The Montagu Arms has always been a favourite place to stay for those who are making a pilgrimage to Beaulieu’s historic Palace House and Abbey and for Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, it was no different.
He stayed right here at the Montagu Arms Hotel while conducting research for the The White Company, which is reportedly his favourite work. An historical adventure set during the Hundred Years' War, part of which was based in Beaulieu’s Palace House, the book is described as an almost Tolkienesque historical romance about a group of 14th century adventurers forming up in order to join the war in France. The novel is set in the New Forest, and the young heroes travel from Beaulieu Abbey to Christchurch Castle to The Solent.
Framed and proudly displayed in the hallway along with other historical artifacts, Conan Doyle must have loved his time at the Montagu Arms Hotel and exploring the area because he later bought a house here, although this did coincide with a darker period in his life.
Following the deaths of family members during World War I he developed an interest in spiritualism and the paranormal and came to investigate an alleged haunting in a property on the Beaulieu Estate (unexplained noises and footsteps) which preceded the female homeowner undergoing a curious dream, about the murder and burial of a man.
In the book Beaulieu Abbey and its Estate it says: ‘The upshot was that Sir Arthur and Lady Conan Doyle, the mutual friend (a well-known baronet), the lady herself and the writer all met for a séance.’
Conan Doyle inquired as to whether there was a spirit presence and if so, was it ‘earthbound and wished to be freed?’.
According to the unnamed writer, the ‘spirit’ apparently replied in the affirmative and after Conan Doyle told it not to be troubled anymore, the unexplained sound of footsteps and noises in the house were said to have ceased, too.
It is said that Bignell Wood, Conan Doyle’s New Forest home, was used to hold séances and that local postmen refused to deliver mail to the door; also that Charles Dickens ‘came through’ to Conan Doyle to ask him to complete his unfinished works!
Conan Doyle fans still visit his grave at All Saints Church, Minstead – because of the author’s beliefs it was said that the Church wanted his body interred as far from the holy building as possible – and we are delighted to welcome fans to the Montagu Arms.
England’s full of literary heroes and the New Forest can boast some stellar literary connections. In nearby Lyndhurst you can find the grave of Alice Hargreaves, better known as Alice Liddell, the little girl upon whom Lewis Carroll based Alice in Wonderland.
Palace House on the Beaulieu estate goes one better still. Montagu family ancestor Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, spent large sums on the patronage of writers including a certain William Shakespeare, who dedicated two of his poems to the Earl.
Shakespeare’s narrative poems Venus & Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594) were both dedicated to the Earl, who many Shakespearean scholars believe was the ‘Fair Youth’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
And, because of this connection, it’s not inconceivable that one or more of the Bard’s plays may have been performed for the first time at the Domus at Beaulieu.
If you’re visiting Beaulieu as part of your Montagu Arms stay you can discover more about the Shakespeare story from the special display panels in the grounds of Beaulieu Abbey, as part of a visit to the attraction. A portrait of Henry Wriothesley also hangs in the Portrait Gallery at Palace House.
To view this fantastic attractions and to find out more about the beautiful history of Beaulieu, book your Montagu Arms Break and call our reservations team on 01590 624467.