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New Forest sites on list of properties with links to slavery

Foxlease has been owned and managed by the Guides since 1922
Foxlease has been owned and managed by the Guides since 1922

A LIST of historic properties in the New Forest with links to slavery has been published, with modern day owners including the Girlguiding movement.

The revelations contained in a report by Historic England prompted hopes from associated groups that the information could be used to help educate the next generation about racial issues.

The report identified buildings across the UK which may have been funded by slavery or purchased by slave-owners. Authored by Dr Mary Wills and Dr Madge Dresser, it named Foxlease at Lyndhurst – the current home of the Girlguiding movement.

It also included Milford House in Milford, which has links to the famed 16th/17th century admiral William Cornwallis. It was turned into a housing development decades ago.

The Brockenhurst-based Morant family was said to have owned “extensive sugar plantations in Jamaica”. It purchased Brockenhurst House and estate – now demolished – and the Manor of Ringwood in the 18th century.

The report called the family “very powerful”, enjoying a personal level-crossing over the railway line to access property which later became the Morant Arms pub. It was turned into flats about 16 years ago.

Asked about Foxlease’s past, a spokesperson for UK Girlguiding said it was gifted to the charity in 1922. She said: “We will take stock of our present, will recognise and continue to educate on areas of our history with our girls, young women and volunteers.

“We strive to adapt and make changes where necessary, to ensure we remain relevant and accessible for all girls and young women now and in the future.”

She added: “Inclusion and equality is at the heart of Girlguiding. We believe it is important for us all to have awareness and consider historical connections and ensure there are open conversations about what Girlguiding’s heritage means now and in the future.

“We have been running for over 100 years and a part of our ongoing inclusion and diversity work is a review of our history.”

Commenting on the links in Brockenhurst, parish council chair Cllr Pete Wales said: “Colonial slavery shaped modern Britain and we all live with its legacies.

“We need research and analysis to understand the extent and limit of colonial slavers’ role into the modern day, when it still thrives, with victims and offences on the increase across the country.”

A resident at Milford House, who asked to remain anonymous, said the history of the former owners of the building had “nothing to do” with those living on the site now.

The Historic England report said: “Very broadly, while the built environment is inherently tangible, slavery connections can be elusive.

“Relatively few individuals generated wealth solely through trading in enslaved people or plantation-owning, or other direct associations with the Atlantic slave economy.”

It added: “While preservation is important, so too is how we remember this history and communicate different threads of understanding to a wider public in the future.

“As some excellent case studies in this report have shown, explorations of how these histories have been remembered (and misremembered) by individuals and institutions over time in the built environment can help with the process of reparative history – and inform the way properties and other heritage sites interpret these histories as responsive to the needs of diverse audiences.”

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