The Knights Templar
The "Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon" order, better known as "The Knights Templar", was founded in 1119 AD, and dissolved by the Pope in 1312.
In just under 200 years, they became an immensely powerful and important order of fighting monks. They were far from the only military order, but they became (and remain) the best known. They were the wealthiest, and most prestigious order.
Everyone loved them, from the Pope downwards, and their rise was spectacular. Their fall 200 years later was equally dramatic, and the Papacy was forced by the French King into dissolving them.
Many of the Templars were burned alive, particularly in France. In other countries, such as England, most were allowed to go quietly on their way, many joining other orders of monks.
The Knights Templar in England
The Knights were a popular organisation in England from the start. Both sides donated property to the order during the Civil War between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, for example.
Many of the land grants to the Templars were substantial tracts of lands, and within a few decades, they owned tens of thousands of acres of prime farm land.
Hugh de Payens, the founder of the order and the first Grand Master of the Knights Templar, visited England to set up a branch of the Order in 1128.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded his visit, saying:
This same year, (A.D. 1128,) Hugh of the Temple came from Jerusalem to the king in Normandy, and the king received him with much honour, and gave him much treasure in gold and silver, and afterwards he sent him into England, and there he was well received by all good men, and all gave him treasure, and in Scotland also, and they sent in all a great sum in gold and silver by him to Jerusalem, and there went with him and after him so great a number as never before since the days of Pope Urban.
This article does not attempt to name or describe all remains in England associated with the Knights Templar; rather, I have focused on those I know.
Temple Church, London
The Temple Church, at the heart of the legal world of Middle and Inner Temple, is mentioned here only for completeness.
Its history and layout are discussed in a detailed article to be found here, relating just to the London headquarters of the Knights Templar.
- History of Temple Church
This PDF is a fascinating book about St. Catherine's Church in Cornwall, written in 1883.
Temple Church, Cornwall
The Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Temple, Cornwall, was a remote Templar property.
It is thought that it might have been built to protect pilgrims travelling to the Middle East from Ireland and Cornwall, but that is uncertain.
There is a reference to a pilgrims' route going from Liskeard to Camelford via Temple.
The manor of Trebeigh was given to the Knights Templar by King Stephen in 1150, during the civil war between Stephen (nephew of the previous King Henry I) and the Empress Matilda (Henry's daughter).
Security was certainly poor in the country at the time; a chronicler described it as a time “when Christ and all his Saints slept”.
There may have been an Abbey somewhere in the manor – there is a modern-day Abbey Farm, and suggestions from the past that there was such an establishment. The location, if it did exist, is not known.
The church today contains the Norman font, and also stones inscribed with the symbols of the Knights Templar and Knight Hospitaller.
Originally built in the 12th
century, the church had fallen into ruins by Victorian times, and was
re-built and re-dedicated in 1883.
Temple Meads, Bristol
Now the site of a large and impressive railway station, Temple Meads (from the Anglo-Saxon for “meadows”) was owned by the Knights Templar.
Robert, Duke of Gloucester (illegitimate half-brother of the Empress Matilda, and a supporter of hers in the civil war) donated the land to the Knights Templar.
They built a church, in their typical round style, and it was then re-built in the more common oblong in about 1300 AD, either just before, or soon after, the order was suppressed. It is thought more likely that the rebuilding was done by the Templars, but it's not certain.
The oval foundations of the nave remain, and have been excavated. The church was badly bombed during the Blitz in the Second World War, and is now ruined. (See this article for more details of the devastating bombing by the Luftwaffe in the war).
The official name of the church is Holy Cross, but it is far more commonly known as Temple Church. It was the administrative site for the Templars' property across the south west of England.
Bisham Abbey, Berkshire
The manor of Bisham was granted to the Templars, and in about 1260 the built a community house there. The manor house today is built around that preceptary, and the Great Hall of the house is the 1260 building.
Unlike most Templar property, at dissolution this did not pass to the Knights Hospitallers, but rather directly to King Edward.
Later a monastery was founded near the house, and the name derives from that foundation.
Today the manor is a sports centre, of all things!
