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Doubts as to the nature and extent of this devastation were, however, started by Voltaire early in the last century; and further investigation has induced modern authors to discredit, in great part, the accounts which were so long implicitly credited. It is considered that this district was, in all probability, (judging from its ancient name), a woody tract during the time of the Saxon kings; that it is highly improbable it should ever have contained so many villages and churches as is pretended; that it is scarcely credible a prince of William's sagacity would have ventured to incur the violent and universal odium which must have immediately followed the destruction of so many religious foundations; and, finally, that this devastation is not mentioned, in the slightest manner, by the author of the Saxon Chronicle, a contemporary writer, and a severe censurer of the vices of the king, although he records every other event of his reign, and particularly adverts to his inordinate passion for the chase. On the whole, then, it is concluded, that “ William, wishing to extend the scene of his favourite amusement, fixed on this part of Hampshire as a spot proper for his purpose, and accordingly converted a large portion of it into Forest; but that this was done without much injury to the subject, or offence to religion, from the scantiness of its population, and the barrenness of its surface.'
Several Perambulations have since taken place, with the view of ascertaining the limits of this Forest; the earliest of these was in the reign of Edward I, and the latest in that of Charles II. Various Acts of Parliament have also been passed for the preservation of the timber, of which the most important was that of the year 1699, by which it was provided that 6000 acres should be kept constantly enclosed as a nursery for young trees; this salutary provision, however, was soon disregarded; and a Parliamentary Commission was appointed in 1789, from whose Report it appeared that great abuses had arisen in the management of the Forest; these it was attempted to remedy by a Bill, which was lost in the House of Lords; a
subsequent Bill, passed in 1800, has been productive of much benefit; and it is to be hoped that this great source of our national defence will never again be neglected.
The New Forest is divided into nine bailiwicks, which are subdivided into fifteen walks; and its government is entrusted to a Lord Warden, two Rangers, Foresters, and a variety of other officers, about 50 in number; their emoluments and duties, of course, vary very much, and some of the offices are merely nominal. Around the borders of the Forest many encroachments have been made, principally by poor people, who enclose a small patch of ground, and frequently raise a hut, with a celerity almost unexampled. Mr. Gilpin says, “I have known all the materials of one of these habitations brought together -the house built-covered in the goods removed-a fire kindled—and the family in possession, in the course of a moonlight night.” The foresters have a notion that if this can be accomplished within the period mentioned, it confers an undoubted right of property-and many of these little tenements have been so long undisturbedly occupied that they are looked upon as freeholds. The occupants, however, according to the intelligent author just quoted, are
an indolent race, poor and wretched in the extreme,” much addicted to pilfering and deer-stealing; and, in every point of view, inferior to the agricultural labourers in other parts of the country.
The Forest affords as great a variety of beautiful landscape as any other district of equal extent. “Its woody scenery,” says Mr. Gilpin, “its extended lawns, and vast sweeps of wild country, unlimited by artificial boundaries, together with its river views, and distant coasts, are all in a great degree magnificent. It must still, however, be remembered, that its chief characteristic, and what it rests on for distinction, is not sublimity, but sylvan beauty. Its lawns and woods are every where divided by large districts of heath: many of these woods have formerly been, as many of the heaths at present are, of vast extent; running several miles without interruption. Different parts too, both of the open and of the woody country, are so high as to command extensive distances; though no part can in any degree assume the title of moun
tainous." In various places are extensive Bogs, which are dangerous to an incautious traveller, as their surface differs very little in appearance from the common verdure of the Forest. The most picturesque views occur in that part between the Beaulieu River and Southampton Water; and the grandest and most striking towards the northern boundary.
A diminutive breed of wild Horses, and a race of Hogs, resembling in many particulars the wild boar, still exist in the most unfrequented parts of the Forest. Great numbers of asses, mules, hogs, and rabbits, are also fed here. The Oaks of this Forest Mr. Gilpin describes as of a peculiar character; seldom rising into lofty stems, their branches are commonly twisted into the most picturesque forms, which par. ticularly adapts them for what are called the knees and elbows of ships: many of these trees are of vast bulk, and great age.
At Stony Cross, about nine miles from Ringwood, is a small triangular pillar, called Rufus's Stone, erected on the spot once occupied by the tree against which Tyrrel's arrow glanced, and caused the death of that monarch; the tree having become decayed through age, Lord Delawar, in 1745, set up this stone, which is inscribed with the date (August 2, 1100) and manner of the king's death and burial*. It should be mentioned, however, that the circumstances attending the death of Rufus are involved in doubt: the earlier historians do not mention the glancing of the arrow against the tree; and Tyrrel is by some represented as declaring himself innocent of the accident, while by others he is stated to have been hired for the purpose by Anselm, the Pope's Legate, and to have joined the crusade to Jerusalem by way of penance.
