bective abbey print

18th century print of Bective Abbey (from Grose's, Antiquities of Ireland)

The ruins of Bective Abbey are to be found on the west bank of the River Boyne, about four miles from Navan on the road to Kilmessan.

It was a Cistercian Abbey, the first daughter house of Melifont. It was founded in 1147 by Murchard O’Melaghlin, King of Midhe, and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the late 12th or 13th century the Abbey was entirely rebuilt.   In 1195 Hugh de Lacy’s headless body was reinterred at the Abbey, his head going to St. Thomas' Abbey, Dublin. (Eventually, the head and body were reunited and reinterred in St. Thomas' in Dublin)

bective abbeyIn its day, Bective Abbey was very powerful and the abbot was ex efficio one of the spiritual lords of parliament.

By the 15th century however, a decline had set in and the buildings had to be remodelled on a

significantly reduced scale.

Of the original O’Melaghlin Abbey, nothing at all survives.

 


Of the 12th – 13th century buildings there remain the chapter house with central column, part of the west range and fragments of the aisled cruciform church. In the 15th century the church was shortened on the west side, the aisles removed, new south and west ranges built inside the lines of the old cloister, and a smaller cloister erected.

The Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536, after which it was turned into a fortified mansion by Thomas Agard, the civil servant who took over its lease. The possessons of the abbey at this time included about 1600 acres of land, a water mill and a fishing weir on the Boyne.

cloisters bective

The south and west alleys of this latest cloister (left and below) survive

with interesting details on the arcade.

The remains of the post dissolution, fortified mansion, are also of interest.

 

cloister garth bective abbey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: © Navan & District Historical Society

 

According to an old tradition recorded by Lord Dunsany in "My Ireland" 1937, the students, leaving the monastery to go to Trim took up half a mile of the road!

Trivia:

In 1995 Bective Abbey was used as a location in the film Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson.

SourcesTreasures of the Boyne Valley, Peter Harbison,  Gill & McMillan, 2003

In 2009 to 2011 excavations were carried out at Bective Abbey.  For a full description go to:
http://bective.wordpress.com/2010/07/

For the blog of the excavations carried out in 2012 under Dr. Geraldine Stout; www.bective excavations.ie


Bective House, The Times, 26th Dec. 1908: Hunting Mansion for sale

The residence of the late Mr. John Watson.

This magnificent residence, known as "Bective" near Navan, Ireland, occupied by the late Mr. John Watson for many years Master of the Meath Foxhounds is now to be sold.

The mansion house overlooking the River Boyne, stands in the centre of beautifully timbered grounds, and is approached by a long carriage drive, with lodge at entrance. There is also extensive modern stabling for 80 horses, farm buildings, fox hound kennels and cottages for large staff of men, riding school, coach house, motor house, asphalt floor, and large range of loose boxes.

The mansion is in splendid order, and contains four sitting rooms, bathrooms (hot and cold water), W.C.s, men’s rooms, dormitories, excellent water supply, acetylene light installation of latest type, sanitary arrangements in perfect condition.

The lands contain about 170 acres of which 115 acres are good grazing land. There is an excellent garden, and the house is surrounded by well laid out pleasure grounds, all beautifully situated on the banks of the Boyne. The lands are well planted, and there is some shooting, while the river supplies plenty of salmon and trout fishing.

Bective Railway Station is within one mile of the house, which is situate in the centre of Meath hunting country and within easy reach of Kildare hounds.


Bective Abbey

 

On the west bank of the River Boyne are the ruins of Bective Abbey about four miles from Navan on the road to Kilmessan.   The first daughter house of Melifont, it was founded in 1147 by Murchard O’Melaghlin, King of Midhe, and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.   In the late 12th or 13th century the Abbey was entirely rebuilt.   In 1159 Hugh de Lacy’s headless body was reinterred at the Abbey, his head going to St. Thomas Abbey, Dublin.   In its day, Bective Abbey was very powerful and the abbot was ex efficio one of the spiritual lords of parliament.   By the 15th century however, a decline had set in and the buildings had to be remodelled on a significantly reduced scale.   After the Dissolution, the Abbey was turned into a fortified mansion.

