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)
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.
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.
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.
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!
In 1995 Bective Abbey was used as a location in the film Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson.
Sources: Treasures 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:
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.