Beaulieu today is far more famous for the National Motor Museum than for its Abbey, of which only a fairly small amount remains.
The Abbey was set up in 1204 by King John, and unusually full accounts exist from this time. It appears to have been a place of calm and non-event throughout the Middle Ages in its secluded and beautiful spot in the heart of the New Forest.
When the Dissolution came the destruction was huge. Only the foundations remain of the Abbey Church and, unusually, only secular buildings remain; parts of the cloister, the lay-brothers' dormitory and the monks' frater which was converted into the Parish Church (right in picture). Probably the most interesting surviving feature at Beaulieu Abbey is the lane between the lay-brothers' dormitory and the cloister - this was common in Cistercian Abbeys and was the route the lay-brothers took to the Church, whilst the religious brothers would have approached through the cloister.
The gatehouse of the Abbey complex was converted into Beaulieu Palace House which is one of the famed "treasure houses" of England. Together with the wonderful Motor Museum these things make Beaulieu a superb day out.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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