The role of the Verderers of the New Forest is to: protect and administer the New Forest’s unique agricultural commoning practices; conserve its traditional landscape, wildlife and aesthetic character, including its flora and fauna, peacefulness, natural beauty and cultural heritage; safeguard a viable future for commoning upon which the foregoing depends.
The Verderers derive their offices, powers and responsibilities from an Act of Parliament in 1877.
The Court comprises the Official Verderer (Chairman), five elected Verderers representing the Commoners and four appointed Verderers: one each appointed by the Forestry Commission, DEFRA, the National Park Authority and Natural England. The post of Official Verderer is a statutory appointment made by Her Majesty the Queen.
The Verderers were originally a court within the Forest, authorised by the Crown and elected by the County and with a history dating back to at least the 13th century. The court heard cases of offences within the Royal Forest. They could deal with minor offences directly (by fines) but more serious cases were referred to higher courts and ultimately the Forest Eyre.
In the 17th & 18th centuries the Verderers’ powers were bolstered to help with the planting and preservation of oak for ship-building. Powers to deal with trespassers and abuses by Forest officers were also strengthened.
“Verderers of the New Forest: A history of the Forest 1877-1977” by Anthony Pasmore is a short history of the Verderers written to mark the centenary of the Court in 1977.