Cressing Temple, Essex
Cressing Temple is in Essex in England, east of London It’s a scheduled ancient monument, owned by Essex County Council.
Two spectacular medieval barns built by the Templars survive to this day, and can be seen and visited.
The Barley Barn at Cressing is the oldest timber framed barn still in existence in the world.
The Wheat Barn is larger, 40 metres long and 12½ metres wide. It was built from 472 different oak trees, and there are identical trusses with braces meeting at a scissor above the collars.
- Visiting the Knights Templar property at Cressing Temple
A detailed article about the history, current buildings, and visiting details in relation to Cressing Temple.
St Mary the Virgin Church at Shipley, West Sussex, is now the parish church for the village.
The Manor of Shipley was among the earliest grants to the Knights Templar. The church was first built in about 1140 A.D. The name Shipley comes from a Saxon word meaning “place of pastureland”.
The parish was mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1087, and is just under 8,000 acres.
The Manor was given to the Knights Templar by the Dean of Lincoln. Although the Church was built by the Knights Templar, in the 12th Century, it was built on the site of an even earlier, probably wooden Church.
The church is made mostly of Caen stone on the outside, and local sandstone. It is likely that the Templars first built a smaller church, and later extended the knave to double its original length, in order to support the tower they then built.
The east and west doorways are both mid to late 12th Century, and therefore date from the Templars.
There was a 12th Century
reliquary, a box which would originally have held part of a Saint,
about 8 inches long made of wood, covered with copper, and decorated
with enamel and gilt figures including a crucifixion scene. Some idiot stole in in the late 1970s.
Hereford Cathedral was built in about 1080 A.D. and pre-dates the Templars.
Hereford had been the centre of a diocese as early as the 6th Century, and a first cathedral was built in the 7th Century.
Hereford’s current cathedral was built by the Normans in stone in 1080. Of the original 1080 building, the choir, south transept, arches in the north transept and choir aisle and the knave arcade survive.
The Shrine of the Saint Thomas Cantilupe shows clearly that he was linked significantly to the Templars. The tomb, built of Purbeck Marble, contains the figures of 14 Knights Templar dressed in their armour, in niches along the bottom.
Temple Bruer is in the parish of Temple Bruer with Temple High Grange in Lincolnshire. The Templars were granted the Manor in about 1150 A.D.
It became the centre of the Templars’ operations in the Lincolnshire and surrounding counties.
A significant part of the Templars’ church remains, in the form of the south tower of the church.
The Templars held a weekly market in Bruer, and had 37 tenant farmers. A Tudor visitor described seeing the ruins of a circular church, although this can no longer be seen.
The site has been excavated, and a 1908 archaeological exploration showed that there had been a walled precinct around the church and other building foundations. There’s a medieval field system to the south-west.
- The Round Church, Cambridge
A good site about the Church, with photos and details about the building.
Holy Sepulchre Church, Cambridge
The Holy Sepulchre Church in Cambridge is more commonly known as the Round Church.
It was built in a clearly Norman style, with rounded arches and fairly small windows, and was built on the rough pattern of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The Round Church was actually built by an organisation called the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre. Almost nothing is known about this organisation, but they appear to have been linked to the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller.
It has many design features in common with the Temple Church in London.
The village website of Templecombe, including a history of the village and links.
Temple Ewell, Kent
Temple Ewell is a parish in Kent in England near Dover.
"Ewell" comes from an old English word meaning “Spring”. It was known as Ewell before the Knights Templar were granted the Manor by the King in 1163, when they added the word "Temple" to the village name.
The Knights Templar built the Church of St Peter and St Paul in approximately 1170. The church was built on the site of a wooden Saxon church.
There are no remains of the Preceptory itself above ground, but in late Victorian excavations mediaeval floors tiles and tools were found. From that we know the Preceptory was a two-storey flint building covered in caen stone 60 feet long and 25 feet wide.
There was a chapel and chapterhouse connected and a kitchen separately. Evidence was found of a doorway, external staircase, dormitory, and a main hall.
It appears to have been built with the same materials into a similar plan as the village church.
A 22 feet by 85 foot extension was built in the late 13th Century.
