The Beaumont Leys Medieval Earthworks are located on a small plateau called Castle Hill to the north of Astill Lodge Road, on land to the west of Kingsbridge Crescent and Cherrybrook Close. They comprise the remains of a Preceptory (monastery house of the Knights Templars), boundary, two mounds, fishpond and dam). The Monument is not located within a Conservation Area. National Monument Number 17095. Grid reference: SK56500926.
A large rectangular platform containing several other earthworks, standing in a pasture field. The main enclosure lies on the edge of Beaumont Leys plateau overlooking Anstey. The land fails away steeply to the north, west and south. The enclosure is rectangular measuring 160 metres by 120 metres with a bank and external ditch which disappears on the west side.
The site was disturbed considerably in the 19th century when it was used by the City of Leicester for sewerage purposes, making it difficult to identify original features, although two mounds and a small pond in the south-east corner appear to be ancient. The site is likened to one at South Witham i.e. with buildings around the perimeter of the enclosure leaving a courtyard with an inner court in one corner for the main hall chambers and chapel. To the east is another bank possibly for enclosure of stock, to the north a fishpond was produced by a great earthen dam about 4 metres high, blocking the Valley of the brook.
The function of this site has been discussed widely since attention was first drawn to it in 1891. Originally it was believed to be Pre-historic although the existence of the fishpond adjacent led some historians to believe it to be of a much later date. The site formed part of the woodland area known as Leicester Forest.
Around the time of the Domesday Book (1086), it became the property of Hugh de Grentmesnil and descended from him to the Earls of Leicester. In 1252 Simon De Montfort gave land to the south-east of Beaumont Leys to Leicester Abbey and it may be that at the same time he gave Beaumont Leys itself to the Knights Templars (a religious order formed during the Crusades). The Order fell foul of the Pope, was dissolved and the lands acquired by the King in 1308.
In due course the land was granted to the Knights Hospitallers and it remained in their custody until 1482, when they exchanged it with the King for the Rectory of Boston. By 1530 it was described as pasture and remained as such until used for sewerage purposes in the 19th century.
For further information on the Beaumont Leys Monument, contact the City Archaeologist in the Design and Conservation Team
The map below is based upon OS Mapping with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Crown Copyright. Unauthorised reproduction infringes copyright and may lead to prosecution. Leicester City Council Licence LA 078417.