Alice Holt Lodge stands on, or almost on, the site of the former Great Lodge which for several centuries was the home of the Lieutenant or Ranger of the Royal Forest of Alice Holt and Woolmer. The Great Lodge was certainly in existence in the reign of Henry VIII, when Sir William Sandys writes in 1530 that he was living in it, but of its origin we have no record.
17th and 18th centuries
The office of Lieutenant or Ranger during the 17th and 18th centuries was granted by the Crown on a lease for lives or terms of years, and from 1766 onwards the grantee was Lord Stawell. He was also in residence in 1789 and William Moore, the Head Keeper was living in the Small Lodge "adjoining the Great Lodge".
The Great Lodge and Small Lodge were demolished in the early years of the nineteenth century, but we do not know the exact date, nor unfortunately do we have any picture or drawings of them. Lord Stanwell’s term of office ended in 1811, and this may have coincided with the demolition.
Subsequently the present Alice Holt Lodge was built and again we have no date, but it certainly existed in 1816. There are no further resident Rangers of the Forest, so through the nineteenth century the house and grounds were let by the Crown on private leases to various families.
The Forestry Commission took over Alice Holt Forest and its properties in 1924 when the house was leased to Mrs Fisher who installed the oak panelling.
In 1940 it became a guest house and Country Club then from 1941 to 1946 it was a military rehabilitation hospital.
The Forestry Commission moved into the Lodge in 1946 and began the development of the Research Station. The laboratory and office extensions were built in 1959, more laboratories were added in the late 1970s.
Where does the name ‘Alice Holt’ originate?
Despite Victoria invention, there was never any such person as Alice Holt. The word Holt was a Saxon name for a Wood, and Aelfsige or Alfsi was a common Saxon personal name, one such being a Bishop of Winchester in the tenth century, holder of much land in the vicinity.
Before the Norman Conquest we find Alfsiholt, (and again in 1169), with Alfieseholt in 1242. By 1301 it had degenerated into Halfyesholt, but in 1373 appears as Alice Holt and so it has remained, with such deviations as Alishoult in 1635 and Gilbert White’s use of Ayles Holt in 1767.
Another suggestion has been made that the name could be a corruption of Aler or Alder Holt, aler being the German for Alder. Another form of the name was Aisholt that can mean ash copse or coppice.