Boldre in the New Forest
Boldre shown within Hampshire
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|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|UK Parliament||New Forest East|
Boldre is a village and civil parish in the New Forest district of Hampshire. It is situated inside the New Forest National Park borders, near the Lymington River, and is about two miles (3 km) north of Lymington. According to the 2001 census the parish had a population of 1,931.
The present boundaries of the parish enclose an area of 7,718 acres (31.23 km2) and include the hamlets of Battramsley, Sandy Down, Pilley, Bull Hill, Norley Wood, Portmore, South Baddesley, and Walhampton. Boldre has a church, St John the Baptist, Boldre Club which is one of the oldest surviving clubs in the forest, a pub called the Red Lion, a Church of England School on Pilley Hill called William Gilpin after the Vicar of the Church and the old school house (located on Boldre Lane) and a Post Office. The post box can still be seen today, and the school is now a house with a plaque outside.
A hundred years ago, W.H. Hudson described the countryside north of Lymington around the villages of Pilley and Boldre in Hampshire Days as 'a land of secret, green, out-of-the-world places.' Today it contains large homes and is much more accessible, but remains largely unspoilt.
Early and mediaeval
The Domesday Book contains a substantial entry on the Hundred of Boldre, where it is recorded as "Bouvre". This is probably a Norman corruption of "Bol Re" (a plank over a river). The church replaced an earlier one from the 13th century and a huge iron key which was used by the monks from Beaulieu Abbey is still used to unlock the doors.
Gilpin and the picturesque
Former residents include William Gilpin, who was the village parson and lived at Vicars Hill. He was famed for his wealth of knowledge about the New Forest, and its flora and fauna. William Gilpin is buried in the churchyard of St John the Baptist beside an old maple tree. He died in 1804 at the age of 80 and it is written:
In a quiet mansion beneath this stone, secured from the afflictions and still more dangerous enjoyments of life, lie the remains of William Gilpin, sometime vicar of this parish, together with the remains of Margaret his wife.
The headstone goes on that they await patiently the joy of waking in a much happier place and adds:
Here it will be a new joy to meet several of their good neighbours who now lie scattered in these sacred precincts around them.
Comyn's New Forest
One of Gilpin's successors, the Rev. Thomas Vialls, was apparently quite an absent vicar of Boldre, but made one of his rare appearances in the parish in order to conduct the wedding of his curate Henry Comyn and Philadelphia Heylyn in 1815. Comyn, who was the brother of Lord Nelson's chaplain Stephen George Comyn, carried out a comprehensive census and register of the locality and in 1817 compiled the notebooks of Boldre. Comyn was worried about the growth of religious dissent amongst the Boldre parishioners and that may explain why he made great effort to record Dissenters in his notebooks. His main concern seems to have been the growth of the Baptist movement which was then flourishing in the New Forest area. For example the Baptist church was founded at Beaulieu Rails (East Boldre) in 1810 and at Sway in the Western part of the parish, in 1816. Comyn probably saw the Independents and Methodists as wayward Christians, but they did not appear to gain as much support locally as the Baptists. The record has proved of great interest to later family historians.
Comyn also published a book entitled Substance of part of the lectures delivered in the United parishes of Boldre and Brockenhurst, which was printed and published by Galpine of Lymington. The British Library copy contains many amendments in Comyn's own hand and there is also a copy in the University of Southampton Library, Cope Collection.
In the 20th century, the Church of St. John the Baptist, Boldre became associated with HMS Hood because Hood's final Admiral Lancelot Holland came from the area and was a regular worshiper at the church in the years before World War II. The Hood Association's held the former Annual Boldre Service. This is no longer an official Association gathering, but it still serves as the largest public service of remembrance for Hood. This takes place in mid-May - generally the week before the annual Hood Association reunion dinner and service of remembrance which is always the Saturday nearest to 24 May.
Priest in Prison
Following World War II another notable vicar served the parish. Rev. John Hayter had spent much of the war as a young priest in the notorious Changi Prison during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, and later wrote of his experiences
- Jude James Comyn's New Forest (1985)
- John Hayter Priest in Prison Tynron Press 1991 ISBN 1-85646-051-7
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