The history of Bolderwood goes back many centuries and it is an important site in the context of the history of the New Forest. It’s an area where you can walk in the footsteps of Kings.
Over the centuries it has been the site of several hunting lodges that were visited by Kings and their entourages. In the history of Bolderwood, the earliest record of a lodge on the site is around 1325 in the reign of Edward II but it was Edward III who, in 1358, assumed control of the New Forest and immediately set about creating four hunting lodges of which the most important and finest was at Hatheburgh.
Each lodge was of a timber frame and plaster (wattle and daub) construction, roofed with Purbeck or Cornish slates, and surrounded by a ditch. The Hatheburgh Lodge had a chapel, great gate and postern (secondary entrance), a chamber for the King and a long house including kitchen, larder, granary and stable. Although the works were only completed in 1361, a new hall and other houses were also built at Hatheburgh in 1365. We now know Hatheburgh as Bolderwood and the lodge would have stood behind the current Information Unit – in the picnic area and beyond. Its construction cost was almost three times as much as that of other lodges in the New Forest and it is where the Monarch stayed on his visits. In addition to Edward II and Edward III, it is also known that Richard II visited.
With the passage of time the old lodge fell into disrepair and in the 1500s a new lodge was built there for an “Under Forester” in the grounds. These Under Foresters reported to the Foresters who in turn were subject to the direction of the Lord Warden who had overall responsibility for the royal forest and resided at King’s House (now Queen’s House) in Lyndhurst. The office of Forester was the backbone of the Forest system, they were responsible for protecting the ‘vert and venison’ in their respective areas of jurisdiction (known as Bailiwicks). Under Forest Law the “vert” was defined as “everything that grows and bears a green leaf that may cover or hide a deer”.
Each Bailiwick was provided with one or more lodges for the occupation of the Under Forester with the the first set of these replacing the old medieval ‘hunting’ lodges. By the mid 16th century the Foresters were substantial freeholders and often Lords of local manors or their close family. Each Bailiwick was divided into “Walks” and the Under Foresters were responsible for these Walks – their main duty was to patrol their Walks to prevent poaching and theft of wood and timber. The Under Foresters later became known as Groom Keepers and are the predecessors of today’s New Forest Keepers. During this period the Foresters became Master Keepers who viewed their appointment as marks of distinction rather than offices of responsibility or business.
In 1686 construction was started by Henry Slingsby on a new lodge on the Bolderwood site. This lodge was given to the 1st Earl de la Warr (1693–1766) when he was appointed Master Keeper of Bolderwood in the early 1700s. Earl de la Warr subsequently extended Bolderwood Lodge in 1732 and again in 1747 and it became the grandest of the Master Keepers’ lodges in the New Forest. Members of the nobility visited and were entertained there, including the Duke of Richmond who appears to have been a friend of the family. Around this period in 1745, Earl de la Warr also commissioned the original Rufus Stone at Canterton.
The renowned writer, artist, schoolmaster and Vicar of Boldre, William Gilpin, wrote of Bolderwood Lodge, “this house enjoys one of the finest situations in the forest. It stands high with an extensive lawn before it, from which it commands a vast extent of forest scenery spread around in great variety of distance particularly towards Burley Lodge where the woods spread far and wide beyond a lengthened savannah which set them to great advantage“.
The role of Master Keeper of Bolderwood remained in the de la Warr family after the 1st Earl’s death. The last occupant of the lodge was Lady Londonderry who remained there after the death of her husband in 1821 until her death in 1833. Upon her death the property was pulled down as there was no longer a need for a Master Keeper at Bolderwood and there was a great sale of all the materials. A Groom Keeper’s lodge remained (now Bolderwood Farm) which had been converted from the original brew house of the grand lodge. The white cottage (Bolderwood Cottage) behind the picnic area is thought to have been built from the scullery or stables of the main lodge.
Unfortunately, nothing now remains of the Master Keeper’s lodge. After it was demolished the area was planted with Douglas Firs which now cover the site. In the early 1900s the last remaining bricks from the derelict garden wall were removed and used in alterations to King’s House in Lyndhurst (now Queen’s House). Nowadays, few visitors to the site are aware of the history of Bolderwood that lies beneath their feet!