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Eleanor, the New Forest and Southampton

Today, to celebrate the sixteenth birthday of my amazing goddaughter Imogen, I'm going to focus on Eleanor's tie to the area where she lives - just near the New Forest.

By an odd coincidence, it is an area which was very close to Eleanor's heart: one of the earliest pieces of property she acquired was the manor of Ringwood - a gift from Henry III after the birth of Eleanor's first son, John, in 1266. She was later to become the steward of the New Forst (1270) and custodian of the King's houses in Southampton, including the castle.

Over the years Eleanor added complementary properties to this portfolio including Redbridge, now on the outskirts of Southampton, which was acquired on 3 November 1279.

The combination of property interests and excellent hunting brought the royal couple to the area repeatedly over the years. In January 1275 for example, they rounded off a trip to Beaulieu and Ringwood with a couple of nights in Romsey - and other visits to the area were made in 1276, 1278, 1279, 1281, 1285 and 1289 - when Eleanor celebrated her own 48th birthday at Lyndhurst. Her final visit was a short stop in Winchester in April 1290.

The picture is a sign from a pub, the Crown Stirrup, in Lyndhurst - which brings the location and Eleanor's love of hunting together ...

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