The Beaulieu Estate, which is jointly owned by Lord Montagu and his elder son, Ralph, comprises approximately 7000 acres, and includes both the bed of the Beaulieu River and an area of the foreshore to the Solent. As principal landowner and main business operator within the Parish, the Estate looks for opportunities to influence or to manage events in the interest of enhancing and conserving the environment and the built heritage as well as sustaining the community and local economy.
The Estate has been an entity since King John granted lands at Bellus Locus to the Cistercian monks who founded Beaulieu Abbey in 1204. The river, farmland and woodlands were the natural resources which, combined with good husbandry, sustained the abbey and its community for over three centuries. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, including Beaulieu Abbey, in 1538, the Estate was sold to Thomas Wriothesley, an ancestor of Lord Montagu. Although the abbey is now an ancient monument, it remains not only the historic centre of Beaulieu but also its spiritual centre. The parish church occupies the former monks' refectory, while the abbey ruins lie within the National Motor Museum visitor area.
The overriding aim of the Montagu family is to run the Estate as an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable entity.
The Beaulieu Estate is best known for its visitor attractions: the National Motor Museum, a registered charity, Beaulieu Abbey Ruins, Palace House and Gardens, and the 18th century shipbuilding village of Buckler's Hard. However, the principal land use is agriculture (3,200 acres) and forestry (2,000 acres). The Estate owns and manages 126 dwellings, including farm houses and 57 commercial properties.
The Estate, and its operating company Beaulieu Enterprises Limited, employs approximately 150 people throughout the year, increasing to some 250 in the summer. Whilst some of the staff live within the parish, the majority travel between 5 and 10 miles to work by car. Taken together, the visitor sites at Beaulieu and Buckler's Hard receive about 400,000 visitors a year; this figure is about half the peak figure experienced in the 1970s; traffic surveys indicate that car movements to and from the National Motor Museum account for less than 10% of the total passing through Beaulieu village
Today a diverse range of activities takes place on the Estate: farming, forestry, leisure, tourism, environmental education, field sports, and the operation of local businesses and services. The Estate is also part of an active community. Ensuring the future financial viability of the Estate will depend on there being sufficient flexibility in the planning system to provide for changes of use, the building of new structures to support appropriate activities and landscape works designed to protect land and buildings from erosion.