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100th anniversary of the Portuguese Fireplace in the New Forest

Bernard Hornung and Anglo-Portuguese Society group

Bernard Hornung and Anglo-Portuguese Society group

On 18th November 2017, eight members of the Anglo-Portuguese community came to the New Forest from London for a little ceremony to commemorate the arrival of a Portuguese contingent in the New Forest on 23rd November 1917 to help in the production of timber for the war effort. Some members of the Friends of the New Forest met the Portuguese party at the New Forest Inn at Emery Down for lunch and then accompanied them to the Portuguese Fireplace at Millyford Green, which had been decorated with Portuguese flags for the occasion. They were joined there by other members of the Friends of the New Forest, and their leader Bernard Hornung explained:

“There is currently no war memorial in this country to the Portuguese who died in WW1. The Portuguese Fireplace is the only memorial that exists and that is to non-combatants. This visit marks the start of the final phase of a fund-raising campaign for two Memorial Windows at the Roman Catholic Church of St James at Twickenham, which will be dedicated to the sacrifices of the Portuguese during the First World War and to the memory of the last King of Portugal.”

Richard Reeves, local historian and Friends of the New Forest council member, explaining the history of Portuguese workers
Then local historian and Friends of the New Forest Council member, Richard Reeves talked about the history behind the Fireplace and the difficulties that faced the Portuguese workers:

“From the start of the First World War, the war itself created an increased demand for timber while at the same time reducing those available to take on such work as they enlisted in the armed forces. The resultant shortage of labour was met to a certain degree by the formation of the Women’s Timber Service and Empire forestry units such as the Canadian Forestry Corps, formed in 1916. However, the need for labour was greater still and the Canadian Forestry Corps based at Millyford were joined by a Portuguese contingent of 100 men on the 23rd of November 1917.

The New Forest lumber camp became a significant settlement, covering around 4 to 5 acres. It was supported by a number of saw-mills and even a narrow gauge railway to transport the timber out of the Forest.

The Portuguese Fireplace is all that remains of this part of the war effort. The Fireplace was originally the fireplace of the camp’s cookhouse.”

Bernard Hornung presenting book to John Ward, Chairman of Friends of the New Forest

Bernard Hornung presenting book to John Ward, Chairman of Friends of the New Forest

Finally a toast was raised to the memory of the Portuguese workers and to the Anglo-Portuguese co-operation that they represented, Portugal being Britain’s oldest international ally. Some of the party then enjoyed a short walk in Holidays Hill Inclosure before they returned to London.

The Friends of the New Forest have just finished celebrating their own 150th anniversary with a year of events. Set up in 1867 to fight off serious threats to the Forest as we know it, the Friends (until recently known as the New Forest Association) are the only membership-based association in the New Forest that gives its members an effective voice on a wide range of New Forest issues. For 150 years their guiding purpose has been to protect, conserve and enhance the flora, fauna and heritage of the New Forest.
Portuguese fireplace, New Forest decorated with Portuguese flags

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Presentment: Latchmore Brook: Part 2: Wildlife, Materials and Beauty

In a feat of both irony, and good timing thematically, the presenter met the five minute limit for Presentments, and was cut short. The first part was an apology from the New Forest Association for not displaying our support for the Latchmore project “often enough, publicly enough, or possibly well enough.” allowing snide comments and poor treatment of the Verderers, Forestry Commission and National Park Authority to stand.

The second part shifts emphasis to addressing areas that concern all of us about the project, Wildlife, Material Delivery Routes and Beauty.

…I won’t make up for lost time now.  I have a critique of more than ten errors on just one of their webpages which I’ve sent separately to the Verderers (on our news page).  But I beg the courts indulgence to address a few points.  Amongst the more emotive subjects, the potential disturbance to and loss of wildlife in the implementation itself.  Of course this is of concern, but there’s a reason why we view the end-of-days prognostication of those opposed as baseless conjecture.

2119.  Two thousand One Hundred and Nineteen.  This is the non-exclusive number of completed River Restoration projects in the UK since 1994 listed in the database of the River Restoration Centre.   Some smaller, some larger: the Cumbria River Restoration Strategy (CRRS) a partnership project between Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Rivers Trusts of Eden, West Cumbria and South Cumbria won the 2016 UK River Prize. They restored 14 km of river across the three catchments to a more natural form.  Not all restore meanders, only 1593 had Habitat objectives, some were done for Flood Risk, Fisheries, etc. 120 are listed as a result of Community Demand.  But all would have had the issue of disturbance to wildlife.  Projects including hundreds of Rivers Trusts, Catchment Partnerships, private estates, the Royal Parks, the National Trust, amongst others.  When the RSPB, and the Wildlife Trusts, and their ecologists support the Latchmore Brook project and other Forest wetland restorations, they do so with their experience, including many projects on the land they manage.  If the consequences, in 22 years and 2119 projects, were as dire as the leaders of the opposition contend, I should think we’d have heard about it by now, or certainly their researches would have brought this to our attention.

