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The reputedly haunted monastery of St Mary of Beaulieu was a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1204 by King John and granted to the house of and populated by monks from the Abbey of St. Mary of Citeaux, the French mother house of the Cistercian order. In April 1538 it was forced to close under the Dissolution of the Monasteries and many of the thirty-two people living within the grounds under the protection of sanctuary were given pardons and the estates were eventually granted to Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton (Born 21 December 1505 – Died 30 July 1550).
Wriothesley had the abbey demolished and built a house based around the old gatehouse, which now forms the core of Palace House. With the marriage of Lady Elizabeth Wriothesley (daughter of Sir Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton (Born10 March 1607 – Died 16 May 1667) and Ralph Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu, Palace House became the seat of the Barons Montagu of Beaulieu and remains the home of the current Lord and Lady Montagu.
There are various stories relating to Beaulieu Abbey and its surroundings being haunted.
1) Palace House is thought to be haunted by a Grey Lady, possibly Lady Isabella who dates from the 18th century.
2) Ghostly Gregorian chanting has been reported in the Abbey. One witness, Mrs Elizabeth Varley stated “I was sitting by the window of my room quite late at night when I heard it. It was very clear and quite loud enough for me to pick up the notes of the chant. I thought perhaps it was the gipsies living in the forest, but when I sang the tune the next day to someone staying in the house the recognised it as a Gregorian chant.”
3) Incense has been smelt in Palace House, within rooms that used to be chapels.
4) Brown clad apparitions of monks have been seen in the Domas which is now used for exhibitions. (Unusual I suppose as Cisterian Monks did not wear brown habits).
5) In 'Phantoms Legends, Customs and Superstitions Of The Sea' (1972), Raymond Lamont Brown gives the following account of ghostly monks thought to be from Beaulieu Abbey. 'One afternoon in July 1937, three local boys Colin Hillman, Roy Jenvey and Ben Ham were out fishing in a dinghy in the Solent. As the boys made for home the strong cross-currents carried them off course. By this time it had started to rain heavily and the boys decided to make for the nearest point on the shore in order to shelter. Eventually they beached the boat and found shelter in a disused boat-house. Close on midnight the weather had worsened. An hour later the boys had become restless and Roy Jenvey opened the boathouse door to see if there was any improvement in the weather. As he watched the rain slanting across the beach, he caught sight of a rowing boat making for the shore.
The three boys watched as five hooded men stepped out of the boat. The men, dressed in the white habit of monks, filed away up the beach in the direction of Beaulieu Abbey. At dawn when it had faired the boys examined the shore where they had seen the monks land; there was no trace of a boat, nor of any footprints in the sand. Later, as the story was retold to parents and friends, no-one could offer a logical explanation for what the boys had seen.'