History of Lyndhurst and the New Forest
In a uniquely tranquil location, the village of Lyndhurst is surrounded entirely by the historic New Forest. Named in the Domesday Book in 1086, Bronze Age remains have been discovered in nearby towns Pondhead and Matley Ridge and examples of early pottery have also been found. Although there is no direct evidence that Romans occupied the area, there is a network of Roman roads connecting Buckland Rings, Lepe, Winchester, Old Sarum and the West Country.
The countryside surrounding Lyndhurst, the New Forest National Park, is a former royal hunting ground created in 1079 for William the Conqueror. The locals were subjected to many cruel restrictions under his rule and were only able to keep a certain number of their own livestock and take small amounts of peat for fuel. William’s son, King William II and known as Rufus, introduced severe penalties for breaking these laws, including mutilation. An arrow meant for a deer killed him in the year 1100. Today there stands a plaque to mark the spot, called the Rufus Stone.
The New Forest still retains many of the rural practices conceded to local people by the Crown in historical times. Namely, ‘commoners’, people living within the forest, have permission to pasture donkeys, cattle, pigs and the famous New Forest Ponies in the open forest. Horses and livestock can sometimes be seen grazing within the village and across from The White Rabbit pub.
Rising demands for timber between the 12th and 17th Centuries affected the forest greatly. As the need for timber declined during Victorian times, many ecological features and wildlife returned, only to be ruined once again by the war effort during the Second World War. The New Forest was made a National Park in March 2005.
There are many royal connections with Lyndhurst. George III and his family used to stop here to break up journeys to Weymouth. It’s said that spectators gathered to watch the King eat through a window of what is now The Queen’s House in 1789. The present building dates largely from the 17th Century and is now the Headquarters of The Forestry Commission. It takes its name from being the site upon which a manor house was built during the reign of Edward I for his first Queen, Eleanor of Castile. She lived here whilst the King was away at war fighting the Welsh in 1276.
Lyndhurst also has connections with literature, as this is the place where Alice Liddell lived, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She lived in a large stately home called Cuffnells with her husband, Reginald Hargreaves, a cricketer for Hampshire. Her home was demolished in the 1950s but visitors can see her gravestone at the beautiful Victorian Church of St. Michael & All Angels which overlooks Lyndhurst village.
The White Rabbit, named in her memory, continues to be a popular stop with locals and tourists alike, and guests can combine a relaxing Sunday lunch or share a delicious seasonal special with friends with walking, rambling or cycling in the New Forest.
Directions to The White Rabbit
You can find The White Rabbit pub in Lyndhurst Village in Hampshire, at the heart of the New Forest just off the A337 Romsey Road, close to Lyndhurst High Street. Key SO43 7AR into your satnav to find us.