There is a small round church built by the Knights Templar near to Temple Ewell, on the heights above Dover. It appears likely that this land also belonged to the Preceptory. Templar remains can be seen in the church in Temple Ewell, including stone slabs with Templar crosses taken from the chancel in Victorian times and put in the church porch.
The Templars also owned the nearby Manor of Strood, known as "Templeborough" in 1292 and "Temple Strode Manor" in 1337.
The Manor House was built in the
late 13th Century and is still in existence today. It
appears to have been rented out to a tenant farmer, rather than being
the home of the Knights themselves.
- Templar Sites - Global Home Page
A detailed database of sites associated with the Knights Templar, including both historical and visitor information. Part of a world-wide project, this website covers sites in England and Wales.
Templecombe , in Somerset, was granted to the Knights Templar, who built a preceptory there in 1185 AD. After the dissolution, it passed to the Knights Hospitaller.
In the church is a 13th century picture of Christ from the Templars' time, found in a shed in the village in 1945. The painting has been carbon dated to 1280.
“The Time Team”, a British TV programme, explored Templecombe looking for remains of the Templars in 1995, and found medieval foundations and the lower walls of a building from the right dates.
A survey was carried by out Stewart Ainsworth of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, and found further earthworks associated with the Templars. The site is likely to become a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
St. Mary's Church in Templecombe was first built in 890 AD. There are 9th century foundations under the tower and part of the nave. Not much of the Church is Templar-built, but there is a Norman (and probably Templar) font from the late 12th century.
- Detailed survey of Sompting
A detailed survey of the architecture of the church in Sompting.
- St. Mary's church, the parish of Sompting and the Friends of Sompting Church
The official web site for St. Mary's church, Sompting - with information about the parish of Sompting and the Friends of Sompting Church.
The parish of Sompting in West Sussex was granted to the Knights Templar by William de Braose in the late 12th Century.
It ihas, very unusually, an Anglo-Saxon stone church. Most Anglo-Saxon churches, and indeed Anglo Saxon buildings, were wooden.
The Saxon tower is an astonishing 25 metres high, and the walls were 76cm thick. The nave is also Saxon, built in the 11th Century.
The north and south transepts were added to the church by the Templars and they also installed the 12th Century doorway with carvings.
There is also an 11th Century window in the south wall inserted by the Templars into the original Saxon wall.
The south transept appears to have been built as a private chapel for the Templars, tacked onto the church.
The font in the church is also 12th Century and thought to come from the Templars.
The village of Garway, in Herefordshire, England, is near Monmouth. The Knights Templar were given the parish in 1180, and built a round church there.
The current church is a little later, and is rectangular, but the foundations of the round church are clearly visible on the north side of the present church, and the original Templar carved chancel arch survives today.
The Templars built their church on top of a wooden Saxon church from 615 A.D.
The Garway Manor granted to the Knights Templar was over 2,000
Other English places associated with the Knights Templar
Temple Sowerby, in Cumbria. The Manor (now a village) was owned by the Templars, and later passed to the Knights Hospitallers. There are no buildings or ruins from Templar times, though.
Temple Mills is in Hackney, and is now part of Greater London. When the Knights Templars owned the site, it was a rural haven. They built water mills here to mill grain grown on their lands nearby, and also to full cloth (preparing woollen weaves to be made into clothes or blankets). Only the name remains.
The town of Baldock in Hertfordshire was founded by the Templars in the 1140s. Although it’s known for certain from documents that the Templars founded this settlement, there are no buildings remaining associated with them.
Temple Cloud, in Somerset, belonged to and is named after the Templars, but there are no buildings remaining from their tenure there.
GreenEamon from London on April 26, 2012:
I love the mystery surrounding the Templars. Great Article.
Carolina from Switzerland on June 13, 2011:
Very informative. It is my wish to visit London but my plan always changes instead i went to places where i have been several times. This time i will not miss. Thanks.
teebee on May 06, 2010:
Hi, I am travelling to the UK in July and would like to visit sites and learn about the Templars in specially Wales. Can anyone help me with Templar sites in Wales?
LondonGirl (author) from London on March 27, 2010:
Thanks, glad you all liked it!
