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Remembering Lord Montagu

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who died on 31 August at the age of 88, was a central figure in the changes that took place in Museums, Heritage and Tourism during his lifetime.  He was a pioneer of the “Stately Home” business and independent Museum

From 1952, when he opened Palace House to the public and exhibited old cars in memory of his motoring pioneer father, Edward Montagu’s dynamism drove the development of the visitor activities at Beaulieu.  He created charitable National Motor Museum which opened in 1972, which was integrated with his home, Palace House, Beaulieu Abbey and the other visitor businesses at Buckler’s Hard and on the River, becoming recognised as a leading visitor attraction, with attendances exceeding I million.  Winner of the Museum of the Year Award in 1974, Beaulieu became a beacon for those committed to strategic planning and professional management of sustainable historic visitor attractions.

Lord Montagu’s commitment to the Motor Museum was not just for historic vehicles, but all related materials, including a Motoring reference library, and a Photographic and film archive.  He also encouraged the development of Education services at a time when these aspects were exceptional in an independent museum. Lord Montagu believed Beaulieu should participate actively in all organisations that could support the development tourism, and sustain the heritage for future generations.  He was a founder of the Historic Houses Association, then its President.  He strongly supported the creation of the Association of Independent Museums. In 1982 he was elected President of the The Museums Association, and subsequently became the first Chair of English Heritage.  Apart from his Presidency of the Tourism Society and the Southern Tourist Board, he worked tirelessly to support the national Tourist Boards, leading trade missions to the USA and Japan for the British Tourist Authority, and he lobbied Government to support the English Tourist Board, and often spoke on Tourism and Heritage issues in the House of Lords.

His life’s work was to ensure that the Beaulieu Estate would be conserved and be improved in his lifetime – a challenge that he met.  He realised that making Beaulieu accessible to visitors and giving them the best possible experience, would encourage them to value our heritage and help maintain it in the future.  Tourism and Beaulieu evolved, hand in hand, in ways that benefit visitors and the host community, and protect the special qualities of the places that they enjoy.  His enthusiasm for tourism and tireless energy to improve the quality of what we do, is a great example for all tourism professionals to follow.

By Ken Robinson CBE (Chair of TourismSouthEast and former Managing Director, Beaulieu)