallis Story and the Cornwallis Remembered celebrations, please click here.

Milford-on-Sea Historical Record Society:


Cornwallis Remembered Weekend: 

Friday 5th July 2019: includes a family friendly celebration on Milford on Sea village green and much more. Keep the date free!

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