Buckler's Hard hamlet, originally called Montagu Town, was built by the second Duke of Montagu, and was intended to be a free port for trade with the West Indies. Its geography also favoured the development of shipbuilding, as the hamlet possessed access to a sheltered but navigable waterway with gravel banks capable of supporting slipways for vessel construction and launch. Timber for hulls was also readily available from the New Forest adjacent to the hamlet. Shipbuilding at Buckler's Hard commenced in the early eighteenth century, and grew to national prominence with the arrival of Henry Adams, the former Master Shipwright from Deptford Dockyard, in 1744. Adams set up a private shipyard adjoining the hamlet, and promptly won a series of Royal Navy contracts for vessel construction. Over the following sixty years he would supervise the building of 43 Royal Navy ships at Buckler's Hard, including HMS Euryalus, HMS Swiftsure and HMS Agamemnon, all of which fought at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The shipbuilding industry declined in the nineteenth century. During World War II, the village was used to build motor torpedo boats and the river was a base for hundreds of landing craft for the Normandy invasion, Operation Overlord. Today the hamlet is given over to tourism, with a small maritime museum, and a modern yachting marina. Buckler's Hard was where Sir Francis Chichester began and finished his single-handed voyage around the world in Gipsy Moth IV.
The newly re-designed Maritime Museum tells why the ambitious plans for a new town were never realised and why its name changed to Buckler’s Hard. Learn about the machine gun that fired round and square bullets and see characters from the village at the time of Henry Adams, the Master Shipbuilder who lived and worked at Buckler's Hard. Discover a new interpretation of the Beaulieu River and its ships which have inspired a wealth of art, literature and films and listen to a traditional sea shanty sung by working sailors. Buckler’s Hard developed as a thriving shipbuilding village where warships for Nelson’s Navy were built, three of which took part in the Battle of Trafalgar. See models of these ships including HMS Euryalus on which the dispatch was written containing the news of the great victory and of Nelson’s death. View Nelson memorabilia including his baby clothes, made for him by the citizens of his birthplace, Burnham Thorpe, in Norfolk.
An exhibition tells the remarkable story of the P & O liner, SS Persia, its links with Rolls-Royce and the Montagu family and its sinking by a German U-Boat during WWI. Following the world’s deepest salvage operation of its type, several of the ship’s artefacts, entombed for nearly one hundred years, are on display for the first time, including the door to the Bullion Room, behind which the salvage team had hoped to find the fortune in gold and jewels that the ship was believed to be carrying on its fateful final voyage. At the time of the sinking, SS Persia was believed to be carrying a large quantity of gold and jewels belonging to the Maharaja Jagatjit Singh. In 2003, British firm Deep Tek embarked on the world's deepest salvage operation to recover the precious cargo. Despite being at the bottom of the sea for 88 years, the gems (which included real rubies, amethysts, moonstones and some of the earliest known synthetic rubies) were still in remarkable condition. Some of these gems can be seen on display in the Maritime Museum. A new and unique exhibit has been unveiled for the anniversary year: a £5 note carried by survivor, John 2nd Baron Montagu, which was in his pocket during his 32 hour ordeal in the water before his rescue. Accompanied by his secretary Eleanor Thornton, John Montagu was sitting at their table in the 1st class dining saloon when the torpedo struck. As they climbed up deck towards the starboard rail, SS Persia began to sink rapidly. The violent vortex created by the sinking blew John back to the surface but tragically Eleanor was less fortunate. Clinging to a badly damaged upturned lifeboat, John spent 23 hours in the water before the crew of the SS Ningchow rescued him and his companions. The Bank of England £5 note dated 3rd July 1914, together with a letter from John Montagu to Portals congratulating them on the quality of the paper, was bought at auction last year.
Visit the historic cottage displays to see how the village would have looked in the early 1800s and how inhabitants lived and worked. Compare the difference between the cramped home of a Labourer’s family with the more spacious home of a Shipwright craftsman in the village. Listen to the local gossip of the 1790s in The New Inn, the centre of village life, which served as a meeting place, committee room, offices and entertainment area. In more recent times, the village played a significant role in the D-Day landings. Learn about the activity on the river during the years of WWII, the building of segments of the Mulberry Harbour, which were towed across to the Normandy coast in preparation for D-Day, and the many hundreds of landing craft that sailed from the Beaulieu River to support the Normandy landings. A film presentation tells the story of Buckler’s Hard at war.
Learn all about the exploits of the first solo world voyager, Sir Francis Chichester, who famously circumnavigated the globe in his yacht Gipsy Moth IV, with only one stop. He held a mooring at Buckler's Hard for many years and received a tumultuous welcome when he returned to the village after his record breaking circumnavigation. See a map plotting the epic journey and personal items from the voyage along with other artefacts. Find out about the transition of Buckler’s Hard in the 19th century from a thriving shipbuilding village to a sleepy rural hamlet. Discover who lived there, the changes that occurred and how it developed into a popular visitor destination in the 20th century. This new exhibition also tells the story of Stan Seaman who was born, grew up and worked in the village and who entertained visitors through his playing of many traditional musical instruments.
The historic shipbuilding village of Buckler’s Hard is by its nature not easy for wheelchair access. The site has remained almost unchanged since the 18th century and includes mainly gravel paths, some steep slopes and narrow doorways and stairs to historic buildings. The Maritime Museum at Buckler’s Hard is on various levels as it is located within historic buildings. Due to the geographic location of Buckler’s Hard parts of the village have uneven surfaces, also please be aware of natural hazards including tree roots. Buckler's Hard Accessibility Map. The following facilities are provided : Ramped Access into the Museum Building; Wheelchair Access door to lower level of Museum Building; Guide books available to explain the 1st floor areas of the Maritime Museum and Shipwright’s Cottage; Level floor access to St Mary’s Chapel; A fully accessible toilet adjacent to the tearoom; Ramped access from the car park area into entrance and tearoom; Helpful staff. Assistance dogs are welcome. They welcome disabled visitors on board the River Cruise, but for safe access a degree of mobility is needed. Due to the jetty and vessel design, adults who use wheelchairs must be able to walk (assisted if necessary) for a few steps to access the vessel and leave during an emergency evacuation. Crew can assist but are not permitted to lift occupied wheelchairs. Each wheelchair must be accompanied by an attendant to assist the disabled person in the event of an emergency on board. Admission price includes entrance to the historic village and waterfront, Maritime Museum and Buckler’s Hard Story, the shipbuilder's cottages and all day car parking.
Location : Buckler's Hard, Beaulieu, Hampshire SO42 7XB
Transport : Brockenhurst (National Rail) then taxi (£20). Bus Routes : No Service.
Opening Times : Daily, October - 24th March, 10:00 to 16:30; 25th March through September, 10:00 -17:00
Tickets : Adults £6.90; Seniors £6.40; Children (5 - 17) £4.70
Tickets : 30 min. River Cruise - 8th April to 29th October; Adults £5.00; Seniors £4.50; Children (5 - 17) £3.00
Tel. : 01590 616203