The little village of Burley could hardly claim to be unspoilt, home as it is to one of the largest collection of witch themed souvenir shops in the south.
This mainly appears to be due to one Sybil Leek, a self-confessed white witch, who lived in the village during the late 1950s. She claimed to be a high priestess witch and started one of the first covens in the Forest named the 'Horsa' coven.
She was often seen walking through the village wearing a long black cloak with her pet jackdaw (Mr Hotfoot Jackson) resting on her shoulder.
Not only was Sybil a witch, she also wrote many books about witchcraft and was a television reporter specialising in Forest ways. As she had spent many years living with gypsies, her knowledge of the Forest was excellent. Unfortunately due to the popularity of her programmes, people who wanted to see and talk to a real witch besieged her home. She, therefore, decided to leave her beloved New Forest and settle in America where she died in 1982.
Click here to listen to a 1964 BBC Radio interview with Sybil Leek.
One of the best of the witch themed souvenir shops is A Coven of Witches, which used to have an excellent web site from which I took much of the information on this page. Their current site, however, concentrates on the merchandise rather than the history. The shop was originally named by Sybil Leek and has been owned by Jenny Tucker for over 20 years. On the outside wall is a list of the Lords of the Manor of Burley.
King Edward I gave the first recorded Lord of the Manor, Richard de Burley, the village of Burley and Manor of Lyndhurst as dowry to his second wife Margaret, sister of Philip of France.
There were many more occupants of the old manor until in 1852 it passed to a Colonel Esdaile. He pulled down the old house and built the present Victorian Manor House.
Eighty years later this house became a hotel, when a restaurant and a bedroom wing were added. During World War Two, the hotel was requisitioned and was used by Lord Montgomery and his chiefs of staff as a military headquarters. Since the war it has been considerably enlarged and upgraded and is now a "baronial-style" 3-star hotel.