ODIHAM.. This town is pleasantly situated on the side of an eminence, on the road from London to Winchester, and is distant 40 miles from the metropolis. It was formerly distinguished by a royal Palace, of which the remains have been converted into a farm-house. At a distance of about a mile was also a strong Castle, in which, during fifteen days, thirteen men bravely defended themselves against the assembled army of the Barons, in the reign of King John; and surrendered at last only on condition of retaining their freedom, their horses, and their arms; the king himself resided here a short time previous to his compulsory signature of Magna Charta, in 1215. This edifice was during several years the prison of David, King of Scotland, who was taken at the battle of Nevil's Cross, in 1346. Scarcely a vestige of the building now remains. The Church is a large and ancient structure, of brick, possessing nothing remarkable. Here is also an Alms-house, and a Charity School for children of both sexes. This town was formerly a borough, and has still a Corporation; it has a good Market on Saturday; and in the neighbourhood hops are cultivated with great success. The inhabitauts, in 1821, amounted to 2423, a part of whom are employed in winding silk and spinning worsted.
* The body of the king was placed on a cart helonging to a poor charcoal-burner, named Parkiss, and thus borne to Winchester, where it was interred without much ceremony. The descendants of Purkiss still occupy the same spot, and follow the same business as their ancestor, and are traditionally said to have never been rich enough to keep a team, or so poor as to receive charity since that period. The deaths of Richard and William Rufus, two of the Conqueror's sons, and of Richard, his grandson, in this Forest, have been often mentioned as a judgment on that prince for the sufferings occasioned by him in its formation, and are considered in that light in the preceding quotation from Pope.
William Lilly, the celebrated grammarian, was born here, in 1466. After receiving his education at Oxford he travelled to Jerusalem; went from thence to Rhodes, where he studied the Greek language, and afterwards to Rome, in order to perfect his knowledge of that and the Latin. In 1509 he came to London, and taught grammar, poetry, and rhetoric; in the following year he was appointed by Dean Colet first master of St. Paul's School, and died of the plague, in 1522. He enjoyed the friendship of the most learned men of his day, and published several works, of which his Latin Grammar is even yet in use.
PETERSFIELD. This town is of considerable antiquity, but is only a chapelry of the parish of Buriton. It was first incorporated by Queen Elizabeth, by whom “the Mayor and Commonalty” were invested with the power of electing two Burgesses to serve in Parlia. ment; the number of voters is stated to be about 150. The Chapel is a neat building, near which is an equestrian statue of William III, on a lofty pedestal. This town is 54 miles from London, and derives its principal support from its situation on the high road to Portsmouth. The number of inhabitants, in 1821, was 1752. Here is a Market, every alternate Wednesday, and three annual Fairs are also held.
About three miles from Petersfield is Butser Hill, which is 917 feet high, and from the summit of which is a most extensive and beautiful prospect; Salisbury Cathedral, although 40 miles distant, is visible on a clear day.
PORCHESTER CASTLE is situated on a neck of land which runs out a considerable way at the head of Portsmouth Harbour. Traces of Roman workmanship are.yet discernible in its walls, and it is believed to have been the site of a British fortress. It was occupied by the Saxons, and Normans, and is still a massive and noble pile, of a square form; its walls are from eight to twelve feet thick, about eighteen high, and enclose an area of nearly five acres;
it has numerous towers, is defended on all sides by ditches, and is in sufficient preservation to have been used as a place of confinement for great numbers of prisoners during the last war.
The western entrance is by a gateway under a square tower; above the gate, on the inside, are two figures, somewhat resembling Egyptian sphynxes. The remains of Roman workmanship are principally observable in the outer walls, and many coins and medals have been from time to time dug up here; the Keep, which is at the north-west angle of the Castle, exhibits traces of Saxon and Norman architecture, mixed with that of much later periods. In the outer court, nearly opposite the eastern entrance, stands the parish Church, dedicated to St. Mary, and displaying many evidences of Saxon erection, although much obscured by subsequent alterations. It was originally built in the form of a cross, but a part of the transept having been taken down the figure is now imperfect. Many parts of the Castle are in a state of great decay, and others have been altered and defaced to adapt it to its recent destination; but it still retains many features of its pristine grandeur, and is one of the most interesting speci