The House from a 1911 postcard
Earlier Houses: Today's house sits on the site of Beaulieu Abbey, which was effectively destroyed by Henry VIII, though the former Gatehouse serves as the core of the current house.
House & Family History: Palace House was formerly the 14th century Great Gatehouse of Beaulieu Abbey, which was founded in 1204 as one of the grandest Cistercian abbeys in England. The House has been in the Montagu family's ownership since 1538, when Sir Thomas Wriothesley, later 1st Earl of Southampton, purchased the Estate after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Lord Henry Scott was the first member of the family to actually live here. In the 1870s Lord Scott extended the House, using Arthur Blomfield as his architect. Beaufront as seen today is a mixture of Victorian Gothic, medieval Gothic, and 18th century fortification styles. The 3rd Lord Montagu (1926-2015) was a cause célèbre in British gay history for his 1954 conviction and imprisonment for homosexual sex, a charge he always denied; however, in his 2000 autobiography, Lord Montagu admitted to being bisexual. The attention that Montagu's arrest and imprisonment received in the media led to the creation of the Wolfenden Committee in 1957, which recommended the decriminalization of homosexual activity in private between two adults. Ten years later, Parliament carried out the recommendation, a huge turning point in gay history in Britain, where anal sex, a form of "buggery," had been a criminal offence since the Buggery Act of 1533. In 2000 Lord Montagu broke down in tears when it was suggested that the reform of the law on homosexuality would be his monument.
Garden & Outbuildings: The 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu's interest in historic cars led him to open a motor museum on the grounds of Beaulieu in 1952. Lord Montagu's auto collection continued to grow and officially became the National Motor Museum in 1972. The museum collects, preserves, and presents vehicles and other items related to the history of motoring in Great Britain from 1895 to the present day. The Motor Museum has over 250 vehicles and tens of thousands of objects relating to motoring history, including car accessories, motoring clothing, and printed ephemera. The oldest of the 19 racing cars on display is a 1903 Napier Gordon Bennett. Others include a 1922 Aston Martin Strasbourg, a Vanwall driven by Stirling Moss in 1958, the 1994 Benetton B193/4 driven by Michael Schumacher in his first world championship, and Damon Hill's 1996 winner, the Williams FW 18. Also in the collection are Bentley and Jaguar Le Mans cars and 13 motorcycles, from a 1912 Norton to a 1975 Kawasaki. The museum's world land speed record breakers include the first and last of Malcolm and Donald Campbell's Bluebirds and the 1929 Golden Arrow. The 3rd Lord Montagu's father (John Walter Edward-Scott-Montagu; after 1905 the 2nd Lord Montagu of Beaulieu) wanted an appropriate mascot for his Rolls-Royce. Using Montagu's secretary and mistress, Eleanor Velasco Thornton, as a model the sculptor Charles S. Sykes designed the precursor (called "The Whisper") of the "Spirit of Ecstasy," the famous winged mascot that has adorned nearly every Rolls-Royce automobile since 1911.
Title: Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1990
Author: Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David (Editors)
Year Published: 1990
Reference: pg. P 865
Publisher: London: Debrett's Peerage Limited (New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc.)
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Movie Locations: A Guide to Britain & Ireland
Author: Adams, Mark
Year Published: 2000
Publisher: London: Boxtree
Book Type: Softback
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Not Listed
Seat of: Ralph Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 4th Baron Montagu of Beaulieu; family here since 1538.
Past Seat of: Sir Thomas Wriothesley, later 1st Earl of Southampton, 16th century. Lord Henry Scott, 19th century; Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, until 2015.
Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction