Knights Templar: All Hallows by the Tower

One of the oldest churches in the city of London, has to be “All Hallows” which stands on Tower Hill, to the west of the Tower of London.  This fine old church which dates back to the seventh century, has had a bloody history, it is where the bodies of those who were executed as enemies of the state were received.

All Hallows Church was founded in the late seventh century by the Abbey of Barking, and was known as “All Hallows Barking.  Traces still exist of the first church that stood on that site, in the under croft with its three subterranean chapels.

According to Celtic legend, “Bran the Blessed” an ancient warrior, who lost his life on the battlefield, had his severed head brought from the Irish battlefield, and buried facing France, to ward off French invasion.

Brian the Blessed is believed to have links to Arthurian legend and the Holy Grail, and to this day is revered by modern-day Druids.

Following the arrest of the “Order of the Knights Templar, a relationship between the Templars and All Hallows existed, and they were brought to London and imprisoned in The Tower of London.

William de la More, the Master of the Temple on English lands, accompanied by members of the Order, were marched from Tower of London to All Hallows Church on the 29th April 1311.  William read out a pre-written statement, to those present:

We believe all that the holy church believes and teaches us, we declare that our religion is founded on the vows of obedience, poverty, chastity and the aiding in the conquest of the holy land of Jerusalem… And we firmly deny and contradict one and all of us, all many of heresy and evil doings, contrary to the faith of the holy church.

William pleaded with those present, that he and his fellow brethren, be treated like the true children of the church that they be… and called upon other Christians at attest to their Christian beliefs and acts.

And if in our examinations we have said or done anything wrong through ignorance of a word, since we are unlettered men, we are ready to suffer for the holy church like him who died for us on the blessed cross… we pray that our examination maybe read and heard before ourselves and all the people.  In the very language and words in which it was given to you and written down on paper.

Finally, an agreement could be reached which was acceptable to both parties, which allowed the remaining Knights Templar to leave prison, and King Edward II, to have played a part in the final outcome.

The Templars agreed to admit to some minor irregularities, for which they could do penance for.  The physically fit made a statement of guilt and appealed for re-admission to the church of St. Pauls, whilst those less able were heard at All Hallows.

The Order of the Knights Templar, brought back to England, altar stones from Athlit Castle in Acre, their last commanding position in the Holy Land, before being pushed out by Saracen Forces.  The stones are now located under the present high altar at All Hallows.  A monument to the Knights Templar…

All Hallows Church is where the bodies of executed traitors, taken from the Tower of London, would rest awaiting burial.  Many a powerful figure who had fallen from grace could end up here, like: Sir Thomas More.

William Penn, he who founded Pennsylvania in the U.S. was baptised at All Hallows in 1644.  In 1797 John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the U.S. was married here.

Admiral Penn, father of William Penn, saved the church in 1666, during the Great Fire of London.

All Hallows Church suffered immense damage during World War Two, most of the wooden sections destroyed.  All that survived being Tower – Walls – Grinling Gibbons carved font cover.

The under croft was rebuilt as a museum for curiosities; containing a Saxon Cross – Crow’s Nest from Ernest Shackleton’s ship that took them to the Antarctic.  A stone altar, linked to the Knights Templar.

Knights Templar: St.Mary’s at Shipley

It is said Hugh de Payens, founder and Grand Master of the Knights Templar, visited West Sussex in the late 1120’s.

St.Mary’s Church at Shipley in West Sussex has to be one of the oldest Templar Churches still standing to this day.  The nave – tower and chancel are believed to date back to 1140.

What we here is a tall yet roomy church with a central tower with two supporting arches.  The size reflects the growing power and prestige associated with the Order of the Knights Templar, a symbol of its enduring faith.  This plain design seems very appropriate for this monastic order, which prides itself with simplicity and integrity.

The original manor and land was given to the ‘Order of the Knights Templar’ in 1139 by Philip de Braose, gifted in words:

I give and grant unto God and to the blessed Mary and the soldiers of the Temple of Solomon.  For ever in perpetual alms a certain portion of earthly lands which God has granted me to possess in this world namely the land of HERSCHAPELIA (Shipley) and the church…

Shipley in the main was an agricultural preceptor, and its name comes from the Old English ‘sceapleah’ which means a place where sheep are kept.  The village of Shipley still exists to this day, along with St.Mary’s Parish Church.

