Houses of Knights Hospitallers: The preceptory of Friary Mayne

A History of the County of Dorset: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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'Houses of Knights Hospitallers: The preceptory of Friary Mayne', in A History of the County of Dorset: Volume 2, (London, 1908) pp. 90-92. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

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It cannot exactly be stated when the preceptory of Friar Mayne was erected, though there is ample evidence that the Knights Hospitallers possessed property here and at West Knighton early in the reign of Edward I. (fn. 1) Thus it is reported among the inquisitions returned 3 Edward I that Thomas del Boys gave to the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem land in Kyngeston or Knighton which used to do suit and service at the hundred court, and that this service valued at 2s. had been withdrawn by the prior and brethren. (fn. 2) In 1290 the prior of the order obtained from Edward I a charter of free warren in all the demesne lands of his manor of Mayne, (fn. 3) and in the Taxatio of 1291 he is said to have had a portion out of the church of Knighton. (fn. 4)

The preceptory was founded some time between then and the year 1338, when full particulars of the bailiwick of Mayne are given in the return made of the possessions of the Hospitallers of England to the Grand Master of the Order by Philip de Thame, provincial prior of England. The 'bajulia de Maine' with its members Knighton and Waye was valued at 144 marks, 2s. 10d.; (fn. 5) the outgoings amounted to 63 marks 5s. 4d., and included ordinary expenses of the household with the exercise of hospitality, a duty much enjoined on all members of the order—£8 14s.; a life-corrody to Sir Robert de Norfolk at the table of the brethren, a robe and his necessaries, 27s.; the kitchen, £7 16s.; the brewing of the beer, £5 14s. 2d.; robes, mantles, and other necessaries for the preceptor and his brother knight, 69s. 4d.; for the squire and others of the household, 50s.; the chaplain's stipend for celebrating in the chapel was 20s.; the cost of entertaining the prior for three days on his annual visit came to 60s. An annual pension of £2 6s. 8d. was paid to the vicar of Stinsford, (fn. 6) and small payments of 6s. and 7s. to the rector of Warmwell and the prior of Holme respectively. The household consisted at that time of the preceptor, brother John Larcher, junior; Richard Bernard, his brother knight; and Sir Robert de Norfolk, the corrody-man or boarder 'in the place of a knight,' besides squire and servants. (fn. 7) The balance to be paid into the treasury after all expenses had been met amounted to 79 marks 10s. 10d. The house was not reported in a very good state, for the court at Mayne was 'badly built,' the house in ruins: 'burnt by misfortune,' so that the whole return of the bailiwick for one year would hardly suffice to repair the buildings, and owing to these unfortunate circumstances that voluntary contribution to their funds by the neighbourhood, on which every preceptory relied for a large fraction of its income, could hardly be expected to reach the average of 36 marks. (fn. 8)

The establishment at Mayne previous to the Dissolution seems to have become incorporated with or united to the larger and more flourishing preceptory of Baddesley or Godsfield in Hampshire. In 1523 brother William Weston paid £38 17s. 1d. for the commandery of Baddesley and Mayne into the treasury or capital fund of the order for the year ending at the feast of St. John the Baptist, (fn. 9) and in 1533 the prior and hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, by an indenture dated 27 June, leased to John Gerard of Tincleton the capital messuage or mansion of their manor of Friar Mayne with the tithes of the chapel and a warren of coneys in Lewell or East Stafford for a term of twenty-one years. (fn. 10) The preceptory, therefore, in all but the name, seems to have sunk to the position of a 'camera' or estate maintaining no community and farmed out for the benefit of the society.

