Beaulieu AbbeyBucklers Hard
Hampshire SO42 7ZN
The Beaulieu Abbey ruins are just one of the attractions on Lord Montagu’s Estate in Hampshire, which are marketed jointly as ‘Beaulieu’. As well as the Abbey ruins, one admission ticket includes the National Motor Museum, World of Top Gear, a monorail, Beaulieu Palace House & Gardens, and the Secret Army Exhibition - an exhibit about the Special Operations Executive (SOE) training at Beaulieu during World War II
Beaulieu Abbey Foundation
Beaulieu Abbey was founded in 1203–1204 by King John and housed 30 monks sent from the abbey of Cîteaux in France, the mother house of the Cistercian order. At this time Britain and Europe practised the Roman Catholic form of Christianity and the Pope had more power than the King.
King John granted his new Abbey at Beaulieu a rich endowment, including numerous manors spread across southern England, land in the New Forest, corn, large amounts of money, building materials, 120 cows, 12 bulls, a golden chalice, and an annual tun of wine. He also appointed Hugh, a man who stood high in the king's favour and who often served him on important diplomatic missions, as Abbot.
John's son and successor, King Henry III was equally generous to Beaulieu, with the result that the abbey became very wealthy, though it was far from the richest English Cistercian house.
Beaulieu Abbey Buildings
The scale and magnificence of the abbey’s buildings reflected its status as an important royal foundation. The church was a vast cruciform early gothic building, 335 feet (102 metres) long with a semi-circular apse and 11 radiating chapels. The building took over forty years to complete and was finally dedicated in 1246, in the presence of King Henry III and his queen, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and many prelates and nobles.
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South of the church stood a cloister, ranged around which were the chapter house, refectory, kitchens, storehouse and quarters for the monks, lay brothers and the abbot. A separate infirmary complex lay to the east of the main buildings, connected to them by a passage. The abbey was surrounded by workshops, farm buildings, guesthouses, a mill, and extensive gardens and fishponds. Strongly fortified gatehouses controlled entry to the monastic enclosure, which was defended by a wall. A water gate allowed access to ships in the river.
Beaulieu Made an ‘Exempt’ Abbey
Pope Innocent III (c.1160–1216) constituted Beaulieu an "exempt abbey", meaning that the abbot had to answer to no bishop save the Pope himself.
Sanctuary Privileges
Beaulieu was also invested by the same Pope with special Privileges of Sanctuary, much stronger than usual and covering not only the abbey itself but all the 58 acre (23.5 ha) precinct around that had been originally granted by King John.
As Beaulieu was the only abbey in its region with such large and strongly enforced Sanctuary Rights it soon became a haven for fugitives, both ordinary criminals and debtors and also political enemies of the government. Two famous political fugitives were Anne Neville, wife of Warwick the King-maker after the battle of Barnet (1471) and twenty-six years later, Perkin Warbeck fled to Beaulieu from the pursuing armies of King Henry VII.
Dissolving the Monasteries
Throughout successive centuries, the Popes and Kings jointly founded religious houses, Monasteries, Friaries and Abbeys endowing them with great wealth and power. In return for the endowments, the religious institutions were supposed to provide education and religious instruction to the populace.
By the 16th century the religious foundations were failing in their duties and not sharing their wealth with the King. He needed money to finance wars and they refused. King Henry VIII decided to close down some of the monasteries and take their assets for himself. He would then sell off the assets to influential courtiers.
After the dissolution of Beaulieu monastery in 1538, King Henry VIII sold the abbey and 8,503 acres (3,441ha) of Beaulieu lands to the influential courtier, Thomas Wriothesley.
As soon as he took over, Wriothesley set about building himself a house on the site. He demolished the church, but, unusually, instead of converting the buildings around the cloister into a home he chose the great gatehouse as the core of his mansion. This survives as the modern country house known as Beaulieu Palace House.
Lord Southampton (Wriothesley ) preserved the monks' refectory, which he gave to the people of the village who turned it into Beaulieu Parish Church. The west range of the abbey, known as the Domus was also saved. The rest of the abbey was allowed to fall into ruin.
Beaulieu Abbey Today
Although a great deal was destroyed at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, there is still much to see in the conserved ruins. The ground plan of the early Gothic church can be seen on the lawns. The position of the altar is marked by a cross and flanking trees.
SOE Memorial
The Cloisters contains a memorial plaque to the many SOE members who trained at Beaulieu in the Second World War, and is home to an aromatic herb garden once worked by monks for use in medicine and cooking.
An exhibition in the surviving Domus building tells the story of this 13th century English Abbey and the medieval Cistercian monks who gave their lives to the service of the church and the isolation of the New Forest. The history of the Abbey can be seen on a series of embroidered wall hangings created by Belinda, Lady Montagu. She used a range of techniques and materials, including pineapple fibre.
Plan Your Visit 
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Open every day of the year except 25 December.
Summer (28 May - 25 September: 10:00 – 18:00 hours
Winter (28 September - 27 May): 10:00 – 17:00 hours
Admission Cost
One inclusive ticket provides access to all Beaulieu’s attractions including unlimited rides on the Monorail & Veteran Bus. Tickets may be purchased on the day of your visit but special discounts are available to purchasers online. For more information go to  Web:  Beaulieu Abbey/ Admission   External Link
Contact & Further Information
Telephone   +44 (0)1590 612 345 (Office Hours 10:00 – 17:00 hours)
Website   Beaulieu Abbey    External Link
Getting There
Beaulieu is in the heart of the New Forest National Park, not far from Southampton, Bournemouth, Winchester, Salisbury and Portsmouth. For detailed information on Getting to Beaulieu consult ‘The New Forest’ article on this website.
Useful Hints
Sat Nav: Beaulieu's postcode for your satnav is SO42 7ZN. 
Free car parking in designated car parks. There is a separate car park for disabled visitors, near to Visitor Reception.
Visitors driving motorhomes or towing caravans can park their vehicles in the coach park. There are no height restrictions entering or leaving the site.
Three electric car charging posts available for visitors to use, free of charge. To access either use your own card or borrow one from Visitor Reception (for a small deposit). Several 7-pin and one 13 amp 3 pin connection available.
20% discount off standard admission for visitors travelling by train, ferry or bus for all or part of the journey to Beaulieu. Simply present your travel tickets on arrival, valid on the day of your visit, to claim your discount. Please note this cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer, including discounted advance online tickets, family tickets, or on major event days.
Google Maps - Beaulieu Abbey