Children of the New Forest (1847) by Captain Marryat. Children’s book set in the time of the English Civil War and the Commonwealth. The story follows the fortunes of the four Beverley children who are orphaned during the war, and hide from their Roundhead oppressors in the shelter of the New Forest where they learn to live off the land.
The White Company (1891) by Arthur Conan Doyle. Historical adventure set during the Hundred Years’ War, part of which was based on Beaulieu Palace House. The book is said to be ACD’s own favourite of his works described as an almost Tolkienesque historical romance about a group of 14C adventurers forming up in order to join the war in France. The setting is the New Forest, as the young heroes travel from Beaulieu Abbey to Christchurch Castle to The Solent, and then fight sea rovers off Purbeck. ACD later bought a house in the New Forest, and is buried nearby, at Minstead, home of the novel’s young hero.
The Magic Cottage (1987) by horror writer, James Herbert. The story of Mike and Midge, who come to live in the forest in their dream home. Blurb says ‘What happened to us there was horrendous beyond belief. The healings, the crazy sect who wanted our home for themselves, the hideous creatures that crawled from the nether regions, and the bats- oh God, the bats! Even now those things seem impossible to me, yet they happened…’
Requiem for a Wren – (1955) Nevil Shute. Set in Australia, the book draws on the author’s experiences in Christchurch and in the New Forest. Described as a sad story of people who ‘lost their way’ during war time, it has a central flashback set in the Lymington-Beaulieu area around Exbury House and was inspired by a still-unsolved aviation history.
The Franchise Affair – (1948) Josephine Tey. Described as one of the top 100 UK crime novels of all time (despite there being no murder, or body) the story is understood to have been set in Milford on Sea and the surrounding area during the 1940s and tells the tale of a young woman who claims she has been kidnapped and cruelly treated by a mother and daughter at a house called The Franchise. The mystery is solved by local solicitor Robert Blair and is based on a true story from 100 years before.
Eeny Meeny (2014) M J Arlidge – the novel begins in an unspecified part of the New Forest when a traumatised woman appears with an horrendous tale of brutality and murder. Arlidge mentions the forest in several of his other books.
The Forest (2000) Edward Rutherfurd – the tale spans 1,000 years and opens with the mysterious death of William Rufus and the story of a deer. Down the centuries, a woman from the Pride family has a love child with a monk at the great local abbey of Beaulieu, the Forest folk prepare to meet the Spanish Armada and tragedy strikes in the turbulent seventeenth century in a famous miscarriage of justice at evil Judge Jeffreys’ Bloody Assizes. While the mighty forest oaks are used to build ships for Nelson’s navy, to protect England’s shores against Napoleon, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries see another great battle, this time in Parliament, to protect the Forest’s unique environmental heritage. And through this echoing tale, the hidden side of the Forest emerges: the secrets of the smuggling trade, the mysteries of local witchcraft and the inner life of trees and animals. There is even a dragon.