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Preceptory, boundary, two mounds, fishpond and dam at Beaumont Leys

A Scheduled Monument in Beaumont Leys, Leicester

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.6782 / 52°40'41"N

Longitude: -1.1657 / 1°9'56"W

OS Eastings: 456501.408403

OS Northings: 309268.566938

OS Grid: SK565092

Mapcode National: GBR F71.PT

Mapcode Global: WHDJ4.2Y56

Entry Name: Preceptory, boundary, two mounds, fishpond and dam at Beaumont Leys

Scheduled Date: 10 April 1980

Last Amended: 3 February 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009196

English Heritage Legacy ID: 17095

County: Leicester

Electoral Ward/Division: Beaumont Leys

Built-Up Area: Leicester

Traditional County: Leicestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Stocking Farm and Beaumont Leys

Church of England Diocese: Leicester

Details

The monument at Beaumont Leys is situated on a small plateau known as Castle
Hill which falls away steeply on the north, west and south sides. The site
includes a ditched and banked enclosure containing two small mounds, a linear
boundary bank and ditch to the east and a large fishpond with a dam lying to
the north.

The preceptory is situated within a sub-rectangular enclosure measuring 200 x
150m in overall dimensions. The enclosure is formed by a bank measuring up to
1.5m high and an outer ditch measuring about 0.5m deep. An irregular surface
exists internally containing two mounds each about 1m high and 12m in
diameter. Comparison with an excavated Templar house at South Witham in
Lincolnshire indicates that below ground features of the preceptory buildings
exist around the perimeter of the enclosure, originally producing a courtyard
in the centre. To the east and parallel to the enclosure is a further bank and
ditch running north-south. The boundary runs for a distance of almost 300m,
with the bank being about 0.5m high and the ditch 0.5m deep, and formed part
of a former boundary to control stock movement. A stream situated to the west
of the preceptory enclosure was dammed to the north to form a large fishpond.
The dam measures over 100m long and up to 3m high and 8m wide. A division of
the dam in the centre marks the site of a former sluice gate. The present
stream runs to the west of the fishpond but the original channel to the
fishpond can be seen as a discolouration in the vegetation south of the pond.
The resulting fishpond, now a marshy area, measures 100 x 75m and contains a
small island used for breeding water-fowl in the medieval period.

In 1252 Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, gave the land immediately to the
south-east of Beaumont Leys to Leicester Abbey and at the same time gave
Beaumont Leys itself to the religious order known as the Knights Templars.
That order later fell foul of the Pope and the lands were seized by the King
in 1308. In due course Beaumont Leys and most of the Templars land was granted
to the Knights Hospitallers in whose hands it remained until 1482 when the
Hospitallers exchanged it with Edward IV for the Rectory of Boston. The land
is described as being surrounded by a pale and as the area is later described
as a park this may well explain why the king, noted for his love of hunting,
wished to acquire it.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A preceptory is a monastery of the military orders of Knights Templars and
Knights Hospitallers (also known as the Knights of St John of Jerusalem). At
least one preceptory of the Knights of St Lazarus is also known to have
existed in England. Preceptories were founded to raise revenues to fund the
12th and 13th century crusades to Jerusalem. In the 15th century the
Hospitallers directed their revenue toward defending Rhodes from the Turks. In
addition, the preceptories of the Templars functioned as recruiting and
training barracks for the knights whilst those of the Hospitallers provided
hospices which offered hospitality to pilgrims and travellers and distributed
alms to the poor. Lazarine preceptories had leper hospitals attached. Like
other monastic sites, the buildings of preceptories included provision for
worship and communal living. Their most unusual feature was the round nave of
their major churches which was copied from that of the Holy Sepulchre in
Jerusalem. Indeed their use of such circular churches was unique in medieval
England. Other buildings might include hospital buildings, workshops or
agricultural buildings. These were normally arranged around a central open
space, and were often enclosed within a moat or bank and ditch. From available
documentary sources it can be estimated that the Templars held 57 preceptories
in England. At least 14 of these were later taken over by the Hospitallers,
who held 76 sites. As a relatively rare monument class, all sites exhibiting
good survival of archaeological remains will be identified as nationally
important.

The preceptory site at Beaumont Leys survives well and has good documentary
evidence. The associated fishpond has one of the finest examples of a medieval
dam in Leicestershire.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Liddle, P, A Guide to 20 Archaeological Sites in Leicestershire, (1983), 22-3

Source: Historic England

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