Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who died this week at 88, was the one of the first car enthusiasts anywhere to introduce the public to the idea of paying to visit a car museum.

The small collection he established in the entrance hall of his family home at Beaulieu in 1952 is now the National Motor Museum, containing more than 400 vehicles and welcoming half a million visitors a year.

Edward Montagu succeeded his father, a prominent motoring pioneer who first brought motor cars to the notice of the future King Edward VII, in 1929. After returning from war service he took over the running of the Beaulieu estate, branding it "a white elephant" with typical forthrightness when he discovered its £1500 annual income was insufficient to run it. The wisest course would have been to sell it, he said, but neglecting his family's heritage would have been "unthinkable".

After a year he opened the house and grounds to the public as a way of boosting Beaulieu's income, and soon found that five veteran cars, displayed in the house's entrance hall to commemorate his father's achievements, were a major drawcard. In later life Montagu was always candid about the way this simple move governed the course of his life - leading to the establishment of a car collection to tell the story of Britain's motoring life, and establishing Montagu himself as pioneer of Britain's historic houses movement.