We do all share concerns about the project.  The New Forest History and Archaeology Group have raised issues with the survey, we believe they are surmountable and encourage all interested parties to work towards a solution.

Movement of materials to the site may cause disturbance and inconvenience to those along the delivery routes.  I’ve seen and heard alarming figures, 70HGV movements a day or 44000 HGVs, which I’ve discovered to be ridiculously overblown.  Not that I blame anyone for getting this wrong as the planning documents do not lay out the information in a helpful way.  I’ve already had a private go at the FC and LUC over their need to provide concise and useful figures for the public to properly convey the size of the issue.  The route through Ogdens, for example, we’ve been told this will be used in three years of the project, which is worrying, but hazard a guess at how many days would be necessary for deliveries through Ogdens in 2017 – 6, 2018 – 1, that’s right in 2018 they only need to make approx 7 deliveries on that route that year, 2020 – 28, of course that will bear more discussion, but it brings perspective. For the entire project all routes all years combined there will be fewer than 10k HGV movements, fewer than 11k in the worst case scenario we’ve run.  I’ll be putting up our numbers on our newspage later today, available to all, even if you want to scare people with numbers at least you can use realistic figures.

Finally, many are rightfully concerned about the future beauty of the Latchmore Brook.  Walking along Latchmore Shade, you will clearly see the original meanders.  In some cases you will see this as gently undulating curves written as a gentle scar in the landscape, it is easy to imagine a pleasant stream flowing along this course.  Elsewhere the meanders have been eroded into unattractive ruts, and in other places the area between the current water course and the meanders become a quagmire when the drains rush water into the area, the flood in the now dysfunctional flood plain is partially contained by the meander, not allowing much onto the adjacent grazing.  Fixing this will not make the area any less beautiful.  I spoke of the prizewinning project in Cumbria, which we may begrudgingly agree is also an iconic landscape.  That project was twice the size of Latchmore.

Look at Warwickslade Cutting and Fletchers Thorns amongst many of the completed restorations which have bedded in, they look absolutely lovely now.  There are many to choose from, but don’t impatiently show up moments after the diggers left and expect an instantaneous transformation.  Give nature time to do its magic.  After all nature took its time creating those meanders before they were ruined.

— Brian Tarnoff, Chair, Habitat and Landscape Committee
New Forest Asssociation

While this second part was not read in the open court, the full presentment was distributed in written form to the Verderers, as well as the Annotated Fact Check of the Latchmore Crowdfunding Page.

Much of this half of the Presentment was repurposed in the Public Questions section of the subsequent National Park Authority meeting, with an emphasis on addressing the PR problem now faced by Wetland Restorations in the wake of the leaders of the opposition to Latchmore’s concerted campaign of misinformation, misrepresentation, hyperbole and pseudoscience.

Presentment: Latchmore Brook: Part 1: An Apology

As the Latchmore Brook planning application may be decided before the next month’s Verderers Court.  The NFA find that we owe everyone an apology.

We’ve never made a secret of our support for the Forestry Commission’s wetland restorations.  But clearly, in some areas, we haven’t made our case often enough, publicly enough, or possibly well enough.  For that we must apologize to the whole of the Forest.

We apologize to the Verderers, I know you don’t need anyone to leap to your defence, but you have been impugned, under the snide accusation that everyone involved in, or indeed supporting the project, would knowingly harm the Forest.  The Verderers who many of us regard as the conservative line in the sand, that we are so fortunate have powers granted by the New Forest Acts.  You have supported this project in the various forms its taken when it has come before you.

This is one of the Leaders of the opposition’s most poisonous assertions, that the process itself, is somehow tainted by a cosy “partnership”.  The National Park Authority, Verderers and Forestry Commission are only “partners” in the project inasmuch as they are the statutory bodies obviously required to be on the project board.  It only benefits the FC as they fulfil their legal obligation to respond to the Natural England condition assessment of the SSSI, and only benefits the Park as it successfully fulfils their statutory purposes “to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area”.  The NPA is represented on the board by their Chief Exec Alison Barnes.

The NPA’s Planning Committee is made up of 14 of the 22 members of the Park Authority.  The Committee is mostly (12) local Parish, Town, District and County Councillors and 2 Secretary of State Appointees [through DEFRA].  As with any Planning Authority they have strict criteria they must adhere to, and whilst they may seek advice from the civil servant staff of the Authority including their own ecologists and the Chief Exec, the decisions are theirs.  No previous scheme has been refused because, like the present one, they are worthwhile restorations to improve the habitat, and have met the criteria for planning approval.  There is NO conflict of interest as the Chief Exec on the board of the project serves the members of the Authority, not the other way around.

We apologize to the Forestry Commission,  and other public servants that have had to bear the brunt of what many would call a hostile work environment.   I’ve heard hissing at Parish Council meetings.  I’ve seen ecologists aggressively berated at consultations and site visits, where they are merely doing their job and explaining, calmly, what the values of these projects are.  The NFA haven’t been able to be present at all occasions and have not intervened enough.  Not that I lay all bad behaviour at the feet of the Leaders of the opposition, but neither do they repudiate such behaviour.

We also apologize to the FC because while the NFA have campaigned for more monitoring built in to all these projects –  We didn’t insist enough to give everyone a larger more convincing body of evidence.

We apologize to the Friends of Latchmore.  Yes, we do. On one level we welcomed them, we disagreed with their conclusions, but a localized voice giving the Forestry Commission a hard time, could have been useful.  The NFA, covering more issues over the whole Forest, can’t be everywhere all the time.  But they are never sceptical enough with their own arguments, they don’t sort the wheat from the chaff, as a result we’ve heard a few valid points hidden amidst a white noise of hyperbole and pseudoscience.

But here’s where the NFA have done the leaders of the Friends of Latchmore and as a result many of their followers a true disservice.  We didn’t challenge them publicly often enough.  We thought there was no point in popping up doing tit for tat when the planning process would make the decision.  We limited speaking here at the Verderers Court mostly to key moments when the Verderers were to decide their views.  In some cases they may even have taken our silence for validation.

We’ve let them steal a march on us in the public perception, but in doing so they have spread an entrenched dogmatic view which stifles debate, because you can’t have a discussion where one side never concedes any of the many valid points that suggest that either this project is worthwhile, or that its challenges are proportionate.

I won’t make up for lost time now.  I have a critique of more than ten errors on just one of their webpages which I’ve sent separately to the Verderers (on our news page).  But I beg the courts indulgence to address a few points…..

— Brian Tarnoff, Chair, Habitat and Landscape Committee
New Forest Asssociation

In a feat of both irony, and good timing thematically, the presenter met the five minute limit for Presentments, and was cut short. The second part shifts emphasis to addressing areas that concern all of us about the project, Wildlife, Material Delivery Routes and Beauty.  The full presentment was distributed in written form to the Verderers, as well as the Annotated Fact Check of the Latchmore Crowdfunding Page.

The Presentment was preceded by a very short thank you to the Forestry Commission for their new Look, Don’t Pick Fungi policy.  We released a fuller response to the policy here.

What’s in a name?

The Rose & Crown, Brockenhurst (photo: G.Baker)

The Rose and Crown may have its name changed to The Huntsman if owners, Marston, get their way.

Unfortunately the National Park’s conservation officer reported:

It has been established that the existing name dates from c.1900 [and the subsequent conclusion that] is not considered that the proposed name change will have a significant impact upon the character and appearance of the listed building as one of special architectural and historic interest …

Challenging this view, Graham Baker, our Planning Committee Chair, consulted Richard Reeves, a well respected local historian and NFA Council member. Richard’s findings on the origins of the pub’s name tell a very different story:

The name Rose and Crown has been in use since at least 1787 and was recorded in the Survey by Thomas Richardson of the Whitley Ridge and Lady Cross Walks of the Forest.

The next preceding record before this which I am aware of in for 1770 in the Forest Rental lists. Here it is recorded as the Three Crowns. The earliest reference of this name is the fuelwood list for 1725.
From 1725 the occupier was a member of the Collis family and they continued in occupation into the second half of the 19th century. They first appear in the Brockenhurst Parish Registers in 1718, John the first known landlord died in 1754, aged 63, and is buried in the Churchyard He was from a Worcestershire family of good standing.

Before the property came to be known as the Three Crowns it was called Rookley’s messuage, a name derived from Robert Rookley Head, Forester of the South Bailiwick, who died in about 1544. The 1670 Claim for Forest Rights by William Knapton (Lord of the Manor of Brockenhurst) records the property as Rockely’s messuage. Another corrupt version of the name, Brookley’s, is recorded in the sale by Philip Cray to Edward Morant in 1772. Cray was the Lord of the Manor of Brockenhurst, while Morant’s family went on to become Lords of the Manor.

In c.1604, the property was recorded as follows:

“One messuage and 1 close of meadow grounds adjoining to the same and compassed about with lanes on every side in the occupation of Tristram Elmes as tenant to Mr Knapton, Lord; acreage 6-1-0; annual value 3-6-8.”

Graham’s objection from the NFA to the proposal concludes:

The name is of special interest in the Village, [and] is intertwined with Village history and within the village only St Nicholas Church and Ash Cottage significantly pre-date it. [The ] NFA contends that the proposal to remove the lettering Rose and Crown from the front of the building will have a significant impact upon the character and appearance of the listed building as one of special architectural and historic interest. It is surprising that a new business venture should start by alienating the village and regular visitors, and NFA respectfully ask the applicant to withdraw and reconsider.

A mere name change may seem like a standard practice, a re-branding trotted out in the business model of a chain of interchangeable concerns. But, in the New Forest, our heritage is written in the names of our woodland inclosures, our villages, and even our humble pubs.

Thanks to Graham Baker and Richard Reeves for their work shared here.