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Buckler's Hard - the later years

Buckler's Hard is perhaps best known for its shipbuilding past, although agriculture since at least the times of the Beaulieu Abbey monks has played a prominent role in the surrounding countryside.

Harvests, too, have been taken from the river in the form of fish and fowl for sport and the table; a little downstream from the village, oysters were cultivated for human consumption and salt extracted from the estuaries' waters.

But nowadays, even though Buckler's Hard continues to provide housing in its pretty rows of cottages and is a much treasured home to local residents, this tranquil village is perhaps best known as a wonderful tourist destination that attracts visitors from far and wide.

The development of tourism and some illustrious visitors

'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'

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. Regular excursions operated from Gosport and Ryde.

Occasionally, trips operated from Buckler's Hard, taking people from Beaulieu on outings to Southsea and Cowes.

Sunday trips were not allowed until 1906, although the excursions operated through the week in the summer, on Saturdays and Bank Holidays. Passengers were charged 1s 8d return from Gosport to Buckler's Hard.

Enterprising residents recognised the opportunities presented by 'excursionists' and some converted their front rooms to shops selling such treats as sweets, postcards and cream teas.

Distinguished visitors - not quite 'excursionists' - have included the Princess of Wales - the future Queen Alexandra, who in 1871 arrived in a steam launch with Napoleon's wife, Empress Eugenie of France.

And Frederick William, Crown Prince of Germany (later Emperor Frederick III) visited in 1881, Alfred Lord Tennyson in 1883 and King Edward VII in 1902.

Queen Mary at Buckler's Hard, shown on a contemporary postcard
Queen Mary at Buckler's Hard, shown on a contemporary postcard

Queen Mary, wife of King George V, during Cowes Week in August 1927 arrived at Buckler's Hard with John, Lord Montagu in his motor yacht, en-route to Palace House for tea - postcards of the time commemorate the event.

More recently, Earl Mountbatten of Burma in 1963 opened the Maritime Museum, whilst Sir Francis Chichester, who set out from the Beaulieu River on all his record breaking voyages, ceremoniously opened a dining room extension to the Master Builder's House and presented many of his nautical possessions to the Maritime Museum.

The village continues to attract less well-known yachtsmen, many of whom use moorings laid in the river. The Beaulieu River Sailing Club, formed in 1931, used Buckler's Hard as its base, but since 1956 that has been at Needs Ore Point. The Agamemnon boat yard, named after Nelson's favourite ship, opened at Buckler's Hard in 1947; and the Royal Southampton Yacht Club's main clubhouse since 1960 has been at nearby Gins.

And, of course, other visitors arrive by road; and on bicycles and on foot along the Beaulieu to Buckler's Hard walk and cycle ride trail that is part of the Solent Way. Many seek no more than rest, relaxation and refreshments; others enjoy experiencing life as the ship builders knew it during a visit to the Maritime Museum or whilst aboard a river cruise; and yet more simply soak up the atmosphere of this timeless hamlet on the banks of the Beaulieu River.

Buckler's Hard is fully accessible to the public and can be reached by a delightful riverside walk or cycle ride that passes the Beaulieu Estate's old brickworks, by car along narrow south-Hampshire lanes, and for water-borne folk, via the Beaulieu River.

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

Bucklers Hard - a rural shipbuilding centre: A.J. Holland
An Album of Old Beaulieu: Susan Tomkins
Kelly's Directory
Beaulieu River Sailing Club
Royal Southampton Yacht Club

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Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley