New Forest Centre Wins National Hidden Gem Visitor Award

New Forest Centre, Lyndhurst

Published Wednesday 2 March 2016

The New Forest Centre, Lyndhurst, has been awarded a top quality experience accolade by VisitEngland.

The Centre, which includes a gallery, museum, reference library, gift shop and information centre and has been given a Hidden Gem Award.

‘We are thrilled to have been given such a prestigious award,’ said New Forest Centre Manager Hilary Marshall. ‘We hope this will encourage even more visitors to come and learn about the history of this fascinating and diverse area, particularly now admission to the Museum is free.’

Introduced by VisitEngland in 2014, the accolades are available to attractions that are part of the Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme and are allocated through a scoring system based on an annual unannounced assessment by VisitEngland. They recognise those attractions going the extra mile to create an enjoyable and memorable visitor experience.

Sally Balcombe Chief Executive of VisitEngland said: ‘These attractions have received an accolade either for their warm welcome, unique storytelling or high-quality food and drink; ensuring an all-round quality experience for visitors. The accolades reflect the wide variety of world-class attractions on offer in England and provide the perfect reason to book a visit.’


The New Forest Centre is delighted to announce that the Christopher Tower Reference Library has now reopened to the public, earlier than anticipated. This follows an unexpected and most welcomed influx of people wishing to become volunteers at the Library and the Centre. The temporary closure had been to reorganise and upgrade the Library as well as add to the collection.

Fourteen people came forward after the Centre asked in the press for more volunteers, some specifically to steward the Christopher Tower Library. Nine have already gone through the training that the centre provides and are thoroughly enjoying this chance to not only offer help for this charity but also, to learn more about the New Forest and all its history.

The volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, including a paramedic, a consultant, teachers, historians, office workers and dinner ladies. They bring a wonderful collection of knowledge and experience to the Centre, which everyone benefits from, visitors and those working in the Centre.

The Christopher Tower Library is wholly owned and run by the New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust, a charitable trust, charity no 279373.  It is an expensive operation to maintain and donations and bequests are very gratefully received for its support and continuance. The Trust would like to say a big thank you to all their volunteers, their help is invaluable and much appreciated – anyone else wishing to become a volunteer please ring the Centre on 02380 283444 .

The Library is now open at the following times:

Wednesdays 1.30pm - 4.00pm

Fridays 10.00am - 12.30pm

If you want to access the library outside of these times then just ring the office to make an appointment – please can you give seven days notice so the appropriate volunteer member of staff can be there to help. 

Notes to editors:

The New Forest Centre is a visitor centre, museum, reference library and art gallery conveniently located in Lyndhurst.

The New Forest Centre aims to inspire its visitors to celebrate and conserve the New Forest. It does this by collecting, conserving and interpreting its collections and by providing educational activities and information to a broad range of audiences. In doing so, it acts in ways that are ethical, ecologically sensitive and intellectually accessible and affordable. It is owned and run by the New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust (reg. charity no: 279373).The Christopher Tower New Forest Reference Library houses the most comprehensive collection of books, maps, reports and ephemera on the New Forest available to the public in a single location. Recent acquisitions include the Burrard Paintings.

The collection contains microfiche and microfilm copies of all the census returns for the whole of South-west Hampshire and also microfiche covering all the parish registers.  There are good runs of trade directories as well as numerous biographies, autobiographies, memoirs and diaries.

This Library also is thought to contain the largest collection of the great classical works on the Forest, published from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, and there is a very large collection of general books on the Forest together with guides and books on Forest walks.  The past is well represented with studies both on the Forest's history and that of the individual towns and villages lying within and around it.

The collection covering natural history is extensive and includes the observational notes made by the late Eric Ashby from the 1950s to the 1990s.  Many standard works on all aspects of natural history are also within the Library. Woodland and forestry is very well represented and includes a number of limited reports produced by the Forestry Commission.

Collections include the Library of the medieval forest specialist David Stagg, Gypsies of the New Forest and material relating to military use of the Forest.  This includes lists of all the men killed and commemorated on the war memorials of every parish with extensive biographical notes. Also included in this section are books on the New Forest airfields, military hospitals and the manoeuvres of the late nineteenth century.

The ephemeral collections on all subjects include newspaper, magazine and journal cuttings, personal notes, leaflets, advertisements and a host of minutiae of all kinds.  The Library also is home to a sizeable collection of photographs and postcards relevant to the geographical area covered in the main collections.

The Library is constantly expanding its collections.

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit to find out more.

More articles in the news archive.

New Forest National Park Authority news feed


image-fade-right image-fade-left