The Church of St.Mary’s is known for its Romanesque features; the arch of the west door, corbels located on the supporting arches of the tower.

A Templar mooring on the River Adur, or smaller tributaries which flows through the village.

Templar trace evidence in the form of a moat to the north and east of the church, and fishponds to the southeast.

A 13th century reliquary, made of Limoges in the form of a casket, with a pitched roof in copper and enamelled with Saints and the Crucifixion in gold and blue.  Sadly, all that remains is a replica, for the original was stolen in 1976.

At the time of the Templars arrest, the manor was valued at £8, church at £13 and goods at £73.

Following the suppression of the Knights Templar, trouble emerged, who might use the Order’s property, before it was seized by the ‘Order of the hospitallers, and held until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Located to the west of the church, stood a modern structure, an 1879 windmill, once home to the writer; Hilaire Belloc and later the fictional home of Jonathan Creek.

Knights Templar: Strood Temple Manor

One of the oldest churches in the city of London, has to be “All Hallows” which stands on Tower Hill, to the west of the Tower of London.  This fine old church which dates back to the seventh century, has had a bloody history, it is where the bodies of those who were executed as enemies of the state were received.

All Hallows Church was founded in the late seventh century by the Abbey of Barking, and was known as “All Hallows Barking.  Traces still exist of the first church that stood on that site, in the under croft with its three subterranean chapels.

According to Celtic legend, “Bran the Blessed” an ancient warrior, who lost his life on the battlefield, had his severed head brought from the Irish battlefield, and buried facing France, to ward off French invasion.

Brian the Blessed is believed to have links to Arthurian legend and the Holy Grail, and to this day is revered by modern-day Druids.

Following the arrest of the “Order of the Knights Templar, a relationship between the Templars and All Hallows existed, and they were brought to London and imprisoned in The Tower of London.

Knights Templar: Temple Ewell

In the mid 1100’s, the Templar’s tore down a former wooden Saxon Church, and replaced it with the Church of SS Peter and Paul, whereupon they founded the preceptory at Ewell in Kent.

King John the Plantagenet King had attended Ewell, a few years prior to signing the Magna Carta.  It is said John disagreed with the then Pope, as to who had the right to appoint the Archbishop of Canterbury; Pope or an English King.  In 1207 the Pope proclaimed an interdict against England, which meant England had no church or lifeline to Rome.  John retaliated by seizing church property.  In 1209 John was excommunicated, and in 1213 was told to submit himself to the Vatican or face stern consequences.

John’s actions led to his excommunication from the church, leaving him open to attack by ambitious barons.  John had no choice, he had to make his submission to the papal legate, which he did so on the 15th May 1213.

According to Mathew Paris, renowned historian of St. Albans, King John and the legate met in a Templar House near Dover, but which house is unclear.  Temple Ewell or Western Heights?

Following the suppression of the Knights Templar in 1314, “The Order of the Knights Hospitaller” took over Temple Ewell as ordered by the Pope.   

In 1864 the Reverend Hales undertook a survey of Temple Ewell preceptory, upon which he discovered remains of several buildings and a tiny chapel, measuring 15 feet x 15 feet.  Evidence indicated buildings had been enlarged and extensions built.

Knights Templar: Bisham Abbey

Bisham Abbey in Buckinghamshire is not an Abbey in the true sense of the word, but a manor house built by the Templars, as part of a preceptory on the banks of the River Thames.

Robert de Ferres, Earl of Derby who lived during the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154), a Norman King, gave the land and manor to the Templars.

Templar remains consist of; porch – hall – undercroft – offices – upper chamber of medieval house.

At the Templar trials, one John de Donyngton reported that the Templars had four heads. 1) London  2) Temple Bruer  3) Bisham Abbey 4) North of the Humber, and all these were rumoured to have magical properties.

In 1320, following the suppression of the ‘Order of the Knights Templar’ the ‘Order of the Hospitaller’s were supposed to take over the property.  However, King Edward II had other ideas, becoming a gift for his lover; Hugh Despenser, who was lated beheaded.

Located on the first floor of Bisham Abbey, one finds a room dedicated to King Henry VIII, where he stayed during the plague, as it swept across London.

King Henry VIII handed over Bisham Abbey as part of his divorce settlement with Anne of Cleves.

King Edward VI had her moved to similar properties, and in 1552 Sir Philip Hoby moved in.

