The life of a Gentleman Administrator can at times be wearisome and when it weighs too heavy a spell of rest and recuperation is required. As such, I decided to take Mrs Gentleman Administrator on a short break in the New Forest in Hampshire. The New Forest is a popular holiday destination, particularly for those cruise bound visitors heading to the port of Southampton. Unfortunately, my searches kept throwing up increasingly twee, doily ridden places and I was beginning to despair. I then came across the New Park Manor Hotel and it ticked some odd boxes.
The New Park Manor Hotel is a spa hotel near Brockenhurst, it’s tucked away in the midst of the forest, quiet, restful and really rather lovely:
I was pretty much sold on the Spa anyway (mmm, Hot Tubs) but then I noticed this statement on the website:
It was in 1666 that King Charles made New Park his favourite hunting lodge on his return from exile in France; when he used it in the company of Nell Gwyn
As my research interest is currently focused on Charles this pretty much sold it for me, nothing like a bit of locational stalking of your favourite historical figures.
Hunting was very important to Charles and his pursuit of physical activity and reputation for physical bravery was part of the prestige he brought back from his return from exile, Ronald Hutton gives us this little nugget from 1660:
His athletic recreations impressed observers almost as much as the responsible attitude which he took to kingship… One example of the latter is recorded. When a group of nobles arrived to compliment him, he told them that he was prepared to forgive anybody in the country except his horse, which had thrown him that morning.
R. Hutton, Charles II, 1989 . p. 134
I haven’t been able to find anything that specifically ties Charles to hunting in Brockenhurst, but he was certainly still obsessed with the pursuit in 1666 as this letter from 1668 shows:
I have been so faulty to you in matter of writing, as it is impudence to expect a pardon from you. The truth is, I have got into such a vein of hunting, and the game lies so far from this town, as I must spend one day entirely to kill one stag… I am but just now come from hunting, and am very weary…
Bryant, Letter of Charles II, p223
It’s unsurprising that he chose the New Forest as a favourite spot as it’s very existence is due to William the Conquerer wanting suitable land for hunting and as a royal forest it had protection under forest laws. I’m interested to see how much Charles used the lodge and if there is any reference to him entertaining Nell Gwyn there, if I find anything out I will post it.
Did the hotel live up to billing as Charles’ favourite hunting lodge? Well it was enjoyable having the old swarthy one looking down on me here and there:
And I got to spend a night in Barbara Villiers (Lady Castelmaine), I’m not the first by all accounts (snigger):
The above portrait was on the door, each room in the wing I was staying had a lover or female relative of Charles depicted thereon. Little Nellie was next door.
Charles’ coat of arms stood above the fireplace in the Dining Room (sorry the flash makes it hard to make out):
Not too much like a Charles II theme hotel but enough for the historical geek like me.
Here are some New Foresty photos for your delectation as well:
If anyone has any good info on hunting in the late 17th Century and specifically the New Forest let me know via the Comments.