Of the original O’Melaghlin Abbey, nothing at all survives.  Of the 12th – 13th century buildings there remain the chapter house with central column, part of the west range and fragments of the aisled cruciform church.   In the 15th century the church was shortened on the west side, the aisles removed, new south and west ranges built inside the lines of the old cloister, and a smaller cloister erected.   The south and west alleys of this latest cloister survive with interesting details on the arcade.   The remains of the post dissolution, fortified mansion, are also of interest.

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Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1837.

BECTIVE, a parish, in the barony of UPPER NAVAN, county of MEATH, and province of LEINSTER, 3 miles (S. W.) from Navan; containing 671 inhabitants, This parish, called also De Beatitudine, was granted by Charles I. to Sir Richard Bolton, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in 1639, and is now the property of his descendant, Richard Bolton, Esq. It derived considerable celebrity from a Cistertian monastery founded here, in 1146 or 1152, by Murchard O'Melaghlin, King of Meath, which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and richly endowed: this establishment, of which the abbot was a lord in parliament, continued to flourish, and in 1195, by order of Matthew, Archbishop of Cashel, at that time apostolic legate, and John, Archbishop of Dublin, the body of Hugh de Lacy, which had been for a long time undiscovered, was interred here with great solemnity, but his head was placed in the abbey of St. Thomas, Dublin. In the same year, the Bishop of Meath, and his Archdeacon, with the Prior of the abbey of Duleek, were appointed by Pope Innocent III. to decide a controversy between the monks of this abbey and the canons of St. Thomas, Dublin, respecting their right to the body of De Lacy, which was decided in favour of the latter.

 

Hugh de Lacy, who was one of the English barons that accompanied Henry II. on his expedition for the invasion of Ireland, received from that monarch a grant of the entire territory of Meath, and was subsequently appointed chief governor of the country. He erected numerous forts within his territory, encouraging and directing the workmen by his own presence, and often labouring in the trenches with his own hands. One of these forts he was proceeding to erect at Durrow, in the King's county, in 1186, on the site of an abbey, which profanation of one of their most ancient and venerable seats of devotion so incensed the native Irish and inflamed their existing hatred, that whilst De Lacy was employed in the trenches, stooping to explain his orders, a workman drew out his battle-axe, which had been concealed under his long mantle, and at one blow smote off his head. The abbey and its possessions, including the rectory of Bective, were surrendered in the 34th of Henry VIII., and were subsequently granted to Alexander Fitton.

The parish, which is. situated on the river Boyne, and on the road from Trim to Navan, comprises 3726 statute acres, chiefly under tillage; the system of agriculture is improved, and there is neither waste land nor bog. Limestone of very good quality is abundant, and is quarried both for building and for burning into lime, which is the principal manure. Bective House, the seat of R. Bolton, Esq., is a handsome modern residence, pleasantly situated on the banks of the river Boyne. The parish is in the diocese of Meath, and, being abbey land,is wholly tithe-free: the rectory is impropriate in Mr. Bolton. There is no church; the Protestant parishioners attend divine service in the neighbouring parishes of Kilmessan and Trim.

In the R. C. divisions it is included in the union or district of Navan; the chapel at Robinstown is a neat modern edifice. There is a school near the R. C. chapel, for which it is intended to build a new school-room; and there is also a hedge school of 21 boys and 19 girls. The ruins of the ancient abbey occupy a conspicuous site on the west bank of the river, and have a very picturesque appearance: they consist chiefly of a lofty square pile of building, the front of which is flanked by a square tower on each side; the walls and chimneys of the spacious hall, and part of the cloisters, are remaining; the latter present a beautiful range of pointed arches resting on clustered columns enriched with sculpture, and displaying some interesting details. There are also some picturesque remains of an ancient chapel in the vicinity. Bective gives the inferior title of Earl to the Marquess of Headfort.

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Church of Ireland Gazette 28-9-1923.

Wanted in Country Rectory, a girl (Protestant) to help in housework;no cooking; very small family. Apply, Bective Rectory, Navan, Co. Meath.

Church of Ireland Gazette 17-8-1923.

Bective Parish.

The Bective Sunday School summer picnic took the form this year of an outing to the sea (Laytown). Through the kindness of parishioners and friends, vehicles were provided which enabled young and old, children and parents, to catch the early train from Navan to Laytown on Friday, August 3rd; and as the weather was perfect, the seaside quite looked its best and provided, plus "meals" wadings, excursions and games, a day of enjoyment which will long live in the memory of one and all.