The history of the forest may be divided into four broad periods:
- The early years when the area was used for both hunting and timber extraction, as well as some pottery.
- The medieval period after the area officially became a forest and the emphasis was firmly on preserving the deer stocks for the royal hunt.
- The 15th to 19th centuries when the emphasis moved to timber production for the Royal Navy.
- The modern period when the amenity value of the Forest has increasingly been recognised.
|c. 3000BC||Bronze Age settlers build Round Barrows|
|c. 500BC||Iron Age hill forts built|
|c. AD100||Roman potteries in production|
|c. 500-1000||Anglo-Saxons settlers found all of the forest villages, with the exception of Beaulieu.|
|980||First mention of a Royal Manor in the area|
|1079||The traditional date on which New Forest created by William I. Actually we donʼt know the exact year, but it was certainly before 1086.|
|1100||As commemorated by the Rufus Stone, William II (Rufus) is killed while hunting in the forest.|
|1204||Cistercian abbey at Beaulieu founded.|
|1483??||New Forest Act allows inclosures for growing timber.|
|1544||Post of Surveyor General for Crown Woods created.|
|1584||Pollarding of oaks made illegal.|
|1601||First recorded felling of 200 trees for the Royal Navy.|
|1673||Estimated 3000 trees a year being felled.|
|1698||New Forest Act outlaws coppicing attempts to restrict charcoal burning, but recognises the rights of the commoners|
|1776||Scots pine introduced at Ocknell and Bolderwood.|
|1851||Deer Removal Act. An attempt to destroy all deer in the forest. Deer population reduced from around 9,000 to about 200. Also introduces 'rolling powers of enclosure' and leads to increasing attempts to restrict commonersʼ rights.|
|1877||New Forest Act (sometimes known as the Commonersʼ Charter). Verderersʼ powers changed to protect commonersʼ interests. Right of Crown to enclose new areas reduced. Ancient and Ornamental woodlands protected.|
|1924||Forestry Commission takes over management of New Forestʼs Crown land from the Office of Crown Woods.|
|1939-1945||Ten airfields built in and around the forest including Beaulieu, Holmsley, Ibsley and Stoney Cross.|
|1949||New Forest Act reduces powers of the Verderers. 2,000 acres of 'Verderers' Inclosures are created.|
|1964||The 'adjoining commons' are brought within the forest bounds and under the control of the Verderers.|
|1971||New Forest declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest.|
|1979||The Queen plants the Queens Oak as part of the 900 years celebrations.|
|1992||Government agrees special status equivalent to a national park.|
|2005||On the 1st March the New Forest became Englandʼs first new national park for 15 years, with increased funding and a single overall authority.|