Much more than a motor museum… Set in glorious gardens on the banks of the Beaulieu River, in the heart of the New Forest, Palace House is a part of the Beaulieu Estate. The former 13th century great gatehouse of Beaulieu Abbey, this beautiful Gothic country house has been the ancestral home of the Montagu family since 1538, when Sir Thomas Wriothesley, later 1st Earl of Southampton, bought the Estate following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII.
Extended in the 16th and 19th centuries, the monastic origins of Palace House are still evident today. Once inside, however, the style of its later Victorian additions can also be seen. Admire the magnificent rooms in the House: the portrait gallery houses paintings of the Montague family’s ancestors, including Shakespeare’s patron, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. Indeed, the Bard’s first two narrative poems were dedicated to him. Originally the inner hall of the gatehouse, the dining hall was used for entertaining guests in the 18th and 19th centuries, and is still used by the Montagu family on special occasions. Once part of the north chapel, the private dining room features linen-fold panelling around its walls, salvaged from the House of Commons by 1st Baron Montagu, Lord Henry Pole. The private apartments, including the lavishly adorned library, may be toured in part when the Montagu family are not in residence.
Discover the Secret Army Exhibition at the House, which we’re not really allowed to talk about… We can say that it tells the story of the Special Operations Executive (“Churchill’s Secret Army”) who – having completed their training in secret at the finishing school on the Beaulieu Estate during the Second World War – carried out daring espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines, with many servicemen making the ultimate sacrifice.
The current home of Lord and Lady Montagu, it is easy to see why Beaulieu is much more than a motor museum.