Table 1. Historical profile of the New Forest (based on Kenchington 1944, Tubbs 1968, Newton 2010a, Smith and Burke 2010, Tubbs 2001). Note that an Act of Parliament refers to a statute or law enacted by the national government.


Date Historical significance
1079 The designation of the New Forest as a Royal Forest by King William I. Introduced Forest Law, which imposed the monarch’s exclusive ownership of deer and other game and aimed to protect their habitat. Regulated traditional land uses.
1542 Act Creation of the post of Surveyor General of the King’s Woods to increase their commercial function. This established the basis for the future exploitation of woodlands for timber, for the “profit of the King”.
1698 Act for the Increase and Preservation of Timber in the New Forest First large-scale efforts at establishing tree plantations, through the creation of Inclosures from which livestock were excluded. The Act also gave statutory recognition to common rights, but resulted in conflicts with commoners over loss of grazing land.
1808 Act of the Increase and Preservation of Timber in Dean and New Forests Provided for Inclosure of a further 6000 acres of common land, aimed at reducing the extent of commoning activity
1845 Opening of London to Dorchester railway, which passed through the New Forest Construction of the railway increased recreational access to the New Forest, and colonization by a monied middle class. Income from sale of land was used to finance drainage activities, aimed at agricultural improvement.
1851 Deer Removal Act Relinquished the interest of the monarchy in the deer, which were heavily culled. As compensation, 10,000 acres were enclosed for establishment of timber plantations in Inclosures, which together with imposition of Forest Laws, provoked large-scale revolts among commoners and gentry. Resulted in large-scale introduction of exotic conifer plantations and drainage works.
1877 New Forest Act No further enclosure creation allowed, and no further Inclosures permitted other than those granted under previous Acts. Reconstituted the Verderers Court to administer common rights and commoning activities, free from the influence of the monarchy.
1914-1918, 1939-1945 First and Second World Wars Forest intensively managed for timber production. Extensive areas of native woodlands felled during 1914-1918, which were then converted to exotic conifer plantations. Large tracts of land used for airfields, firing ranges, and food supplies in the Second World War.
1923 Forestry (Transfer of Woods) Act Forestry Commission takes over responsibility for management of New Forest from the monarchy. As a consequence of national forest policy, this resulted in successive attempts to convert native woodlands to exotic conifer plantations, exploit native woods commercially, and enclose more land.
The New Forest Act 1949 Act set out requirement for Forestry Commission to maintain drainage and scrub control for grazing interests, which led to significant drainage between 1965-1986. Created additional Inclosures (2005 acres).
The New Forest Act 1964 Alteration of the boundary and addition of fencing and cattle grids to help control livestock movement and prevent accidents. Introduced obligation for Forestry Commission and Verderers to give due regard to nature conservation interests. Granted permission to carry out silvicultural interventions in native woodland.
Woodland crisis 1968-1971 Plans developed for extensive clearcutting and commercial exploitation of native woods, which led to a public outcry. Ministers Mandate (1971) subsequently introduced, declaring that unenclosed woods were to be conserved “without regard to timber production objectives”, and prevented further coniferization of Inclosures.
The New Forest National Park Establishment Order 2005 New Forest designated a National Park, implementing a recommendation made 14 years previously. Also designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), under the EU Habitats Directive.