Beaulieu Abbey, , was a Cistercian abbey located in Hampshire, England. It was founded in 1203-1204 by King John and (uniquely in Britain) peopled by 30 monks sent from the abbey of Cîteaux in France, the mother house of the Cistercian order. The Latin name of the monastery was Bellus Locus Regis ('The beautiful place of the king').
The abbey's buildings were of a scale and magnificence reflecting its status as an important royal foundation . The church was a vast cruciform structure in early gothic style and heavily influenced by French churches of the order, especially those of Cîteaux, Bonport and Clairvaux . The church was 102m long and had a semi-circular apse with 11 radiating chapels. The building took more than four decades to complete and was finally dedicated in 1246, in the presence of King Henry III and his queen, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and many prelates and nobles.
South of the church stood a cloister, ranged around which were the chapter house, refectory, kitchens, storehouse and quarters for the monks, lay brothers and the abbot. A separate infirmary complex lay to the east of the main buildings, connected to them by a passage . The abbey was surrounded by workshops, farm buildings, guesthouses, a mill, and extensive gardens and fishponds. Strongly fortified gatehouses controlled entry to the monastic enclosure, which was defended by a wall. A water gate allowed access to ships in the river.
Pope Innocent III constituted Beaulieu an "exempt abbey", meaning that the abbot had to answer to no bishop save the Pope himself. Beaulieu was also invested by the same Pope with special privileges of sanctuary, much stronger than usual and covering not only the abbey itself but all the 23.5ha precinct around that had been originally granted by King John. As Beaulieu was the only abbey in its region with such large and strongly enforced sanctuary rights it soon became a recourse of fugitives, both ordinary criminals and debtors and also political enemies of the government. Among these latter were Ann Neville, wife of Warwick the King-maker, after the battle of Barnet (1471). Twenty-six years later Perkin Warbeck fled to Beaulieu from the pursuing armies of Henry VII.
The last abbot of Beaulieu was Abbot Thomas Stevens, elected in 1536. Stevens was the former abbot of the recently dissolved abbey of Netley, across Southampton Water. Beaulieu managed to survive until April 1538, at which point it was finally forced to surrender to the government. Many of the monks were granted pensions, the abbot receiving 100 marks per year. Abbot Thomas ended his days as treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral. He died in 1550.
At the dissolution of the monastery in 1538, the Commissioners for the Dissolution reported to the government that thirty-two sanctuary-men, who were here for debt, felony, or murder, were living in houses in the monastic precincts with their wives and families. When the abbey was dissolved there was some debate about what to do with them, however, in the end it was decided, after pleading by the former abbot and certain government officials, to allow the debtors to live in their houses on the abbey grounds permanently. Pardons were given to some of the criminals too, including one Thomas Jeynes, a murderer.
As soon as he took over, Wriothesley set about building himself a house on the site. He demolished the church, as was common practice but, unusually, instead of converting the buildings around the cloister into a home he chose the great gatehouse as the core of his mansion (compare Wriothesley's other converted monastery at Titchfield Abbey or the conversion of neighbouring Netley Abbey). This survives - much extended - as the modern country house at Beaulieu known as Palace House. Lord Southampton preserved the monks' refectory, which he gave to the people of Beaulieu village to be their parish church, a function it still serves today. The west range of the abbey, known as the Domus was also saved. The rest of the abbey was allowed to fall into ruin.
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