History of The Master Builders, Beaulieu
The Master Builder’s House Hotel was built c. 1729 by Alexander Morris, the tenant of Beaulieu Brickworks. After 1747 the tenant of the shipyard lived in this house. Most famous tenants were Henry Adams and his sons Balthazar and Edward, Master Builders of ships for Nelson’s Navy, including three which fought at Trafalgar – Agamemnon, Swiftsure and Euryalus.
Following the decline of shipbuilding at Buckler’s Hard in the 19th century, the house became a rented property in the village. Tenants included John Prior, a fisherman, William Scanes, a retired inn and shopkeeper, Frederick Buckle, a blacksmith, and Thomas Smith, a steam launch engineer. At the beginning of the 20th century it was the home of Jim Thomas, Lord Montagu’s boatman and unofficial ‘harbour master’.
After Jim Thomas died in 1925 the house was converted into a hotel using men from the Beaulieu Estate and local materials where possible. The building was originally known as the Shipbuilders House until it was renamed as ‘The Master Builder’s House’ by John, 2nd Lord Montagu of Beaulieu around 1926 when it opened as a hotel. The first tenant was George Foster Pedley, a friend of John, Lord Montagu, who ran it until the outbreak of WW2. Among the visitors to the Hotel in the 1920s was Queen Mary, who came for a few hours with John, 2nd Lord Montagu during the annual Cowes Regatta Week.
The hotel was taken over by naval authorities in WW2 when Buckler’s Hard and the Beaulieu River were requisitioned by The Admiralty and became a restricted area. The Master Builder’s generally used to provide additional living quarters. In 1943 the Military Police took over all the rooms whilst dummy landing craft were assembled in the field behind the Hotel. They were then moored in the River alongside real landing craft to check how realistic they were – these dummy landing craft were later used to fool the Germans into thinking that any invasion of Northern Europe would be in the area around Calais.
Hotel tenants after the War include Stephen Fry, son of C.B. Fry, the famous cricketer and footballer who was offered the throne of Albania.
The Chichester Room was named for Sir Francis Chichester, who in Gipsy Moth IV became the first person to complete a true solo circumnavigation of the earth 1966-67. A celebration was held in The Master Builder’s on his return to his home port on the Beaulieu River in September 1967.