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: Western Heights Ruins

The ruins of a small Templar flint chapel stands on high ground to the west of Dover, on a site named; Western Heights, consisting of a round nave and rectangular chancel.  In its hey day it would have stood alone on top of a cliff, possibly with stone or white washed walls, with a timber or thatched roof.  It would have been a place for worship for Templars embarking to the Holy Land, and a known landmark to welcome them.

The circular nave would measure thirty-two feet in diameter, with a channel of twenty-six foot long and twenty feet wide.

It is believed the small Dover Chapel was the site of Plantagenet King John’s humiliating submission to the papal legate which ended his dispute with the pope.  Like many other round churches, fell into disuse and ruin over the years,

Dover Chapel’s use was required in the early 19th century as a lookout point, against the expected French invasion by Napoleon.

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 Bruer

Temple Bruer

Temple Bruer Church and Buildings

Temple Bruer emerged in the middle of the vast Lincoln Heath, which spread out southwards from the city of Lincoln.  The heath sparsely populated, and during the Templar times, would have been desolate and forbidding.

The Order of the Knights Templar, were bequeathed the land by William of Ashby in the mid 12th century.  The Templar’s with their renowned vigour and enterprise built a great preceptor and established a productive estate.

As the Templar’s built their property, rumours spoke of a tunnel running under the heath, from the preceptor to the village of Wellingmore, some two miles away.  Templar properties were often associated with such clandestine features.

Temple Bruer Church Plan

Church Plan

The Temple Bruer estate would have been some 4,000 acres in size, featuring a round church, with a number of smaller buildings huddled around it, complete with a defensive wall and gatehouse.   The people living within would fall into four categories: Knights – Sergeants – Servants – Chaplains.

The village of Temple Bruer did not exist before the Templar’s arrived; it was built to house the workforce needed by the Order; labourers, builders along with their families, who would become the Templar’s tenants.  In 1259, the village was granted a charter to have its very own market.

The original Templar estate extended to the west, to an area known as Lincoln Cliff, where the knights typically exploited the climate and built a windmill.  They were in fact the first recorded users of windmills in Europe.

Ermine Street, the old Roman road, runs along the top of the cliff and would have been used by the Templar’s as they travelled up from London, and onto Lincoln and York.  It also follows the same route they would have taken to and from their training grounds at Byard’s Leap, which marks the southernmost limit of their property.

Lincolnshire Longwool Sheep

Lincolnshire Longwool Sheep

Temple Bruer made the change from arable farming to sheep farming, with the breeding of Lincolnshire Longwool sheep.  All wool produced on Templar farms in the immediate area, was collected at Temple Bruer, shipped in Templar vessels, from eastern ports, bound for the continent.  An extremely efficient system had been created, and Temple Bruer evolved into a wealthy preceptor in England.

Byard’s Leap, located to the south of Bruer’s estate, with sizeable stretches of level heath land, provided the Templar’s with tournament areas.  It was here they held war games… engaging forces would take part in simulated battles.

When the Knights Templar were dissolved, Temple Bruer passed to the Hospitaller’s who retained it until the Dissolution of the Monasteries, by King Henry VIII, who then sold the estate to the Duke of Suffolk.

Temple Bruer Tower

Temple Bruer Tower

Temple Bruer remains consist of a square, three-storey tower with a spiral staircase, constructed out of Lincolnshire oolitic limestone.  The tower underwent partial restoration in the early 20th century.  Interior walls consist of inscriptions, believed to be associated with the Templar’s.

