THE only son and heir of the influential New Forest Morant family has died suddenly at the age of 36.

John Morant died in his sleep at his London flat just two days after suffering a minor car accident in which he appeared to be unhurt.

The accident happened on a bridleway near to the family seat at Roydon Manor, Boldre.

Local parish councillor Alison Bolton was passing in her car just after the accident happened and saw Mr Morant's Range Rover, which appeared to have left the narrow bridleway and hit a tree, causing damage to the front of vehicle.

Mr Morant was standing by the car, and she asked him if he was all right.

"He said he was fine and lived close by, and had just had the brakes attended to on the Range Rover," she said.

"I couldn't understand how it had happened on a straight stretch.

"As there was also a walker there with him, I went on."

The Morant family, of which he was the eleventh generation bearing the Christian name John, had plantations in Jamaica in the 17th century.

The family moved to England in 1759, purchasing Broken-hurst House and its parkland estate in 1771. The two Boldre manors, Heywood and Roydon, were purchased in 1773, and to these were added the Manor of Ringwood in 1794.

Mr Morant is survived by his parents, Edward and Algie, and by a sister, Laura.

The funeral took place at St Nicholas's Church, Brockenhurst.