Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beaulieu Museums

Happily for me, the National Motor Museum is a short way down the road from home in the New Forest at Beaulieu.  With rain on the forecast, I set aside the afternoon to go & check it out.  It turns out that there is not just a large car museum to look at.  But that didn't stop me spending most of my time in there.  There's many notable cars to gaze at, including quite a few that have set land speed records at various times - Sunbeam & Bluebird come to mind.  Slightly less speedy cars, but more recognisable these days, include Mr Bean's Mini, Arthur Weasley's flying Ford Anglia & the Trotters' van.

There are strange looking contraptions from the late 1800s, cars that really are just carriages without horse & an engine bunged in the bottom somewhere, a 'Blower' Bentley (that's for you Geoff), all manner of Rolls Royces & so on.

The museum building must be going on forty years now - strangely it has a monorail running through the top of it. Said monorail looks like it was once transport for henchman in a Roger Moore Bond flick. Outside of the main building there's a small Bond car exhibit - most interesting there is the submarine Lotus Espirit from The Spy Who Loved Me. Also of note is that AMC that performed the spiral jump in The Man with the Golden Gun. Apparently there's a much bigger display of Bond cars planned. I'll have to come back & make use of my free entry for a year. Nearby is the World of Top Gear & the Enormodrome filled with cars from various challenges that have featured on the show. But that deserves another photo post for those who may actually be able to identify them.

Further through the extensive grounds & Victorian gardens is a small exhibit detailing the role Beaulieu Estate played in housing SOE operatives during WWII. Being on the south coast of the country, this whole area has a lot of war history - more of which I'm sure I'll discover in the months to come. Just past this is Palace House which is the ancestral house of the Lords of the Estate & still the home of Lord & Lady Montagu. Parts of it were originally the gatehouse of the nearby abbey, but it was extended in the nineteenth century. A small part of it is open to visitors & mostly filled with portraits. All the captions were written in the first person by the current lord of the estate - they were much more personal & easier to read.

Just around the corner are the remains of the Cistercian Beaulieu Abbey that didn't survive the Dissolution after three hundred years of existence. The refectory still serves as the parish church of Beaulieu; there's a big exhibit on the life of the monks, but by then it was getting dark & damper & I'd had enough of looking at old things & wandered back out through the grounds.

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