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An accidental discovery

An accidental discovery

PUBLISHED ON: 30 MAY 2019

This is the latest instalment in a series of posts from the National Lottery Heritage Fund Our Past, Our Future landscape partnership scheme. This month Ecademy volunteer Patrick Keane tells us about his exciting discovery whilst helping digitise historic documents at the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst.

When I was a young boy my mother brought me to Lyndhurst and showed me the house where she had lived as a young girl. All I could remember was that it was white, imposing and set in its own grounds. 50 years later I moved to Brockenhurst and became interested in seeing if I could find the house.

My grandfather worked in coal logistics, organising its delivery to strategic locations, mainly sea ports for the Royal Navy and merchant shipping. I knew that he never stayed long in any one place because his work took him all over Europe, and I also knew that he had never in fact owned a property.

I have been a volunteer in the Christopher Tower Reference Library in the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst for six years now, and in quiet moments tried in vain to find any documentation which might point to where my family had lived.

One of my recent jobs in the library has been preparing the digitised copies of the Forestry Commission records of leases (Lease Books) into bundles for entry into our database and for publication on the New Forest Knowledge website. I had just finished a bundle when I looked at the last page of a lease and there was my grandfather’s name and a signature.

Passport copyright Christopher Tower Reference Library at the NFHC

Was it my grandfather?

There are strong similarities between the passport signature and that of the lease, but the capital Bs look quite different. Equally there is a long gap in time between the signatures. Page two of the lease gives Herbert’s address as No. 1 Canute Road Southampton. Our library copy of Kelly’s Directory for Hampshire 1931 shows that No. 1 Canute Road was occupied by Clarke, Stephenson & Associated Co. Ltd, coal factors.

Now what is the probability that there were two people called Herbert Bamber, leasing property in Lyndhurst at the same time and both working in the coal industry? The probability seems more like a certainty. We shall know for sure when our library gets access to the 1931 census.

So where is this property?

It turns out to be Crown Lodge, which is now occupied by the New Forest Nondescripts Club, on Church Lane in Lyndhurst. In fact, this building is opposite the Heritage Centre where I volunteer and was originally called The Bird’s Nest due to its exterior design.

The Bird’sNest copyright Christopher Tower Reference Library at the NFHC

You can find out more about the building’s history on the New Forest Knowledge website.

The lease also shows the land attached to the house comprises of not just the basic property (coloured red), but most of what is now the main Lyndhurst car park (coloured blue).

Copyright Christopher Tower Reference Library at the NFHC

Ironically, and somewhat irritatingly, three times whilst volunteering in the Library I have been fined for breaching parking regulations on land that was leased to my grandfather.

Dr Katharine Walker, Ecademy Project Officer, said: ‘What a fascinating discovery by Patrick and how exciting that he now volunteers so close to one of his family’s previous homes. We hope to hear more discoveries by our volunteers as more historical items are digitised.’

Ecademy is one of 21 projects in the National Lottery Heritage Fund Our Past, Our Future landscape partnership scheme.

To find out more, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/landscapepartnership

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