The History of Tile Barn

Mar 25 2022

Soldiers at Tile Barn celebrating Anzac Day, the national day of remembrance for Australia and New Zealand.

From its beginnings as a military hospital to royal visits as it is today, Tile Barn Outdoor Centre has a broad and fascinating history.

Let’s look at some of the key dates in the centre’s past.

The early days

During the First World War, Tile Barn was a military hospital for soldiers from India and New Zealand. It was called Lady Hardinge Hospital, but locals called it “Tin Town” because there was a combination of tented and galvanised accommodation units on site.

Soldiers at Tile Barn celebrating Anzac Day, the national day of remembrance for Australia and New Zealand.

As the country recovered from war and returned to normal life, the site hosted the New Forest Show in 1926. The show is still running to this day, though these days it takes place a couple of miles from Tile Barn, just north of Brockenhurst.

During this time, the site was part of the Morant Estate, having been bought by Edward Morant in 1769. The estate allowed Brockenhurst School to use the grounds as their playing fields, which included a cricket pavilion. You can still reach the school grounds (now Brockenhurst College) from the site today.

Campsite transformation

Hampshire Council purchased part of Morant Estate in the early 1970s to create a campsite that offered ‘a cost-effective outdoor experience’ for families and school groups.

Twenty years on, camping at the site had become well established, and a three-day camping trip to Tile Barn for a school child would cost a modest £5. Teachers would arrive at the weekend, set up their camp and welcome the children on a Monday for a week of fun.

Permanent onsite staff accommodation was then built, which was a welcome upgrade on the unloved caravan it replaced!

Tile Barn soon started to begin offering their own adventure activities and itineraries, including the installation of a low ropes course and introduction of onsite mountain biking.

The turn of the millennium saw the arrival of the bunkhouse. Children could now enjoy a much warmer experience and leave their tents behind. Following this, an archery range and mobile climbing tower were added and much-loved canoe trips on the Beaulieu River began.

The high ropes course is a favourite with visiting schools.

The site then merged with the Beaulieu Development Centre and funds from the sale of the additional centre were used for the installation of the high ropes course.

Royal connections

Tile Barn has had several royal visitors. In 2011, The Duke of Edinburgh arrived via helicopter to speak to children and staff involved in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.

Enda (previous Manager) with the Duchess of Cornwall. 

Five years later, The Duchess of Cornwall officially opened the new Poppy Pod village. The pods offer residential holiday and respite facilities for service personnel, veterans and their families, and have accessibility in mind.

The present day

In 2017, a new and exciting low ropes course was created and a permanent climbing tower was built, providing adrenaline-pumping rock climbing and abseiling activities. A mountain biking skills track was also built and the site now offers a dedicated space for bushcraft skills courses as well.

Today, Tile Barn Outdoor Centre can cater for up to 350 people, providing an exciting range of adventure activities for children to enjoy. Want to find out more about what Tile Barn can offer you? Browse our range of activities and accommodation options.