Beaulieu Abbey - History and Facts | History Hit

Beaulieu Abbey

New Forest, England, United Kingdom

Beaulieu Abbey is an early 13th century historic monastic complex, partially destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Lily Johnson

17 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Przemysław Jahr / Public domain

About Beaulieu Abbey

Nestled in the picturesque New Forest National Park, the ruins of Beaulieu Abbey represent what remains of an early 13th century monastic complex partially destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Beaulieu Abbey history

Beaulieu Abbey was founded by King John in the early 13th century, and was given the name Bellus Locus Regis, meaning ‘Beautiful Place of the King’.

Legend tells that the king founded the Abbey and gave it to the Cistercian Order following a violent nightmare in which he was viciously beaten by a group of monks – yet whether this was true or not, being in the good books of the religious orders of medieval England certainly had its merits. First and foremost, your name would appear in their prayers all across the country!

Over the next 300 years Beaulieu thrived through their production of wool and other farmed goods, which were duly sold to merchants all across Europe. A haven for Cistercian monks visiting from the Continent, Beaulieu also became a centre of skilled herbalists, with its monks growing an assortment of healing plants in their garden.

As with many Abbeys across England however, Beaulieu was eventually ruined in the 16th century during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Abbey Church, Cloister, and Chapter House were destroyed, and the estate was sold in 1538 to the Earl of Southampton. The Refectory, Domus, and two gatehouses were allowed to survive however, so long as they were converted for secular use.

Beaulieu Abbey today

Today, visitors can explore the atmospheric remains of Beaulieu Abbey and its surrounding grounds, which provide a fascinating look into medieval religious life in England.

The Cloister’s imposing structure remains largely intact, while the herb garden used for many years by the monks of Beaulieu allows visitors to experience both the sights and smells of the time. In the Domus, the Monastic Life exhibition details the everyday life of the Cistercian monks, while upstairs an exquisite collection of tapestries depicts the Abbey’s history, designed by Belinda, Lady Montagu.

At the site also sits the medieval Beaulieu Palace House and gardens, which once formed part of the Abbey complex before being bought by the Earl of Southampton and turned into a mansion house. Now home of the Montagu family who have resided there since 1538, the house features many Victorian additions added during later periods of renovation.

Getting to Beaulieu Abbey

Beaulieu Abbey is located in the New Forest in Hampshire, and can be accessed by taking Junction 2 of the M27 and following the brown and white tourist signs. Free parking is available at the site.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the more bus service stops at the Museum entrance or in Beaulieu village, around a 7-minute walk away. The nearest train station is 7 miles away at Brockenhurst, from which a 15-minute taxi may be taken to the site or alternatively a route through the New Forest may be cycled.