If you love to immerse yourselves in a place’s history, then you will love to discover the museums and history that surrounds the New Forest. From the history of motoring and monasteries at Beaulieu through to the relics of Tudor times and WW2 – absorb yourself in the New Forest’s amazing history today!
Discover the ancient history of the New Forest National Park
The New Forest dates back to the times of William the Conqueror. In 1079, William the Conqueror named the area his ‘new hunting forest', little could he imagine that nearly 1,000 years later his ‘Nova Foresta' would still retain its mystery and romance.
The ancient system established by William the Conqueror to protect and manage the woodlands and wilderness heaths is still in place today through the efforts of Verderers, Agisters and Commoners - literally the judges, stockmen and land users of the forest.
A great place to start, which gives you a great sense of the traditions and customs of our beautiful national park is at the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst. Here, you can find out about how the land has been influenced by people over the centuries.
Image - New Forest Heritage Centre
Influences from Tudor times
King Henry VIII made his mark on the New Forest by the commission on both Hurst Castle and Calshot Castle respectively. Both castles were built to help defend Southampton Water and the Solent from possible invasion. Unlike many Tudor castles, Hurst Castle remained in military use until 1956, playing an active role in both world wars! Popular with families, trips to Hurst Castle combine a wealth of history with some breathtaking views across the Solent.
Henry VIII’s influence on the New Forest didn’t stop there, with the dissolution of the monasteries, Beaulieu Abbey’s monastery was forced to be sold to the Earl of Southampton. You can find out more about the fascinating history of the monastery, abbey and Palace House on a visit to Beaulieu.
Image - Hurst Castle
During World War II, Balmer Lawn in Brockenhurst (now the Balmer Lawn Hotel) was used by Generals Montgomery and Eisenhower for meetings as they planned the D-Day invasion.
There were also twelve airfields across the area - some of which can still be visited today including RAF Stoney Cross. Take a tour of the airfields with Friends of The New Forest Airfields Heritage Centre.
Lepe beach has evidence of WW2 still present on its beach to this day. The area played a role in D-Day operations, with many troops leaving from Lepe to head to Normandy.
Image - Friends of the New Forest Airfields
Explore our museums
For a greater sense of history, be sure to check out the various museums dotted around the New Forest.
Buckler’s Hard, a maritime village dating from the 18th century, is home to the Buckler’s Hard Museum, where you can find out more about the history of the village and its ship building past. By walking through the village, you can absorb the history too!
Up the river from Buckler’s Hard is the famous National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. Here, you can learn about the early rise of cars and see classics from across the years. A must visit for any petrol-heads. And if you love anything with an engine, then do also pop into the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum near New Milton.
Explore Lymington’s heritage on a trip to the St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, just off the High Street. The museum tells the story of the area and its people using modern, interactive displays.
Image - Buckler's Hard Museum
Unearth other historic locations
Step into years of history on a visit to Eling Tide Mill. For 900 years, millers have been harnessing the power of the tides in Eling creek to grind wheat into flour. The tide mill that stands there today dates from 1785 and offers a visitor centre, riverside walks and a cafe.
Take a tour of the Elizabethan mansion, Breamore House, which includes some fine paintings. A short walk from the house will lead you into the Breamore Countryside Museum, which boasts one of the finest collections of steam powered farm machinery, tractors, barn machinery and historical tools.
Image - Eling Tide Mill
By visiting our towns and villages you will also be surrounded by history. Why not explore Lyndhurst and see the resting place of Alice Lydell – the child who inspired Lewes Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland? Or take a trip to Burley for its history of witchcraft and spooky goings ons.