Queen Elizabeth II was known to have spent much time at Bisham Abbey, as a guest of the Hoby’s whilst under house arrest by order of her sister ‘Mary Tudor.’

Margaret Hoby’s ghost was often seen washing her hands in shame in the upper rooms, for beating her son to death.

Located at the north-eastern end of the great hall, a restored painting of SS Peter and John the Evangelist can be found.

Knights Templar: St.Mary’s Church – Sompting

St.Mary’s Church of Sompting in West Sussex was originally of Saxon origin, and taken over and expanded by Templars.  The last remaining example of ‘Rhinish Helm’ style.  Some Saxon elements have survived, including high windows and stone plaster strips.  Here Saxon meets Norman forces, Templars meet Hospitaller’s.  Each holy order having its own surviving chapel.

The original church dates back to around 960 AD.  The church and land were given to the ‘Order of the Knights Templar in 1154.  The Templars commenced a building program; a new nave and chancel was built, using the original Saxon plan.  They added north and south transepts, which were separate from the main church, and they were designed to function as private chapels, for use by the order.

The south transept was built in 1180, and was built lower than the rest of the building, to accommodate a small chancel and sacristy.  Located on the west wall, one finds an arch of an original Norman window, and an abbot carving on the east wall.  It is believed the south door leading to this chapel was originally higher to admit banners.  The Norman font that stands in this church, stands on a modern-day pillar, and to the right one finds a piscina.

Knights Templar: Balantrodoch Preceptory

The Templars had a large number of estates in Scotland, and the 1185 inventory of Templar properties only applied to England, and the inventory which should have taken place after their arrest, never took place in Scotland.  In 1312, the Pope decreed the suppression of the Templars, but King Edward II locked in conflict with Scotland had no intention of enforcing it.

In 1153 King David I of Scotland (1124-1153), granted the knights Templar a parcel of land, to the south of Edinburgh.  Here upon this site, the Order of the Knights Templar established a Preceptory at, and so was born; Temple Church, Temple Mid-Lothian.  This Preceptory became the greatest centre of the Templars in Scotland, where upon they administered their Scottish sites, for the lifetime of the Order, across Scotland.

A gift from a Scottish King carried much weight, as others followed in his footsteps in granting them lands.

King Malcolm IV of Scotland (1153-1165) donated a complete homestead within every burgh throughout his kingdom of Scotland.

William the Lion (1165-1214) gave to the Knights Templar, the barony of Maryculter which comprised of 8,000 acres.

It is said Alexander I – II & III along with Robert I & II, James I – III & IV went on to increase Templar Estates from the Royal Exchequer.

Members of Scotland’s nobility, bestowed gifts upon the “Order” which included much lands.

With the Order of the Knights Templar suppressed in 1312, Templars were outlawed, and their lands and buildings were supposed to pass into Hospitalliers hands, whose Scottish seat was at Torphichen in West Lothian.  The Pope’s orders were seldom followed, as was the case here.

The old Templar Church continued to serve the people of the parish for many centuries, until it fell into ruin in the 19th century.

The ruined church is located to the west of the village, in the South Esk valley, which runs alongside the River Esk.  It is believed the church dates back to early 14th century, and still standing within, one can find late gothic tracery, with animal carvings at the end of the mouldings, located above the old windows.

The original church had a round nave, like many Templar churches, a look alike of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  The church roof has long since gone… with some walls still remaining.  The west end was the entrance to the church, with the altar at the east end.  Surprisingly the carved piscina had survived, with old niches carved into the walls, where once would have housed tombs, but these are long gone now. 

Gravestones in the old graveyard bearing the symbols of carved skull and crossbones, one associated with death and the Knights Templar.  Masonic symbols can be found; the trowel denotes the symbol of a builder.  An egg timer = the passing of time, plus the classic compass and set square.

Village Headstone: John Craig Outerston, a farmer who died in 1742 is shown wearing Sunday best clothes with his children.

A solitary preceptory arch stands in a field to the eastern part of the village, once the main entrance to a former   stands Templars Manor House.

One event which involved William a preceptor and Templar of Ballentrodoch and his wife Christiane of Esperston.

William gifted the family home to the Templar Order in return for renting the said property, thus creating a life without financial hardships.

William suddenly died, his wife Christiane was penniless, and now the family home belonged to the Templar Order.  Which led to a Templar preceptor casting poor Christiane and her children from the former family home.  As she clutched at the door, her fingers were cut off by a sword at the hands of a Templar.

A distraught and homeless Christiane went to Newbattle Abbey where Edward I was staying and pleaded her case to him, and he so ordered her property be returned to her.  Not long after, war broke out and she found herself evicted once again. Richard her son, pleaded her case to Brian de Jay of the Templar Order.  Her property was once again returned to her, in return for her son acting as a guide for Welsh troops under the command of Brian de Jay.  It was nothing more than a trap, for Richard was murdered by Welsh troops by order of Brian de Jay.

At the Templar Trials, Brian de Jay was accused of acts of heresy, even though he could not answer the charges, having been killed at the ‘Battle of Falkirk.’  One Thomas Tocci de Thoroldeby claimed he had referred to Christ as being a mere man, and not a God.

Local legends has it that some of the Templar Treasure from Paris made its way to Scotland, and was hidden by Templar Knights at Balantrodoch.

The saying goes: “Twixt the oak and the elm tree.  You will find buried the millions free.”

Wikipedia Images:
Balantrodoch Chapel
Preceptory Arch

In Search of the Knights Templar by Simon Brighton.

Knights Templar: Saddlescombe Farm and Preceptory

Knights Templar: Saddlescombe Farm & Preceptory

The Order of the Knights Templar were originally founded with the express purpose of protecting Christian pilgrims on route to the Holy Land, following the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders.  A Christian Army in the employ of the Pope, doing God’s work.

Saddlescombe Farm, some four miles north-west of Brighton was given to the Templars in the 1220’s by Geoffrey de Say, the 5th Earl of Warenne.  William de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey added a grant of forty shillings rent from Lewes.  Around that time Simon le Counte gave them the churches of Southwick and Woodmancote along with its tithes.

The Order of the Templars turned it into a Preceptory, it was here where profits from farm and other Templar properties in the area would be collected and used for the knight’s adventures overseas.

The Order of the Knights Templar, were a religious order, and Saddlescombe Preceptory would have been run by monks, for no knights would have lived here at that time.

Alan Trenchmere granted them land in Shoreham, upon which the Templars built a chapel which passed to the Carmelite Friars of Shoreham.  One Theobald de Englescheville granted them the Manor of Compton in Berwick.  In return all that was asked of them was to provide a chaplain to celebrate the souls of their donor: King Henry III and Queen Eleanor.

The 1308 survey of the Templars Preceptory consisted of much property bestowed upon them by those believing in the Order, was passed to the Order of the Hospitallers.  The Earl of Surrey was granted permission to use land and buildings for himself and his illegitimate son Sir Thomas Nerford up until 1397, when Saddlescombe was restored to the Hospitallers.

Knights Templar: Denny Abbey

From the time of St. Augustine’s mission to England in AD597 to the reign of King Henry VIII, monasteries formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in England.  Monasteries were built to house communities of monks, canons and priests, living a common life of religious observance under a systematic form of discipline.  It is believed some seven hundred monasteries were founded in England.  They belonged to a wide variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy.  As a result, basic appearance and layout differ slightly, but they all possess the basic elements; church, accommodation and work buildings.

Monasteries were woven into the fabric of medieval society, acting as centres of worship, learning, charity, they also held large areas of land, immense wealth and political influence.  Many monasteries acted as the centre of a wide network which included; parish churches, alms houses, farming estates and tenant villages.

Some 225 religious houses belonged to the “Order of Saint Augustine.”  The Augustine’s were not monks, but communities of canons or priests, who lived under the rule of Saint Augustine.  From the 12th century they undertook work in parishes, running alms houses, schools and hospitals, whilst preaching in parish churches.  It was from the churches; they received the bulk of their income.

Denny Abbey is a monastic priory complex, home to three religious orders between the 12th and 16th centuries.  It is the only property in England which was transferred from Benedictine to Knights Templar.

Denny Abbey in Cambridgeshire:

As a knights fighting life came to a close, what would happen to him?  An English Knight, would retire from active service, returning home, to the land of his birth, and seek refuge in one of the “Order’s Hospitals.” He would swap the dusty heat of the Holy Land, for the biting winds of the Cambridgeshire Fens. 

Denny Abbey would carry on its monastic traditions, caring for the sick and elderly Knights Templar.

Excavation of the site, revealed Templar graves containing bodies riddled with degenerative diseases and arthritic conditions.  It is believed the repetitive training a knight had to endure was responsible.

