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St. Leonard's Chapel, New Forest, Hampshire

and St. Leonard's Grange

Saint Leonard's, 6 kilometres (3¾ miles) south-east of Beaulieu, was the site of one of a number of granges associated with Beaulieu Abbey, a network of outlying farms created to generate income and provide food to help support the abbey's Cistercian monks.

(1) St. Leonard's Chapel

St. Leonard's Chapel as it is today
St. Leonard's Chapel as it is today

St. Leonard's Barn, from the roadside at least, is the most prominent reminder hereabouts of the monks of Beaulieu Abbey.

But tucked away almost out of sight a little to the north-west of the barn, in the grounds of St. Leonard's Grange, are the remains of a chapel associated with the medieval grange.

Thought to date from the 14th century, although there have also been suggestions that it was erected prior to 1236, the chapel is a Scheduled Ancient Monument that is Grade 1 listed.

The walls stand to full height, except, that is, for part of north wall and east gable, and the remains of some windows and doorways can still be seen.

A number of internal features, too, apparently remain, such as a psicina, lockers and niches.

(2) St. Leonard's Chapel in the mid-19th century

An illustration of the chapel at St Leonard's, taken from 'The New Forest - its history and scenery' by John Wise, first published in 1862
An illustration of the chapel at St Leonard's, taken from 'The New Forest - its history and scenery' by John Wise, first published in 1862

John Wise in the early 1860s referred to St. Leonard's Chapel thus:

'Close to the old farmhouse, built from its ruins, stands a small roofless Decorated Chapel.

The west window, and the arch of the west doorway, still remain, and at the same end still project the corbels which supported the gallery.

In the east wall are canopied niches, under which stood figures; and on the south the piscina, and the broken conduit where the water ran, and two aumbries are still visible, whilst opposite them, in the present doorway, another aumbrie is inserted with its two grooves for shelves cut in the stone.'

As with St. Leonard's Barn, surprisingly little has changed in the intervening 160, or so, years.

(3) St. Leonard's Grange

St. Leonard's Grange, a rather imposing country house, also has a long and fascinating history. The current building dates back to around 1700, but it incorporates the remains of a medieval predecessor and that building's 16th century successor. It was remodelled in the 19th century.

Neither St. Leonard's Chapel nor St. Leonard's Grange are open to the public.

Walkers might be interested to learn, however, that the Solent Way, a 96 kilometre (60 mile) long-distance footpath linking Milford on Sea with Emsworth Harbour, passes along the adjacent road; whilst wildlife enthusiasts might wish to look out for birds, including the occasional little owl, that use St. Leonard's Barn's eastern gable crevices for nesting and roosting.

Furthermore, the track leading to the Needs Ore nature reserve is directly opposite the old barn. Note, though, that access to this reserve is by permit only - available from the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.

Find out more about St. Leonard's fascinating history

References:
The Beaulieu Cartulary: Edited by S.F. Hockey
An Album of Old Beaulieu: Susan Tomkins
The New Forest - its history and scenery: John Wise
Historic England - St. Leonard's Barn
Historic England - St. Leonard's Chapel
Historic England - St. Leonard's Grange


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Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley