Commoners and Verderers in the New Forest
Commoners of the New Forest are those people who occupy land or property to which attaches one or more rights over the Forest, first laid out in the Charter of the Forest (1217).
• Common of pasture – the right to turn out ‘commonable’ livestock: ponies, cattle, mules and donkeys
• Common of mast – the right to turn out pigs during the 60-day autumn pannage season to forage for acorns and beech mast, which are poisonous to ponies and cattle.
• Estovers – the free supply of wood for fuel
• Common of pasture of sheep – still practiced occasionally on our northern commons.
• Common of marl – the right to dig lime-rich clay from marlpits to fertilise land or to use for building.
• Common of turbary – the right to cut peat turves for fuel.
Many of these common rights survive today in the New Forest and are still protected by law. They are attached to land or property (rather than an individual) and people who are entitled to them are called ‘commoners’.
To this day the Verderers continue to have a hugely important role in the life of the New Forest, protecting the commoners livelihoods, common rights and the forest landscape. They employ a team of ‘agisters’ who assist with the management of commoners’ animals.