A Brief Word
We thought it best, in this The Preface, to let
Edward Rutherfurd and The Forest speak for themselves, to introduce themselves,
as it were, and to lay the groundwork upon which all else will be built. In his preface to the novel, Edward Rutherfurd introduces
his fictitious families and the historical people and places with and in which they interact, and The Forest introduces us
the rights of The Forest folk, rights that stretch back into the mists of time, rights that are firmly entrenched into the
landscape of Forest, just as surely as the trees, wildlife and humans are. Also The Verders and The Agisters who maintain
those ancient rights and apply them to todays needs and requirements.
Let us now then allow these voices to speak.
THE FOREST is a novel. The families whose fortunes the story follows
are fictitious, as are their parts in the historical events described. I have tried, however, at all times to set their stories
amongst people and events that either did exist or might have done
Albion House, Albion Park and the hamlet of Oakley are invented. All the other places in the book are real. Most of these
New Forest place-names have remained constant for a thousand years: where they have changed, I have used the names by which
they are known today. Similarly, though I have tried to avoid anachronisms, it has occasionally been necessary to use a modern
term where a historical one would only confuse the reader.
The family of Albion is invented. Cola the
huntsman did exist, however, though Walter Tyrell's cousin Adela did not. The name of Seagull is pure invention; Totton and
Furzey are local place-names. The element Puck is often found in southern English place-names, from which I have constructed
Puckle*. Martell appears both in place-names and in medieval records and suggests a knightly origin. Grockle is a prejorative
New Forest term for an ignorant outsider, from which I have derived Grockleton. Finally, the name Pride, though found in many
parts of England, I have chosen to suggest the intense and justifiable pride which the ancient Forest families take in their
heritage. The description of Godwin Pride, the archetypal Forest commoner, was suggested by a photograph of the late Mr. Frank
Kitcher; but the physical type is to be found in photographs of members of many ancient Forest families
including those of Mansbridge, Smith, Stride and Purkiss. I suspect
that the Forest roots of these old families go back to pre-Roman times.
A few historical
notes may be appropriate.
KING WILLIAM RUFUS:No one will ever know the exact truth about the killing of Rufus; but we probably do know where it took place. I have
followed the arguments set out by the didtinguished New Forest historian,
Mr. Arthur Lloyd, which place the killing down at Througham and
not at the site of the Rufus stone. As to the part played by the family of Purkiss, I have followed Mr. Lloyd and Mr. David
Stagg in suggesting that the legend of Purkiss carting the body away derives from a later date. The conversation between Purkiss
and King Charles is my own invention; the enterprise of this ancient family is attested to today by a notable food emporium
in Brockenhurst, without a visit to which no trip to the Forest would be complete.
WITCHCRAFT: The New Forest has long been
associated in many people's imagination with the practice of witchcraft. We cannot know what form this might have taken in
past centuries. I have no personal experience of witchcraft, nor any desire to have; but there is nowadays such an extensive
available literature on the subject of Wicca, as it is usually termed, that i have drawn upon this to create a tale that i
hope will seem plausible. I note with interest that many of the ingredients of the withch's cauldron of fable are infact hallucinogens.
THE BISTERNE DRAGON: I am most grateful
to Major General
G.H. Mills for explaining to me what this dragon really was.
ALICE LISLE: This famous trial is well recorded. For the
purposes of this novel I have allowed mysi\elf to interpose the fictitious families of Albion and Martell onto the historical
families of Lisles and Penruddock at this point of the story, but not in a way that does any violence to history. Research
also showed that there are inconsisttencies in the usual version of the legend. John Lisle did not infact sentence Colnel
Penruddock; and the legend confuses the two branches of the Penruddocks living in the area. I believe that the slightly amended
version given in this novel is very much closer to historical truth. Alice Lisle's daughters existed, as stated, except for
Betty whom I have invented.
THE MIRACULOUS OAK TREES: I am grateful
to Mr. Richard Reeves for drawing the existence of the three miraculous oaks to my attention.
THE SPANISH TREASURE SHIP: There seems
to be no official record of this, yet local evidence strongly suggests that it did exist. The connection of Hurst and Longford
Castle is unproven; though I believe it.
BATH: It may interest readers to know that
the story of the theft of lace in Bath is based upon a real accusation made against Jane Austen's aunt.
LORD MONTAGU: The scenes involving Lord
(the first Lord Montagu of Beaulieu) are invented;
but the part he played in saving the New Forest was very real, as indicated in the story.
-Edward Rutherfurd. 2000
* For an alternative view of this statement go here
The Rights of
Commoners are those that own land in and around the forest that has
rights attached to it. About 350 families exercise these privileges today and in total the forest has some 1,800 head of cattle,
over 3,000 ponies and a smaller number of donkeys, pigs and sheep.
Only a small number of commoners actually still make a living from keeping
stock. Most are part-time farmers with income from other businesses. Some simply keep one or two animals on the forest purely
to maintain the old tradition.
Common of Pasture - the right to graze cattle, ponies, donkeys, sheep.
Common of Mast - the right to turn pigs out on the forest during the pannage season
(in autumn when acorns and beech mast have fallen - acorns are particularly poisonous to ponies)
Common of Fuelwood - an allowance of wood for burning to be used in a dwelling (know
also as Estovers)
Common of Sheep - the right to allow sheep onto the forest
Common of Marl - the right to take limey clay to spread on the land as a form of soil
Common of Turbary - the right to cut turf for burning in a dwelling.
An important point to remember
about the commons rights is
that they are granted not to people
but to properties lying within
the perambulation of the New Forest
as a means of supplementing their incomes.
Verderers and Agisters
The 1877 New Forest Act founded the Court of Verderers,
10 in total, 5 of whom are elected and 5 appointed charged with managing commoning on the forest. The Official Verderer is
appointed by and represents the Crown. As well as managing commoners rights, the Verderers act as regulators of development
in conjunction with English Nature and with Forest Enterprise, a government agency, who administer the Crown lands.
The Court meets monthly except in August at 10am
on the middle Monday of the month. At alternate months the session opens with
a public presentments, or verbal statements on matters of concern in the forest. The rest of the courts business is administrative
between the Court and Forest Enterprise.
The Verderers continue a policy which will "maintain
and support the commoning system which is so essential to the traditional character of the forest".
A special plea from the Verderers, when you visit to
Forest, please don't feed the animals. This only tempts them onto the roads where they can be hurt in accidents (215 last
year). Also ponies in particular can be quite stubborn. Once they get used to being fed by people with carrier bags or at
car windows, they expect it from every car or everyone with a carrier bag. Ponies can get pretty aggressive and half a ton
of angry pony is not a pretty sight!
The 6 Agisters main duty is the day to day running
of the forest "on the ground". Their work is to assist commoners with the management of their stock on the forest, riding
daily and observing the condition of both grazing and animals. In the late summer and autumn the Agisters organise 'drifts'
or round-ups throughout the forest. Foals and mares which are to remain on the forest are branded and marked to show the commoners
have paid the £15 fee (£6 for cattle, £1 for pigs). Marking is done by cutting the tail into a particular pattern depending
upon which one of the four areas of the forest the owner lives in. Others, especially stallions, are taken off for sale and
some are removed for the winter.
Agisters are the main point of contact for all
stock related matters and are on call night and day. Unfortunately there are still road accidents involving animals even though
some wear reflective collars during the winter. In bad winters animals can lose condition very rapidly as food becomes scarce
and the weather deteriorates. The Agisters need to be aware of all aspects of their area and be ready to act on behalf of