Tricia Mason from The English Midlands on March 25, 2010:
I am very interested in the Templars and found this really fascinating ~ really clear and well presented! Great!
daisy storm on February 18, 2010:
Great hub, LondonGirl. I hope to someday visit your inviting country. Thanks for all the great info and pictures!
tonyhubb on November 10, 2009:
Thanks for such a great article.
japagow from United Kingdom on October 26, 2009:
The Temple is still alive and thriving today. I once got into negotiations with a man who was a Welsh templar and also a member of an English order, I think it was St Joseph. He traced the order bck from the crusades and could vouch for its roots in the bible.
His wardrobe was full of flowing robes and red crosses, the walls were covered in memorabilia etc. Yes he could have been crackers but I had no reason to think he was not a genuine member.
As it happened the house sale fell through. There were plans, sketchs, ideas for developments close to the property that persuaded me not to buy. Nothing was tabled by the local council just rumours. When I put it to the Templar he knew all about it and assured me it would never happen. That was 5 years ago and the developments never took off. All the same I think he had access to sources at the top as part of his association that guaranteed accurate information.
All I had was my estate agent. No contest.
Nell Rose from England on October 10, 2009:
Brilliant story about the Templars, I live just over the bridge from Bisham abbey, and I only vaguely knew about that story. Only one thing, Bisham is in Buckinghamshire nor berks, but it is a bit of a discrepancy not knowing where the border of the two is! I live there and I get confused! I really enjoyed it. thanks Nell
Tim Langdale on September 29, 2009:
Nice site London girl.Very informative with some good pics. Have you been to Sompting parish church near Littlehampton?,its an amazing templar church. Also St James 12th c. church nr Templecloud, somerset. Any info you have on locations of templar churches in somerset would be gratefully recievd as I am currently seeking them out for a visit.
Chuck Nugent from Tucson, Arizona on September 16, 2009:
Thanks for a great Hub. Ever since I read Ivanhoe in high school I have been interested in the Templars. I will bookmark this so I can refer to it when I get a chance to travel to England.
Vizey on September 08, 2009:
I am an Indian. As you know relationship between India and Britain is centuries old, I love to learn British culture, English, and cricket. Thanks for hub.
Sexy jonty from India on September 06, 2009:
Very well written hub .....
very much informative ......
Thank you very much for your great hub, for good advice, good wishes and support. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us.
LondonGirl (author) from London on September 02, 2009:
Hi Jama - it's not sure-fire, but anywhere with "Temple" in its name here in the UK stands a decent chance of having been associated with the Knights Templar at some stage.
Prz, glad you enjoyed it! I am definitely enthusiastic about English history (-:
Eden, thanks for reading and commenting.
EdenvaleShoppes on August 24, 2009:
Great article with nice photos...
prziloczek from Wisbech, Cambs, UK on August 23, 2009:
A very scholarly account of the Templars which I enjoyed reading. thank you. It is always good to see a real enthusiast!
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on August 18, 2009:
Having Sowerby ancestors, I always wondered how Temple Sowerby came to be called that, but never made the connection to the Templars. Thanks!
LondonGirl (author) from London on June 18, 2009:
Glad you enjoyed it!
James A Watkins from Chicago on June 18, 2009:
I love that term you used, "dodgy facts." :D
This is a fascinating subject to me. I enjoyed your Hub because it is thoroughly reasearched, nicely written, and has a fine set of photos. Thanks!
LondonGirl (author) from London on May 09, 2009:
William - fun, undoubtedly, but also absolutely bloody lethal! It was a very dangerous activity, I think.
ahpoetic, glad you enjoyed it! Where do you work as a tour guide?
LondonGirl (author) from London on May 09, 2009:
Tony - glad you enjoyed it! Which Norman churches did you visit?
Lgail - thanks for the comment, I appreciate the compliment.
Lita, there was very little contact around that time that I know of. Were the similar-looking Georgian buildings from the same dates, do you know?
ahpoetic on May 08, 2009:
History is one of my favorite subjects and I'm a tour guide in the summer. I'm also an English major and I enjoy studying about writers and there are lots of English writers in American history. Great hubs.
William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on April 26, 2009:
Interesting history, LondonGirl. Both the Knights Templar and the their temples are fascinating, but I must confess I really love the medieval jousting. I don't think I've ever seen anything more exciting than the jousts (as in your video) at the Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, N.Y. The costumes, the knights with their lances, the royalty and the excited crowds cheering and booing their favorite knights. It must have been an exciting time in history.
Leta S on April 26, 2009:
Nice to have a look at the old architecture, LG. I especially like the round church. Why is it reminding me so much of Georgian (I mean of the country of the former USSR) architecture so much. Really beautiful--just the balance. Did England have any contact with that part of the world at that point history that you may know of?
Lgali on April 23, 2009:
Great work Nice picture You really know how to write very nice hubs
Tony on April 22, 2009:
Very nice article as always, and great pictures. I took some of old Norman churches the other week when I was in England. It's amazing how many still remain.
LondonGirl (author) from London on April 20, 2009:
I'm sure secret societies can and do exist. I strongly doubt they do anything very important or significant, though.
issues veritas on April 19, 2009:
Is it possible, "secret" societies can exist?
One of the best movies, on Consipiracy Theory is the movie with the same name, with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts.
Cheers, I like that word
LondonGirl (author) from London on April 19, 2009:
Thanks, Maria! Glad you enjoyed it.
Issues, I think it's because of all the conspiracy theories and books with dodgy facts, like the Da Vinci Code.
issues veritas on April 18, 2009:
Why do you think there is current interest in the Templar in several movies in the last few years?
Maria on April 18, 2009:
Great hub! The Templers are always an interesting matter
LondonGirl (author) from London on April 18, 2009:
Teresa, I rather enjoyed the Read book, but I'm a sad cow that way. I love Norman doors as well, they are cosy.
LondonGirl (author) from London on April 18, 2009:
CC, glad you enjoyed it. You should definitely come!
Issues, glad you found it interesting. I enjoyed writing it.
LondonGirl (author) from London on April 18, 2009:
Hi shamelabboush - you won't regret it if you do. The Cambridge Round Church is particularly lovely.
Sweetiepie, I gather that in Israel you can't stick a spade in the ground without falling over something Roman or earlier!
LondonGirl (author) from London on April 18, 2009:
Hi Brian - there are tens of places in England which also have the name "Temple" in them which can be traced directly to the Knights. Their legacy stuck around, even if they didn't!
Sheri, glad you found it interesting!
Sheila from The Other Bangor on April 18, 2009:
Those Norman doorways are gorgeous. . . . I tried reading the Piers Paul Read text once, but found it rather dry.
issues veritas on April 17, 2009:
Very impressive and interesting hub.
Billy Bolitho on April 16, 2009:
You will like this site on Knights Templar http://cornishevangelist.wordpress.com/ from cornishevangelit Billy Bolitho
SEO Expert Kerala from KERALA on April 15, 2009:
nice work , I heard abt Knights templar ....one day i will visit there
C. C. Riter on April 15, 2009:
Great work here, you put a lot of research in it and it shows too. Wonderful picutres and it is so interesting to learn mor of some of my ancestors. I would so love to come for a visit some day. never know if I will, but this helps. thanks, it's just wonderful
SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on April 15, 2009:
Great background history about the Knights Templar, and this feels like a virtual tour with all the spectacular pictures. It is funny when we Americans talk about historic buildings and sites, especially since on the west coast these only date back about 100-150 years, and on the east coast sometimes back to 300.
shamelabboush on April 15, 2009:
London girl you are really well-informed. I liked the pictures specially The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I shall visit those places someday.
sfharper from Winter Springs, FL on April 15, 2009:
Really interesting background and pictures :) Sheri
Brian Stephens from Laroque des Alberes, France on April 15, 2009:
Another interesting update on the history of the Templar Knights and I am discovering that I have trodden some of the same paths some 9 hundred years later. Really does make you think what went before when a name like Bristol Temple Meads for instance is associated with the Templar Knights from so long ago. I was born about 30 miles from Bristol and Hereford and 10 miles from Monmouth so these names jump out at you, I have enjoyed reading this, nice work.