Fascinating accounts of commoning life have been brought together in a new collection of memories and photographs.
Through Our Ancestors’ Eyes features the stories of 20 families and hundreds of photographs depicting commoning, forestry and agriculture in the Forest.
The project was part of Our Past, Our Future, a £4.4 million Landscape Partnership Scheme for the New Forest supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Led by the New Forest National Park Authority in partnership with 10 other organisations, the scheme has undertaken 21 projects to restore lost habitats, develop skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the New Forest.
The archive, which includes audio clips plus transcriptions, was created by the Commoners Defence Association (CDA) with help from the New Forest Heritage Centre. Volunteer Patrick Keane, with the help of Kerry Barrass, spent many hours preparing the records for publication.
You can hear members of well-known commoning families talk about their ancestors and life in the forest, as well as view hundreds of photographs.
Caroline Stride discusses life as a commoner in the New Forest from the late 19th century, including pony management, dairying and the First World War army camp for New Zealand troops at Norley Wood, as well as her three sons, Robert, Andrew and Philip, and their families, who proudly continue the commoning tradition.
‘Commoning is my life. It’s a reason for going for a walk out in the Forest to find your cows, to find your ponies or find the pigs. From a very early age we were out either feeding the calves or leading a pony round or something. We’ve always had the animals in our lives so it would be very difficult to imagine life without that animal commitment.’
All the photographs, audio files and transcripts are stored at the Christopher Tower Library at the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst and are available on the New Forest Knowledge website. https://nfknowledge.org
Charlotte Lines, acting CDA Chairman, said:
‘This project gives us a cultural record of commoning, forestry and agriculture within the New Forest; a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy. The CDA is proud to have been a part of this project and we hope we can continue to add to these cultural records for years to come.’