Preceptory, boundary, two mounds, fishpond and dam at Beaumont Leys
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- City of Leicester (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SK 56508 09265
Reasons for Designation
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
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.
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 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.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Liddle, P, A Guide to 20 Archaeological Sites in Leicestershire, (1983), 22-3
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing