Important dates and events in the history of the New Forest

Since its designation as a royal hunting ground by King William I in 1079 there have been a number of important dates and events that have all played a part in shaping the New Forest over time.
This page summarizes a number of these dates and events that have all occurred over the history of the New Forest and National Park.

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  • 1079 – King William I has the area designated as a royal hunting ground and Forest Laws are created to ensure the protection of animals and the vegetation as their food.
  • 1086 – the first official record is made of the area as The New Forest, in the Doomsday Book.
  • 1100 – King William’s son, William Rufus, is shot and killed with an arrow while out hunting, either accidentally or otherwise.
  • 1217 – Henry III’s Charter Of The Forest gives further protection to The New Forest, as well as similar afforested areas throughout the country.
  • 1483 – the very first Tree Growing Act passed, opening the way for areas to be enclosed – a strong feature of today’s New Forest.
  • 1698 – William III passes an Act to create more enclosures for protected timber production, for use by the Navy.
  • 1808 – an Act for the increase and preservation of timber in The Forest is passed.
  • 1845 – the London to Southampton railway line is extended through to Dorest and bisects the New Forest.
  • 1851 – the Deer Removal Act is enforced, unsuccessfully. More enclosures are created and trees planted.
  • 1877 – the first major ‘New Forest Act’ is passed. The Court of Verderers is re-established to take control of the rolling powers of the Crown, surrendered through the act. This Act also prohibits the creation of any more enclosures.
  • 1919 – the Forestry Commission is established to care for and manage Crown lands throughout the country.
  • 1924 – Forestry Commission officially takes over the management of The New Forest.
  • 1939-45 – The New Forest areas of Stoney Cross, Beaulieu Heath and Holmsley see airfields being built for wartime use.
  • 1949 – the New Forest Act is passed, ensuring further conservation efforts and making minor boundary changes.
  • 1969 – National Nature Reserve status is given to The Forest under recognition of its habitats and wildlife.
  • 1971 – Site of Special Scientific Interest status given to The Forest. Traditional Forest Laws are abandoned.
  • 1976 – the parking of cars is confined to official car parks throughout the New Forest; ditches are dug and dragon teeth fencing is erected to prevent parking on open Forest areas.
  • 1990 – New Forest Committee is created to oversee and co-ordinate the actions of 6 different governing bodies in the area.
    A 40mph speed limit is put into place on Forest roads in an attempt to reduce animal deaths.
  • 1991 – the area is recommended by the National Parks Review Panel for consideration to becoming a National Park.
  • 1994 – National Park status recommendation is rejected by the government.
  • 1997 – a 4 year ‘LIFE’ program is financed by the Forestry Commission and European Union to restore areas of The Forest and to improve conservation efforts.
  • 1999 – the Countryside Agency reviews the recommendation and puts forward plans to give the area National Park status.
  • 2000 – the provisional National Park boundaries are defined.
  • 2002 – a Designation Order is published and a public inquiry launched to decide upon whether the new NP status should go ahead.
  • 2005 – The New Forest National Park is officially recognised on March 1st.

Sources of reference:,

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