SCHEDULE ENTRY COPY
ENTRY IN THE SCHEDULE OF MONUMENTS COMPILED AND MAINTAINED BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER SECTION 1 OF THE ANCIENT MONUMENTS AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL AREAS ACT 1979 AS AMENDED.
MONUMENT: Preceptory, boundary, two mounds, fishpond and dam at Beaumont Leys
NATIONAL MONUMENT NO: 17095
NATIONAL GRID REFERENCE: SK56500926
DESCRIPTION OF THE MONUMENT
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 metres x 150 metres in overall dimensions. The enclosure is formed by a bank measuring up to 1.5 metres high and an outer ditch measuring about 0.5 metres deep. An irregular surface exists internally containing two mounds each about 1 metre high and 12 metres 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 300 metres, with the bank being about 0.5 metres high and the ditch 0.5 metres 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 100 metres long and up to 3 metres high and 8 metres 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 metres x 75 metres 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.
ASSESSMENT OF IMPORTANCE
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.
Monument included in the Schedule on 10th April 1980 as:
COUNTY/NUMBER: Leicestershire 197
NAME: Beaumont Lodge, Leicester
The reference of this monument is now:
NATIONAL MONUMENT NUMBER: 17095
NAME: Preceptory, boundary, two mounds, fishpond and dam at Beaumont Leys
SCHEDULING AFFIRMED ON 3rd February 1993
SIGNED BY: C Edwards
On behalf of The Secretary of State for National Heritage