Page 29 - Yachter Spring 2024
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                                BUCKLER’S HARD 300 YEAR ANNIVERSARY
The Village of Buckler’s Hard was founded by John, the 2nd Duke of Montagu, in 1724, when he published a Prospectus describing how “Montagu Town “was to be created on the banks of the Beaulieu River.
       Today the Village is widely recognised for its seemingly timeless and beautiful riverside setting, with the two rows of cottages forming the unusually wide street. The popular history of Buckler’s Hard is primarily associated with the building of “men of war” ships for the British fleet, including Admiral Lord Nelson’s “favourite” ship, HMS Agamemnon, one
of four Buckler’s Hard ships at the Battle of Trafalgar, including HMS Euryalus which repeated the famous “England Expects...” message to the nearby fleet. So it is not surprising that the Village is known for its Shipbuilding history, but in fact its origins were very different.
John, 2nd Duke of Montagu, inherited numerous Estates all over the country and vast wealth at the age of 19, in 1709. He was an educated, well-travelled, and cultured individual who became known as “John the Planter” for his grand schemes of landscaping and tree planting at Boughton, the family’s principal Estate. He was popular at the Royal Court, and able to converse with King George 1st, the first Hanoverian King, who spoke no English. The Duke attended his Coronation in 1714.
Although the Duke’s inherited Estates made him wealthy – the Beaulieu Estate did not. In 1718 the Duke asked his Chief Steward, John Booth, to survey the Estate and he reported that Beaulieu was “Ye worst Inclosed Estate
I ever undertook to survey. I’m generally either fast in ye boggs or lost in ye woods. The ground is naturally poor ...and the tenants are
lazy indolent people”. The coastal land floods, with great losses, “32 sheep out of 87 drowned ...tis certain the loss has sunk all ye profit ...”
In the early 1700’s there was a great spirit of adventure fuelling exploration, the “discovery” of new lands, and the development of trade. Imported goods were becoming fashionable and in great demand. One of the most valuable was sugar. Duke John had a plan – in 1721 he petitioned the King to grant him the Right to Settle and Govern the Caribbean islands of St Vincent and St Lucia, where he could create sugar plantations and export the sugar back
to his new port that he would create on the Beaulieu River.
The naturally protected up-river location he chose for the port was one of only three places where seams of gravel run through the marshy river banks – forming a “hard” where boats could be launched and landed. This had been informally named after the Buckle family who lived nearby. Here, the Duke planned to build his new Montagu Town.
The Islands of St Vincent and St Lucia had been disputed for many years between England and France, although at the time following the Treaties of Utrecht, they were formally neutral. Nevertheless, the King granted John’s petition – provided that
he must settle the islands with indentured people from England or other countries,
and not poach skilled people from nearby communities, or by slave labour. So the Duke set about his great adventure. At vast cost,
he engaged Nathaniel Uring, an experienced
Captain, to recruit all the settlers, lead the expedition and become the future Governor of the Islands.
A fleet of seven ships was assembled,
with 51 Officers and 425 indentured “men” together with supplies of everything necessary to establish a new productive community. There were 54 Carpenters, 20 Blacksmiths, 15 Sawyers/Woodcutters, 13 Brick Layers,
6 Joiners, 5 Stone masons, Armourers, Shipwrights, Wheelwrights, Millwrights, Plasterers, Founders and a Distiller.
Tallow Chandlers, Watermen, Sail Makers, Shoemakers, a Cabinet Maker, a Pastry Chef and 2 Silversmiths and 14 Husbandmen and 30 French weavers, a small group of Marines, and 6 Surgeons.
The stores transported included... beef, pork, biscuit, butter, flour, rice, oats, beer, brandy, tobacco and candles. There were
pots and pans, utensils, crockery, cutlery and glassware. Also tools for all the artisans, and materials including wood, cloth, hammocks, blankets and a wide selection of clothing and uniforms. The expedition cost the Duke about £20m pounds at today’s values.
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