House of Knights Hospitallers: The preceptory of Greenham

A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.

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'House of Knights Hospitallers: The preceptory of Greenham', in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 2, (London, 1907) pp. 88-89. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]

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The Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem had a preceptory at Greenham, in the old parish of Thatcham, a little to the east of Newbury. The manor of Greenham was given to this order by Maud, countess of Clare, in the time of Henry II, and at the same time Gervase Paynell gave them the village. (fn. 1)

The church of Brimpton in the adjoining parish was appropriated to the Hospitallers, and here, too, they had a house and lands called Scaldford, or Shalford, which, though returning separate accounts, was considered a member of Greenham in the fourteenth century. Greenham was confirmed to the Hospitallers by King John in 1199. (fn. 2)

In the Testa de Nevill (temp. Henry III) there is an entry to the effect that the prior of the Hospitallers held Greenham in demesne, which had been of the fee of Earl Ferrers, and granted in marriage to Ralph Paynell, and that his son Gervase gave it to the brethren of St. John. At the same time it is stated that the Hospitallers held three hides of land in Brimpton, the gift of Simon de Ovile. (fn. 3)

A note of Tanner's cites an entry in a Reading cartulary naming a quit-claim, dated 1254, between Brother Luke, master of the Hospitallers of Brimpton, and the abbey, as to a messuage in Reading. He also mentions several undated deeds to which Nicholas, master of Brimpton, was a witness. (fn. 4) From this it would appear that the more important house, or, at all events, an independent one, was at Brimpton (or Shalford) in the thirteenth century. Moreover, the Hospitallers of Shalford are mentioned in the Hundred Rolls of 1276.

The full return of all lands, tenements, &c., pertaining to the English language or province of the Hospitallers made to the Grand Master in 1338, by Prior Philip Thame, of St. John's, Clerkenwell, gives full particulars with regard to the Berkshire preceptory of Greenham.

The garden was valued at 10s. a year; dovecote, 5s.; 360 acres of arable land, £7 8s.; and 100 acres of pasture, 62s. 6d. The rents from free tenants ought to have brought in £11 11s., but that year, on account of the poverty of the community and the tenants, and lack of money, they had with difficulty raised £10 5s. The labour of the customary tenants, in such matters as reaping the corn and mowing the meadows, was considered to be worth 22s.; but that year it was valued at 6s. 8d. There was also four marks from outside rents; 2s. 3d. in crop rents; 2s. in hen rents; and 4d. in egg rents, the eggs numbering eighty, and thus worth a penny a score. Manor court fees averaged 6s. 8d. Pensions from the churches of Speen, Ilsley, Woolhampton, Upton, Wasing, and Catmore produced £4 5s. 8d.

In addition to these regular items of income, each preceptory had its Confraria or voluntary collections made throughout the churches of the county or district where it was situated; so that the collectors for the needs of the central work visited every parish in the kingdom. The preceptor of Greenham reported that the average value of the collections made in the churches of Berkshire was 27 marks; but that that year, on account of the general poverty of the commonwealth of the kingdom, caused by the various recent exactions made by the king for the upholding of the navy etc., they had only been able to raise the sum of £10, and that with difficulty.

The receipts of Shalford, a member of Greenham, were entered separately. The house, which was out of repair, with the garden, was worth annually 16s.; 25 acres of meadow, 25s.; 360 acres of arable land, £18; rents of free tenants, £10 2s. 8d.; a water mill 30s.; the appropriated church of Brimpton, 60s.; 40 acres of pasture, 25s.; hen rents, 2s. 6d.; a dovecote, 6s. 8d.; and the autumn labour of 48 customary tenants, 8s. The woods had produced nothing save that which was necessary for the sustenance of the house.

A memorandum is attached to the Shalford return, that nothing was entered under the head of stock, as it had been sold in the time of brother Thomas Lardner; but they were able to support 20 cows and 500 sheep.

At the head of the outgoings of the preceptory of Greenham are entered three pensions. A life payment of 20s. a year was made to one Master William Auschelin, according to the ordering of brother Thomas Lardner, lately prior of England; (fn. 5) William de Latton received a like life payment as ordered by brother Leonard when prior, (fn. 6) for saving to the order the advowson of Blewbury; and William Le Port of Greenham had a corrody at their table, by order of Prior Lardner, worth 6s. 8d. The chaplain of the house also received 20s. a year.

The following were the expenses of the house, for the preceptor, his confrère, the chaplain, the servants, and in the cause of hospitality: Thirty quarters of wheat at 3s. 4d. a quarter, and ten quarters of oats at 3s., £6 10s.; kitchen expenses in addition to stock, 2s. 6d. a week, £6 10s.; for the two days of the prior's visitation, 40s.; for the archdeacon's visitation visiting yearly the appropriated church, 9s. 4½d.; robes, mantles, and other necessaries for the preceptor and his confrere, 69s. 4d.; garments for the squire, steward, bailiff, woodward, cook, baker, 50s.; stipend for the chaplain of Shalford Chapel, celebrating three times a week, and not boarded, 26s. 8d.; wages of the women, 6s. 8d.; wages of the squire and three servants, 20s.; wages of cook, baker, and carter, 15s.

All the expenses amounted to £34 8s. 8d., leaving the handsome balance of £41 4s. 10½d. to be transmitted to the prior of England.

Brother Roger de Draycote is entered as preceptor of Greenham in 1338, with Brother Robert Brayboef, knight, as his confrère. (fn. 7)

In a catalogue of Berkshire gentry, temp. Henry VI, John Prendergast is mentioned as preceptor of Greenham. (fn. 8)

The order of the Hospitallers was suppressed in England in 1540. During its temporary restoration under Queen Mary the preceptory at Greenham was revived, with additional endowments, (fn. 9) but Queen Elizabeth speedily and finally extinguished it.


  • 1. Dugdale, Mon. ii, 510, 547.
  • 2. Chart. 1 John, m. 17.
  • 3. Testa de Nevill (Rec. Com.), 125.
  • 4. Tanner, Notitia, Berks. 3.
  • 5. Prior Lardner died in 1329.
  • 6. Leonard de Tybertis was prior between Lardner and Thame; it was in his days that most of the Templar possessions were transferred to the Hospitallers.
  • 7. Kemble, Estates of the Hospitallers (Camd. Soc.), 3-6.
  • 8. Lysons, Berks. 387.
  • 9. Pat. 4 and 5 Philip and Mary, pt. ii, m. 14.