Burley, Hampshire

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Burley, looking along Ringwood Road - geograph.org.uk - 177394.jpg
Burley, village centre
Burley is located in Hampshire
 Burley shown within Hampshire
Population 1,350 [1]
OS grid reference SU2123003124
District New Forest
Shire county Hampshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town RINGWOOD
Postcode district BH24
Dialling code 01425
Police Hampshire
Fire Hampshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament New Forest West
Website Burley village
List of places

Coordinates: 50°49′38″N 1°42′00″W / 50.827271°N 1.699937°W / 50.827271; -1.699937

Burley is a village and civil parish in the New Forest, Hampshire, England, with a cycle hire centre and cycle shop, cider farm, tea rooms, gift shops, art galleries and a pick-your-own farm.

The village[edit]

Burley is located towards the western edge of the New Forest, 5 miles (8.0 km) south-east of the town of Ringwood.[2] The village is fairly scattered, and apart from the village centre, there is Burley Street to the north; Bisterne Close to the east; and the Mill Lawn area to the north-east.[3] Burley has a post office, newsagents, butcher’s shop, and village stores, as well as tea rooms, antique shops, art galleries and gift shops and a large Cycle Shop and Cycle Hire centre.[2] The village still practices the old tradition of commoning, allowing animals to graze on the open Forest, and ponies and cattle roam freely around the village.[4] Burley is home to a football club[5] and a cricket club.[6] Burley Golf Club can be found to the southeast of the village.[7]

The village is surrounded by the open heathland of the New Forest,[8] containing a complex of woodland, heathland and acid grassland, shrub and valley bog, supporting a richness and diversity of wildlife.[9] Burley Fire Station is thought to be the only fire station in the country with a cattle grid at the entrance.


People have lived in the Burley area since prehistoric times. At least 23 Bronze Age barrows are known in the Burley area.[10] The site of an Iron Age hillfort can be seen just to the west of the village at Castle Hill.[11]

There is evidence of Saxon occupation as the name Burley is composed of two Saxon words 'burgh', which means fortified palace, and 'leah', which means an open meadow or clearing in a wood.[12]

Burley is not specifically mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086, but the entry for nearby Ringwood may well refer to Burley when it mentions lands in the forest with "14 villagers and 6 smallholders with 7 ploughs; a mill at 30d; and woodland at 189 pigs from pasturage."[13]

Burley was part of the royal lands of the New Forest.[14] By the beginning of the 13th Century the family of de Burley was firmly established here.[12] Richard de Burley held the estate from Edward I who gave the village of Burley and Manor of Lyndhurst as dowry to his second wife Margaret, sister of Philip IV of France.[12] The manor is said to have belonged to the Crown down to the time of James I.[14]

In 1852 the manor passed into the possession of Colonel Esdaile who pulled down the old manor house and built a new one.[12] Further changes to the building have been made since that time, and the manor house is now a hotel.[12]

There was a watermill belonging to the manor of Burley,[14] which ceased operating around 1820.[15] The mill is commemorated in names of Mill Lawn and Mill Lawn Brook,[14] but the only building which survives is the grist house in the grounds of Mill Cottage.[15]

2 miles (3.2 km) to the north-east of the Burley village, lies Burley lodge, the history of which dates back to the 15th century. It was part of the lands of the "bailiwick of Burley" which was held in the 18th century by the Paulets, Dukes of Bolton and Marquesses of Winchester.[14]

The first known church in Burley was the Calvinistic Burley Chapel erected in 1789.[12] The ecclesiastical parish of Burley was formed in 1840 out of Ringwood.,[14] this was served by the Anglican church of John the Baptist which was built in 1839 and added to in 1886–7.[14] A school was built in Burley in 1854 large enough to accommodate 120 children.[14]

The civil parish of Burley was formed in 1868 from Burley Walk and Holmsley Walk, extra-parochial parts of the New Forest, together with the ancient vill of Burley.[14] From 1847 to 1964, Burley was served by trains at nearby Holmsley railway station, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) southeast of the village.[16] The station buildings still stand, and are now tea rooms.

Burley has a long connection with witches and, during the late 1950s, Sybil Leek, a self-styled white witch, lived in this village.[12] The witch could be seen walking around Burley with her pet jackdaw on her shoulder before she moved to America.[17] Some of the gift shops in Burley now sell witch-related gifts and ornaments.[12]

Burley was also once a favourite haunt for smugglers, and a secret cellar in the Queens Head pub was discovered during renovation work, where pistols, coins, and other unusual items were discovered.[8]

Burley's dragon[edit]

See also: Bisterne

Burley is notable in English folklore for being the supposed location of a dragon's lair at Burley Beacon, just outside the village.[18] There are several local versions of the tale. In one version, the creature "flew" every morning to Bisterne, about 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Burley, where it would be supplied with milk.[18] In order to kill the dragon, a valiant man built himself a hut at Bisterne, and with two dogs lay in wait.[18] The creature came as usual one morning for its milk, and when the hut door was opened the dogs attacked it, and while thus engaged, the dragon was killed by the man.[18] The dragon slayer himself, says another version of the tale, only succeeded by covering his armour with glass.[18]

The documentary version of this tradition is contained in the margin of a pedigree roll written prior to 1618, and preserved at Berkeley Castle. It actually names the dragon-slayer as Sir Maurice Berkeley, lord of the manor of Bisterne in the 15th century.[19] The document describes the dragon as "doing much mischief upon men and cattle ... making his den near unto a Beacon."[19] Sir Maurice Berkeley killed the dragon but died himself soon afterwards.[19]

It is possible the dragon had some foundation in fact, and that it was a wild beast (such as a wild boar) living in and around the New Forest.[18] The dragon is mentioned several times in the novel The Forest by Edward Rutherfurd.[20]


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