(Image) Temple Bruer Church: Papa Donkey
(Image) Temple Bruer Tower: Papa Donkey
(Image) Temple Bruer Chauch Plan: Papa Donkey
(Image) Longwool Sheep: Wikipedia


Knights Templar: Templecombe


The village of Templecombe according to the Domesday Book consisted of two estates:

  • Abbas Combe Manor: The Benedictine Nunnery of Shaftesbury, founded in 888 AD by Alfred the Great, whose second daughter Ethelgeda was its Abbess.
  • Abbas Combe included the 12th century St.Mary’s Church, which extended northwards, along the north-south route through the parish. The Abbey at Shaftesbury was its parent house, the major convent in England at the time.  Temple Combe included the Templar preceptory buildings, laying along the same route.  By the 1830’s the two settlements were linked by buildings along the main road.
  • Temple Combe Manor: This estate was originally held by the Earl Leofwine then passed to Bishop Odo of Bayeux and confiscated in 1088.
  • In 1185 the manor was held by Serlo Fitz Odo, who passed it to the Knights Templar. In 1307 the Templar Order was suppressed, and the estate passed to the Crown.  Templar lands and property passed to the Knights Hospitaller in 1332, and retained by them until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
  • Following the “Dissolution of the Monasteries” ordered by King Henry VIII, the Manor passed to William Sherrington, and later purchased by Richard Duke around 1563. Much of the Templar Preceptory building was demolished, providing stone for a new Manor house.

The Preceptory served as an administrative centre for Templar lands in the south-western parts of England and Cornwall.  History tells us, that men and horses were trained in the area, before heading off on Crusades in the Holy Land.

In 1338, an inventory was taken of the Manor, showing it consisted of 368 acres, used for supporting cattle and sheep.

By 1700, it had become the seat of Sir William Wogan, who sold it to Peter Walter of Stalbridge Park, and in the early part of the 19th century passed to the Marquess of Anglesey.

In 1942, during the Second World War, the Templecombe railway line was bombed, and on that day thirteen people lost their lives, and others were injured.  The Parish Church, Congregational Church, two hotels and sixty houses were damaged.

Wikipedia Image

Knights Templar: Sibford Gower

Sibford Gower Area Map

Map of Sibford Area

In ancient times, a track linked south-west Britain to the region of Lincoln and York, avoiding swamps and forests, along the ridge of high ground, to the Cotswolds.  Four miles to the south of Sibford, near Hook Norton, it divides into two branch lines.  One heads north-east, passing to the south of Sibford parishes, crossing Cherwell, near Banbury.  The other headed northwards, over Oatley Hill, through Traitor’s Ford, along the Oxfordshire – Warwickshire county border and Sibford Gower’s eastern boundary, and along Edgehill scarp.

The two Sibfords and Burdrop hamlet stood on hill tops, close to springs, which fed into the River Stour and then into the River Severn.  Early man had to defend themselves from wild animals, marauding tribes, which led to settlements on hill tops with barricades.

William the Conqueror, rewarded fellow knights with parcels of land, for their participation in the “Battle of Hasting” in 1066, where he seized the English crown.

Domesday Book

The Domesday Book

According to the Domesday Book:

  • Henry de Ferrieres, was given 1,000 acres at Sibford Ferris.
  • William, the son of Corbician was given 1,000 acres at Sibford Gower.
  • Hugh de Grantmesnil was also granted 1,000 acres at Sibford Gower.

Knights Templar Land & Property:

  • In 1136 Queen Matilda, gave them the Manor in Cowley, upon which they built a church and preceptor.
  • In 1142, they obtained the land of Hensington.
  • In 1153, they obtained the Manor of Sibford Ferris, and the Chapel of Sibford Gower.
  • In 1156, Simon, Earl of Northampton, gave them Merton.
  • In 1185, Alan de Limsey, gave them Bradwell Manor and Church.
  • Around 1225, William of Wheatfield granted them land in Sibford Gower, for they already held land in neighbouring Sibford Ferris.
  • In 1225, the Manor of Littlemore and Horsepath, came to them on a lease.
  • Around 1239-1240, the Manor of Sandford-on-Thames was given to them, upon which they established a preceptor.
  • In 1279, they became patrons of the Priory of Littlemore.

With the end of the Knights Templar by order of the Pope, many Templars were seized and put on trial.  Their lands, their wealth passed into the hands of the Knights Hospitaller.

With the “Dissolution of the Monasteries” in 1538, Sibford Gower Chapel, formerly a Knights Templar building, was stripped bare.

(Image) Sibford Gower area map: Banburyshire Maps
(Image) Domesday Book: National Archives