A grave located outside the west-door had a pewter chalice and a round lead disc, bearing a geometric cross, denoting he be a Templar priest buried with his remains.

In 1159, Monks of the Benedictine Order, built the first church on this site, as a dependent priory of Ely Cathedral.  In 1170, they passed it across to the Order of the Knights Templar.  Denny was listed as the first building in Cambridgeshire.

Around this time, foundations were laid for a preceptory, ten miles to the south at Great Wilbraham.  Its duties were to provide Denny Abbey with fresh food, in return Denny paid forty shillings a year, for a priest.

When the Templar’s took over the church from the Benedictines, one of their first builds on the site, was a retirement home for the elderly knights.

With the end of the Order of the Knights Templar in 1308, came their arrest.  Few valuables were found in the 1308 inventory; silver chalices, bowls and silk cloths.

Less than a dozen knights were found at Denny Abbey, and one was found to be insane, two were crippled.  They were taken to Cambridge Castle, where they remained until the 30th September 1309, when they were passed over to the Constable of the Tower of London, except for William de Mawringges who had died in captivity.

William de la Forde, the preceptor of Denny, claimed he had been a Templar for some forty-two years, and witnessed as many as a hundred brothers admitted to the order. 

One of the members; Robert the Scot had been a member of the Knights Templar on two separate occasions.  First time was in Syria some twenty-six years earlier, around 1283 but left for some two years, before going to Rome for confession and absolution, and thus resumed Templar life at Nicosia in Cyprus.

The remaining Templars from Denny did penance at “All Hallows Church” close to the Tower of London, and were later returned to the Fens and admitted into local religious houses.

The Templar settlement at Great Wilbraham functioned as a hospital for the Order of the Knights Templar, with the Manor House being gifted to the Templars by Peter Malauney in 1226.

The church was dedicated to St. Nicholas and dates back to the 13th century.  Built by the Templars or developed from a pre-existing Saxon Church.

In 1313 following the suppression of the Knights Templar, it passed into the hands of the Hospitallers.  The site was later acquired by the Franciscans who established a nunnery upon the site.  They built a church, refectory, accommodation for nuns and guests.

The buildings were acquired by Mary de Valence, the Countess of Pembroke and founder of Pembroke College in Cambridge.  Under her direction the Order of the Franciscan Nuns, the Poor Clares from Waterbeach occupied the site until the Dissolution of the Monasteries, then Denny Abbey was turned into a farmhouse.

The grounds of Denny Abbey contain traces of outbuildings.  Under the lawn to the east, foundations of the original church lie, along with transepts and nave.

Normally Templar churches and chapels lie east to west, but in this case it is more north-east to west.

Knights Templar: Temple Church (Cornwall)

As one gazes across Cornwall’s Moors, an ancient land, a desolate land.  England’s Moors, remote outposts of the Templar’s, when the true wilderness still existed.  They made their mark here, though much of their presence has been erased by time, and knights lie in unmarked graves.

Temple Church its proper name is “Church of St. Catherine, built in a valley at the foothills of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.  This tiny 12th century church, founded by the “Order of the Knights Templar.”  They who offered protection and hospitality to journeying pilgrims on route to Rome and onto the Holy Land.

Pilgrims journeyed from Wales and Ireland, taking the land crossing across Cornwall’s Moors, on route to the port of Fowey, and make their sea crossing to the continent.

Friday the 13th October 1307 was a bad date for the Templars, for King Philip IV of France and the then Pope Clement V ordered mass arrests of the Knights Templars in France and across Europe.  On the 11th May 1310, fifty-four Templars were burnt at the stake near Paris.  In March of 1314, Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Templar and Geoffrey de Charney were burnt at the stake in Paris.

With the Order of the Knights Templar disbanded and their wealth and property passed to the Knights Hospitallers also known as the Order of St. John.  In 16th century Tudor England, King Henry VIII disbanded all religious houses during the “Dissolution of the Monasteries.”

Temple Church gained a dark reputation in 16th century England, it became known as a place where weddings were performed, without banns being read or marriage licences being granted.  These illicit elopements came to an end in 1744 when Temple Church/Church of St. Catherine came under episcopal jurisdiction.

In 1584, the writer John Norden described it as a lawless church, one with no rules: Suicide victims could be buried on consecrated land, a practice which was not permitted elsewhere in England.  It was not until 1823 a statute was passed making it legal for suicide victims to be buried on consecrated ground.