Discover the history of Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Country Park’s long history combines the stories of Queen Elizabeth Forest and Butser Hill, both of which have features that can be traced back to the Bronze Age.

Queen Elizabeth Forest

Bronze Age

There are seven Bronze Age burial mounds on War Down, one of the highest hills in Hampshire, while cartographic evidence suggests the site of an eighth. These are important and vulnerable features.

Flint knapping

The park’s hillside, now planted with beech trees, previously provided only a little shelter in form of yew trees. The yew cast a deep shadow, preventing growth. This was where flint could be found. In 17th century, flint was collected and spilt by flint knappers to be used in flintlock rifles and pistols. There’s evidence of a gunflint working site close to the visitor centre buildings.

Roman Hampshire

Holt Down hides the remains of a Roman building protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. A small stone marker identifies the location of the Roman villa. From the site you would have been able to watch the galleys sailing into Chichester harbour.

16th century coach road

The visitor centre is built on the path of the old coach road, which would have been the main route between Portsmouth and London. In the coaching era, what is now the A3 was one of the busiest roads in country, carrying on average two coaches each hour. The road wound through the valley, skirting around War Down. This difficult section was often frequented by the highwaymen.

Queen Elizabeth Forest

Butser Hill

Butser Hill has a long history of people living and working here, stretching right back to the Iron and Bronze ages. People have been farming in this area for thousands of years. Signs of early farming activities can be seen in form of lynchets, banks that formed at the edge of fields through constant cultivation.

By about 1000 AD, Buster, which had previously been home to many, was no longer occupied. Only charcoal makers and shepherds found their living there.

The Domesday survey of 1086 records that the main manor in the area was Mapeldurham, a significant holding which included the whole of Petersfield. Hampshire County Council later bought Buster Hill in the 1960s from the Mapeldurham estate.

By about 1700, the landscape had reached a state that was to be largely maintained until World War II. Some areas of downland were then converted to arable land (ploughed ground where crops can be grown), including the lower/southern A3 slopes of Butser.

Other significant influences on the landscape included the building of the railway in 1853, which now runs alongside the back of Queen Elizabeth Forest and the local lime works which quarried and burnt chalk from about 1860 until World War II. More recently the establishment of the Forestry England plantations in the 1930s have added some trees to the horizon.

The park was opened in 1976, following the joining of Butser Hill and Queen Elizabeth Forest. Hampshire County Council and Forestry England have worked together ever since.

Butser Hill at Queen Elizabeth Country Park