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Buckler's Hard - a brief history

Buckler's Hard, a tiny, tranquil village on the western bank of the Beaulieu River, lies 3.25 kilometres (2 miles) downstream from Beaulieu.

Here, away from the hurly-burly of modern life, two rows of modest 18th and early 19th century red-brick cottages face each other across an extravagantly wide, part-gravel, part-grassed corridor running at right angles to the shore.

Buckler's Hard presents an idyllic scene, but in the 18th century it was the site of huge activity as great wooden warships were constructed within its bounds.

Now, the village, the Buckler's Hard Maritime Museum and other reminders of the past attract visitors from around the world, drawn to this remarkable heritage site.

(1) Montagu Town and the early years of shipbuilding

John Montagu, 2nd Duke of Montagu, founder of Montagu Town
John Montagu, 2nd Duke of Montagu, founder of Montagu Town

Buckler's Hard was possibly originally named after the Buckle family, who had been resident locally since at least 1668.

The suffix 'Hard' was added, as is the case elsewhere on the south coast, to signify 'a natural, firm landing place'.

The Buckles, however, were not involved in the development of the site.

In the early 1720s, John, 2nd Duke of Montagu, devised a plan to use Buckler's Hard as the location for a port and refinery for sugar brought in from West Indian plantations then in the Duke's possession.

The port was to be known as Montagu Town.

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(2) Henry Adams and his shipbuilding sons

Henry Adams
Henry Adams

Born in 1713, Henry Adams in 1744 was sent to Buckler's Hard from his post as a shipwright at the royal shipyard at Deptford, to oversee an Admiralty contract placed for the construction of a 24-gun ship, the Surprise.

Such secondments usually finished on completion of the related contract and the overseer would return from whence he came, but Adams by 1748 had married a local girl and, with support from the Duke of Montagu's steward, had set up as a shipbuilder.

Henry Adams stayed at Buckler's Hard until his death in 1805.

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(3) Beaulieu River naval vessels

Buckler's Hard: a model of the village (on display in the Maritime Museum) showing two part-completed vessels on the stocks
Buckler's Hard: a model of the village (on display in the Maritime Museum) showing two part-completed vessels on the stocks

From the mid-18th century until the early 19th century, the Beaulieu River, and in particular Buckler's Hard, played an absolutely crucial role in Britain's seafaring history and in turn, the history of the nation.

Indeed, no other private Hampshire shipbuilder or firm constructed as many navel vessels as did Henry Adams and his sons.

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(4) Buckler's Hard - the village

The Master Builder's House shown on an old postcard
The Master Builder's House shown on an old postcard

Buckler's Hard's two rows of red-brick terraced cottages, built at 90 degrees to the Beaulieu River, are familiar to all who have visited this attractive hamlet.

But what is perhaps not realised is that another row of houses once existed at the southern end, the top, of the main street, running at right angles to the existing rows of terraces, and to the south of the Maritime Museum.

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(5) Buckler's Hard - the later years

'Excursionists' - an old postcard captioned 'Landing at Buckler's Hard from the Portsmouth boat'
'Excursionists' - an old postcard captioned 'Landing at Buckler's Hard from the Portsmouth boat'

Nowadays this tranquil village is perhaps best known as a wonderful tourist destination that attracts visitors from far and wide.

But Buckler's Hard tourism is not a new phenomenon, for as long ago as 1894 the Gosport Steam Launch Company began operations using a pier constructed at Buckler's Hard by Lord Montagu, at a cost of £150 'for the use of excursionists' who all paid landing fees for the privilege of a stroll around the village.

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Find out more about Buckler's Hard's fascinating history


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Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley