With its ancient watermill, its palace of the Montagus, and the Abbey of Beaulieu, a grey ivied ruin, Beaulieu has the distinction above all Hampshire villages, and is unlike all others in its austere beauty and atmosphere of old-world seclusion and quietude". So wrote W.H.Hudson, the eminent naturalist, in Hampshire Days (Barry Shurlock, 1903) over a hundred years ago. With the growth of traffic and tourism Beaulieu is a much less quiet place now.
The parish of Beaulieu lies 7 miles north-east of Lymington, 6 miles east of Brockenhurst and 31/2 miles south-east from Beaulieu Road Station on the main Bournemouth to London railway line. It is situated on a navigable river bearing the same name, which has its rise near Lyndhurst and, and flows into the Solent. Beaulieu is on the road from Hythe to Lymington. On the eastern side formerly stood Beaulieu Abbey, founded by King John in 1204 and dedicated, in the presence of King Henry III, Queen Eleanor and Prince Edward on June 17th 1246. If afforded sanctuary to Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI, after the battle of Barnet, and also to Perkin Warbeck in the reign of Henry VII.
The Cistercian community existed in Beaulieu for 334 years. During that time the monks created ponds at Sowley, and next to their corn mill on the Beaulieu River. They built one of the largest barns of its type at St. Leonards and established an international reputation for the excellence of their fleeces. The monastic community was not, however, destined to be a permanent feature. In 1538, King Henry VIII closed Beaulieu Abbey as part of the dissolution of the Monasteries. He sold the land and buildings to Sir Thomas Wriothesley for £1340.6s.8d. Sir Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton (1505 – 1550) was the first in a line of lords of the manor from whom his descendant Edward, 3rd Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (b 1926) is the fourteenth.
Lord John, 2nd Lord Montagu of Beaulieu was one of the early motoring pioneers and in his memory his son, the present Lord Montagu opened, on April 5th 1959, the Montagu Motor Museum. As the Museum grew in size so it became necessary to move to a larger building. On July 4th 1972 the National Motor Museum was opened by the Duke of Kent. It is now one of the largest in the world and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. It provides not only employment opportunities for the local villagers but income for the many village shops. The International Autojumble held in early September each year attracts tens of thousands of motoring enthusiasts.
Visitors to Beaulieu often take the opportunity to visit, either by car or by taking the riverside walk, Bucklers Hard, a hamlet some two miles south of Beaulieu and on the west bank of the Beaulieu River. In between 1743 and 1818 it was a thriving ship-building centre and some 55 ships were built there. At the Battle of Trafalgar there were three battleships which had been built at Bucklers Hard, all famous vessels – the Agamemnon, the Swiftsure and the Euryalus. Henry Adams was the shipbuilder and when he died in 1805, his sons Edward and Balthazar continued, but took on contracts which they could not fulfil on time, and the penalty payments for late delivery resulted in their bankruptcy. Thus saw the decline of a once prosperous industry. Visitors to Buckler Hard are able to learn about the shipbuilding industry in the Maritime Museum which is situated in the village.
For further information about the history of Beaulieu visit British History Online and their document entitled:
'The Liberty of Beaulieu': http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=56903