The Verwood and District Potteries Trust

The History of The Verwood Area

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The name Verwood or Fairwood is known from 1329, and is recorded as early as 1288 as Beubos or Beau Bois - the same name but French. Until 1887 Verwood didn't even exist as a parish - Alderholt and Verwood were part of the huge parish of Cranborne. This was true of other adjoining areas: Holt was part of Wimborne, West Moors was part of West Parley and Woodlands was in Horton parish. The old villages (and their parishes) are easily identified because they have old churches: Hampreston and West Parley down on the River Stour; Holt, Horton, Wimborne St. Giles, Edmonsham and Cranborne straddling the heathland and the clays and chalk. The long swathe of heathlands running north-south through West Moors, Verwood and Alderholt does not have a single ancient parish. The original Cranborne parish contained 13,000 acres, much of it moor and heathland, and Wimborne (which includes Holt) was nearly 12,000 acres. By contrast the adjacent parish of Hinton Parva was less than 500 acres but on fertile land.

Although divided from the New Forest by the big valley of the River Avon (the county boundary), the Verwood area is really very similar to the New Forest. In both cases the geology (clays, gravel and sands) has produced poor agricultural land. Verwood and Alderholt were part of Cranborne Chase, a medieval hunting enclosure like the New Forest itself. Poor land was often used for hunting as it was less valuable.

The inhabitants of marginal lands were more independant than those in richer parishes because most of the heathland men worked for themselves rather than a farmer or big landowner. In 1899 Three Legged Cross was described as having a scattered population

and the district somewhat dreary and barren, but the people seem fairly prosperous, and have a good deal of independance, living as they do, mostly, at small rentals, on their own leasehold plots, which they or their fathers enclosed from the surrounding waste. (Congregational History).

This had been true of Verwood and the surrounding area all through its history. Some few succeeded, particularly those who potted or made brooms as well as growing crops, but many failed.

Verwood is now a town and, in 1996 had 11,000 inhabitants, its own council and a mayor. The abrupt changes from heathland to farmland, or heathland to houses, still remain.