Statement of Significance
for the Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin & Holy Child, Beaulieu
Benefice: Beaulieu, Exbury & East Boldre
Address: Palace Lane, Beaulieu, Hampshire, SO42 7YL
Grid ref: SU 388 3202 548
Local Planning Authority: New Forest National Park Authority
Statutory Listing of church: Grade 1
The History of the Church
The church was built around 1204 as the Refectory (dining room) of the Cistercian Abbey, founded by King John, of Sancta Maria de Bello Loco Regis (translated into Norman French as 'Beaulieu' – a fair place). For over three hundred years it was in daily use as a Refectory.
After the Dissolution of Monasteries in 1538, by King Henry VIII, the whole 'close' of Beaulieu was bought by Thomas Wriothesley, later Earl of Southampton, who gave the Refectory to the people of the village to use as a Parish Church. Initially the church was dedicated to St. Bartholomew; the dedication was changed to the current one in the nineteenth century.
The church remains the religious centre of the village with services held in it daily. Over any month various Orders of Service; Book of Common Prayer, Common Worship, All Age/Family Service and Choral Evensong are held, so worshippers of all branches of the Church of England can find a service to suit their tastes.
In a survey for the 2008 Parish Plan 96% of respondents answered that they and their family would wish to be baptised, married and have their funeral held in the Church, even if they were not regular worshippers. In 2012 17 Baptisms, 23 Weddings and 10 Funerals were held in the church.
Services for the major religious festivals of Easter, Christmas, Harvest and Remembrance are well attended by members of the parish as is the open air service for Sea Sunday.. held at Bucklers Hard.
The church sits across the meadow from the head of the tidal Beaulieu River. It was built of stone brought from France and landed from the river.
As the church was originally built as a Refectory it has an unusual 'orientation' as the altar is at the south end of the church rather than the usual east.
When the Refectory was first built, the interior had a gabled roof with its great oak beams hewn from New Forest oaks left open and visible. Not long afterwards, probably to make the refectory less draughty, the present wagon-shaped plaster roof was added. The wooden bosses are very interesting and we have a chart giving detailed information on them. Many of the bosses are mediaeval although a few at the northern end are more modern. The ceiling was painted red during restoration work in 1959.
From the inside it appears that the walls are leaning outwards. Over the centuries sturdy buttresses have been constructed on both the east and west walls. Originally there were three lancet windows in the south wall. In 1743 it was found necessary to build a large exterior buttress to support the wall and the central window was blocked.
Some of the floor tiles in the Chancel are replicas made in 1875 of the medieval ones in the original Abbey Church . In the side aisles and near the font the 'beige' coloured tiles were made at the Beaulieu brickworks.
The original monastic entrance to the Refectory was the North door from the Cloisters, the original oak doors with their ironwork are still in place. In 1959 interior glass doors were added to allow more light in to the church.
After the Refectory became the Parish Church ,the entrance Porch and Doorway on the East side of the church were used. The stone above the door has a verse from Genesis (ch.28, v.17) 'This is none other but ye house of God; and this is the gate of Heaven'.
During 1996 the Church underwent a complete electric re-wiring which has left it fit for its many uses: parish church, tourist attraction and concert venue.
In 2014 the heating system has been upgraded to achieve 21st century best practise. Originally installed in 1875 with a Coke fired boiler, the radiators were added in 1915.
Contents of Significance
The Pulpit (Frater)
Possibly the most important item in the Church, this an interesting and unusual example of a monastic lectern. In Cistercian monasteries, then as now, meals are usually eaten in silence. After grace has been said, a book is read aloud, extracts from the Bible or other religious tracts are read from the pulpit. The great stone lectern was built so that the Reader could be heard in all parts of the Refectory. It is now used by the Minister to deliver the sermon at certain services. Access to the pulpit is via a stone staircase built into the thickness of the wall. One other similar example remains in England , in the Refectory of Chester Cathedral. The stone steps worn by centuries of use can be seen through the gates.
This church is unusual in that in a small chapel within the Pulpit is the Aumbry, where the reserved sacrament is kept. A perpetual light indicates this.
Madonna and Child
On the West wall, facing the main door and near to the Font is a bas relief of the Madonna and Child by the artist Martin Travers. This work was commissioned by the congregation in 1942 when Beaulieu must have been a frightening place to live; the war was all too apparent. The S.O.E. trained in the Beaulieu Estate woods, HMS Mastodon was at Exbury House with troops and tanks assembling for the D Day landings and Southampton suffered bombing raids. For many years the work was in the central niche behind the altar but was re-hung in 2013. The dove above the Madonna was suggested by the artist when he saw his work in place and was commissioned by Lady Armstrong in 1944 in memory of her husband, Sir Phillip Armstrong.
