There’s only one thing better than curling up with a good book. And that’s visiting the places where the writer lived, or which they featured in their novel! Luckily for you, the magical New Forest is filled with them – here are some of our most amazing literature facts and features.
The Real Alice in Wonderland is buried at St Michael and All Angels church, Lyndhurst. Look carefully and you’ll soon spot the final resting place of Mrs Reginald Hargreaves. At the age of four she became the unwitting inspiration for the Rev Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – better known as Lewis Carroll – to write Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Alice Hargreaves came to live in Lyndhurst and was a society hostess for many years, before dying in 1934, aged 82. Before her death, she had confessed to finding her global fame a burden.
Image - Alice Hargreaves Grave
Jane Austen visited the Beaulieu River. Correspondence from the early 19th century shows that the writer of Georgian blockbusters Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice took a boat trip on the Beaulieu River with her sister and mother. They floated past Buckler’s Hard, which would have been a working shipyard at the time.
The Franchise Affair. There’s no murder and no body in Josephine Tey’s 1948 crime novel but that didn’t stop it becoming a best-seller and voted one of the top 100 crime novels of all time. It is understood to be based in Milford on Sea and the surrounding area, and involves a young woman who claims she has been kidnapped and cruelly treated by a mother and daughter at a house called The Franchise. The mystery is solved by local solicitor Robert Blair and is based on a true story arising from a similar incident 100 years before Tey penned her story.
Image - Milford on Sea Green. Credit - Visit Milford on Sea
Gruesome thrillers. If you like your crime thrillers dark – and local – check out writer Matthew ‘MJ’ Arlidge, who has set a number of his DI Helen Grace detective novels in and around the New Forest. His 2014 debut, Eeeny Meeny took readers to an unspecified area of the forest where a horrific crime took place. The eighth book in the series, Down to the Woods, takes things up a notch, with the forest almost a character in its own right. Victims in this tale are killed with bows and arrows and hung from trees – mirroring the alleged fate of the Forest’s most famous murder victim – King William Rufus.
Sherlock Holmes’s creator stayed at the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu. Arthur Conan Doyle resided at this cosy New Forest Hotel whilst researching his adventure novel: The White Company, which he regarded as his finest work. ‘When I wrote the last line, I remember that I cried: “Well, I'll never beat that”, and threw the ink pen at the opposite wall,’ he said. The novel was set partly in Beaulieu Abbey and also in Minstead during the Hundred Years War
Image - Montagu Arms Hotel
The grave of Arthur Conan Doyle lies in a corner of Minstead’s All Saints Church, as far from the building as possible. Why? Conan Doyle had become a spiritualist following the death of his beloved son, Kingsley, in the First World War, and he had joined seances, hoping to make contact with him. He was originally buried in the garden of his home in Sussex but was later re-interred in Minstead, near his country home of Bignall Wood. Respecting his beliefs, the interment was as far away as it could be from the main church.
A thousand years of Forest history are covered in Edward Rutherford’s epic novel The Forest, published 22 years ago. He was inspired by the area’s mysterious side, and included a dragon and other fantastic creatures in his story.
Requiem for a Wren. This wartime adventure story references part of author Neville Shute’s stay at Exbury House during the Second World War.
Children of the New Forest. Perhaps the most famous Forest novel of all, this 1847 story, written by Captain Frederick Marryat tells the tale of the plucky Beverley children and their adventures as they escape the Roundheads in the English Civil War. Marryat gained some of his information and feel for the Forest during the stays he enjoyed at his brother George’s country house, better known today as the 5* Chewton Glen Hotel.