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Secrets and new spaces in the Forest

Secrets and new spaces in the Forest

PUBLISHED ON: 29 JANUARY 2020

Gravestones at a New Forest church have been restored and their secrets revealed thanks to a community conservation project.

The fascinating results have revealed a wealth of long-lost information about Lyndhurst’s past residents.

Local volunteers and experts came together for the project, which also saw the gravestones used to create a tranquil new area at St Michael & All Angels Church in Lyndhurst.

More than 80 headstones, which might otherwise have been disposed of, were recovered from a redundant pathway, steps and a ditch. They were cleaned and photographed before being mortared together to form three striking new seats overlooking the ashes burial ground.

Rev David Potterton said: ‘The work has had a very positive effect on the value given to an important open space in the community. The churchyard has become a popular place to relax as well as to eat a packed lunch and the gardens are now a tranquil, diverse space appreciated by the general public. We have been surprised by the number of conversations that the restoration work has initiated.’

Rev Potterton added that lots of ideas for future use of the space have been discussed, including open air summer concerts, outdoor services and community art installations.

The project also saw monuments repaired and reinstated, a new path to improve access to the churchyard’s heritage features and a specialist survey of the headstones’ inscriptions.

The new path extends to the grave of Alice Liddell, who was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Under her married name of Hargreaves, Alice lived most of her adult life in Lyndhurst and had a strong connection to the church.

Before the headstones were re-laid, they were photographed with a special photography technique which produces clear images of worn headstones.

James Brown, community archaeologist at the New Forest National Park Authority, which managed the project, said: ‘The headstones were recovered from steps and a ditch, cleaned, recorded, and recycled to avoid them being thrown away.

‘We have revealed names and dates of burials, so even though the headstones had already been moved from their original location, it’s possible to relate them back to burial registers to tell the full story of Lyndhurst.’

All the information and images captured by the project have been made available online, allowing local history groups and family tree researchers easy access.

The churchyard is designated as a safe walking route to the village school, St Michael and All Angels CE Infant School. The route also benefits villagers and visitors by connecting Church Lane and the main village car park to the Verderers Court and Queen’s House.

The conservation scheme was formally approved by Winchester Diocese and granted planning permission by the New Forest National Park Authority. It was funded by the New Forest LEADER Local Action Group, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, as well as the £4.5 million Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme, which is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

You can learn more about the St Michael and All Angels Church project and see the gravestone inscriptions on the New Forest Knowledge website: https://nfknowledge.org/contributions/lyndhurst-church-gravestone-steps

-ends –

Notes to photo editors:

  1. Before and after photos of a gravestone from the Newbolt family. Gravestone LSMAA170 inscription: ‘Here lies Ann the wife of Charles Newbolt Who died March of 1728 aged 72 years My soul in thy hands I trust Lord I in sweetly sleep My body falling to the dust I leave with thee to keep.’
  2. Photograph of the new seating area at St Michael and All Angels Church.

See more gravestone inscriptions on the New Forest Knowledge website: https://nfknowledge.org/contributions/lyndhurst-church-gravestone-steps

Notes to editors:

Alice in Wonderland inspiration

Alice Pleasance Liddell (1852 – 1934) was the little girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Under her married name of Alice Hargreaves, she came to live in Lyndhurst and was a society hostess.

Alice was four years old when the author, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, became a close family friend. His fantastic stories were made up to entertain young Alice and her sisters on a boat outing and formed the basis for Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, the first draft of the Alice stories, which went on to become one of the most popular children’s books in England.

Alice’s connection with the New Forest began in 1880 after she married wealthy Reginald Hargreaves, who had inherited the Cuffnells country estate near Lyndhurst. Alice became a society heiress and was the first president of Emery Down Women’s Institute. She is said to have found being the original storybook Alice something of a burden.

Tragedy struck during World War I when the couple lost two of their sons, Alan and Leopold. A monument to them can be found in the baptistry at the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Lyndhurst. Reginald never recovered from the shock of their loss and died in 1926.

Alice struggled with the cost of maintaining Cuffnells on her own and was forced to sell some of her Alice memorabilia, including the manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground given to her by Dodgson so many years ago. It fetched the huge sum of £15,400 at auction – almost four times the reserve price.

She went to America in 1932 to attend celebrations marking the centenary of Dodgson’s birth. She was exhausted by the letters she received afterwards from Alice fans and by press intrusion and died two years later.

Her ashes were interred in the family grave at St Michael and All Angels. A memorial to Reginald and Alice and their third son, Caryl, who died in 1955, can be seen on the end of the family pew.

Cuffnells was requisitioned during World War II and never returned to its former glory. It was demolished in the early 1950s.

About Our Past, Our Future 

Our Past, Our Future is a Landscape Partnership Scheme for the New Forest which, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is undertaking a range of projects to restore lost habitats, develop Forest skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the New Forest. The partnership focuses on the enclosed lands which surround the Open Forest.

The five-year scheme includes 21 projects and is being led by the New Forest National Park Authority working with several delivery and funding partners.

For more information about the Our Past, Our Future scheme, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/landscapepartnership

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 www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

Media Contact:

Lisa Reynolds, Communications Assistant
New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646639
Email: lisa.reynolds@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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