Chapel of St. John the Evangelist (Gallery Chapel)
The gallery at the North end of the church has been used over the centuries for varying purposes. In the 18th century a wall across the nave separated the gallery from the rest of the building, and for a while it served as the village school. In 1965 a new access stairway was built and the chapel was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester and dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. The statue of St. John and the candlesticks on the altar come from the, now closed, chapel at the hamlet of Park, near St. Leonard's Grange, which had the same dedication.
The wooden altar was originally the High Altar in the church, a brass plaque records that it was carved by George Collins, Clerk of the Works, in 1882, from a walnut tree that grew in the Cloisters.
The Linen fold panelling that fronts the Gallery Chapel is sixteenth century in origin, it was installed in the church in the nineteenth century and is believed to have come from the old Houses of Parliament . After the fire of 1834 the Duke of Buccleuch stored much of the salvaged woodwork in barns on the Beaulieu Estate and it is thought that this is how the timber came to be used in the church.
The War Memorial
A wood and stone Calvary was dedicated on 11th November 1919. It was given by Lady Armstrong in memory of her only son, Philip and his comrades, who died in a submarine disaster at the end of the war, and also in memory of the men of the parish who gave their lives in the 1914-18 war. In 1964 the names of the fallen in the 1939-1945 war were added to the memorial. Sadly, by 2007 the prevailing wind and rain had caused the memorial to deteriorate and become unsafe. Following a fund-raising campaign the memorial was refurbished.
The existing wooden cross and figures were removed and stored. On to the original stone base a new Blomfield Cross of Sacrifice of natural Portland stone with a bronze look Sword of Sacrifice was erected. The re-dedication Service of the Beaulieu Village War Memorial took place on Sunday 4th November 2007 in the presence of Mrs. Mary Fagan, Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire and The Venerable Adrian Harbidge, Archdeacon of Bournemouth.
In 2013 the wooden cross from the original 1919 War Memorial was taken to the workshop in Devon of the craftsman James Morley and re-using viable timber he created the Cross which now hangs in the central niche above the altar. It is painted in 'Cistercian' red and finished with gold leaf.
The two-manual organ, in an oak case, was built by Messrs. Walker & Sons of London in 1893. The organ was moved from the Chancel into its current position in 1940.
The outstanding memorial is found on the East wall of the chancel. This commemorates Mary Do, who died in 1651 aged 40 years.
On the opposite side of the chancel is a Memorial Tablet honouring William Tyrrell, Vicar of Beaulieu from 1840 – 1847 who became the first Bishop of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia.
Also in the Chancel are two stone tablets in memory of former incumbents, the Rev. William Wing (1699 – 1702) and the Rev. Henry Robinson (1732 - 1775). A tablet on the West wall commemorates the Rev. Henry Adams (1765 – 1839) who was the Vicar of Beaulieu for 49 years and was the son of Henry Adams, the famous Master Builder of Bucklers Hard. A brass plaque on the floor of the Chancel commemorates the ship-builder Henry Adams and his wife Ann.
The earliest memorial in the church is a small brass tablet recording the death of Edwarde Kempe of Gins Farm in 1605.
On the East wall of the nave are the memorials to John, 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu who died in 1929 and to his widow the Hon. Mrs Pearl Pleydell-Bouverie, a long time Church Warden of the Parish who died in 1996 at the age of 101 years. Alongside is a bronze tablet in memory of Eleanor Thornton, the secretary to the 2nd Lord Montagu, she was the model for 'The Spirit of Ecstasy' on the bonnet of Rolls-Royce cars and was drowned when the SS Persia was torpedoed in 1915.
The 'Tubby' Clayton memorial near the pulpit was erected in 1984 in memory of the founder of Toc H, who lived in Beaulieu as a boy, and regularly returned to preach in the church.
Standards of R.A.F. 84 Squadron R.A.F. were laid up in the Abbey Church in July 1981 and July 2003 to commemorate the founding of the Squadron on Beaulieu Airfield during the First World War in 1917, as part of the Royal Flying Corps.
The Abbey Church Hall
The church hall was built in 1992 and was the first new building on the church site since the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. The framework is of English oak and was assembled by local master craftsmen using traditional methods. Stone recovered from the original abbey forms the base walls. This building is considered an exemplar of marrying a modern building with the 13th century Cistercian buildings.