In the Valor of 1535 all receipts and payments, with the exception of the rectory of West Knighton, are made out jointly in the name of the commandery or preceptory of Baddesley or Mayne; the receipts were 20s. 8d. from the aforesaid rectory, (fn. 11) 4d. out of the rectory of Langton Matravers and Worth, (fn. 12) and 5s. in tithes out of West Chaldon; (fn. 13) the vicar of Stinsford received a stipend of £2 6s. 8d. as in the return of 1338. (fn. 14)

At the Dissolution the property of the Knights Hospitallers was by Act of Parliament vested in the crown, and the manor and premises here in reversion of the afore-mentioned lease were granted by Edward VI to William Dennys for twenty-one years. (fn. 15) On the re-establishment of the order under Philip and Mary they were restored in 1558 to Thomas Tresham, Grand Preceptor of St. John of Jerusalem, (fn. 16) but the advent to the throne of Elizabeth brought about the destruction of the order anew, and the queen in April, 1564, in consideration of the sum of £1,189 19s. 7d. re-granted the manor in reversion of the former lease of Edward VI to William Pole of Shute and Edward Downing and their heirs. (fn. 17) In addition to the preceptory of Mayne with its members West Knighton and Waye, the order possessed a smaller estate returned in 1338 as the 'camera' of Chilcombe, which comprised the manors of Chilcombe and Toller Fratrum with the rectory of the latter; it was valued at £4 5s. 4d., paid 30 marks into the treasury at Clerkenwell, and was farmed out to Ivo de Chilcombe. (fn. 18) The Hospitallers also held lands in Hammoon, Watercombe, Marnhull, Wareham, Upway, Charlton Marshall, Turnworth, and Shroton. (fn. 19)


  • 1. According to Hutchins (Hist. of Dorset, ii, 498) Knighton took its name from the Knights Templars or Hospitallers here (Knightoun); Friar Mayne, now a hamlet in West Knighton parish, was formerly a manor adjoining.
  • 2. Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), i, 100.
  • 3. Chart. R. 18 Edw. I, No. 810.
  • 4. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 179. The first presentation to the rectory of West Knighton was made in 1304 (Hutchins, Hist. of Dorset, ii, 504). Stinsford church is not mentioned in the Taxation of 1291, but is given as appropriated to the preceptory and worth 18 marks in the return made by the provincial prior of England in 1338 (Larking, Knights Hospitallers in England [Camd. Soc.], 11); the first presentation to the vicarage is recorded in 1319 (Hutchins, Hist. of Dorset, ii, 569).
  • 5. At Mayne besides dovecot and water-mill there were 340 acres of land, 15½ acres of meadow and pasture for 12 oxen, 12 cows, and 500 sheep; at Knighton, a messuage and garden, 68 acres of land, 1½ acres of meadow, and pasture for 6 oxen, 8 cows, and 100 sheep; at Wayne a messuage with garden, 10 acres of meadow, 160 acres of land, and pasture for 6 oxen, 8 cows, and 100 sheep; Larking, Knights Hospitallers in England (Camd. Soc.), 10–11.
  • 6. This payment was made up to 1535, and is given in the Valor Eccl. of that year; op. cit. (Rec. Com.), i, 262.
  • 7. Larking, Knights Hospitallers in England (Camd. Soc.), 10–11.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Hutchins, quoting from the records of the Knights Hospitallers at Malta, says that in 1531 Roger Boydell, preceptor of Baddesley and Mayne, paid by the hand of Francis Balyard £44 12s. 1d. into the treasury and the same in 1532. In 1533–4 Thomas Dingley paid £44 12s. 1d. for Baddesley and Mayne for half a year, and he owed the same sum for 1535. Hist. of Dorset, ii, 501.
  • 10. Ibid. 499.
  • 11. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 244.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid. 239.
  • 14. Ibid. 262.
  • 15. Pat. 5 Edw. VI.
  • 16. Pat. 4 & 5 Phil. and Mary, pt. 14. This restoration comprised not only the manor of Friar Mayne and Westbroke with messuages and lands in Westbroke, East Stafford, Warmwell, West Waddon, and Dorchester and a pension of 20s. 8d. from West Knighton rectory, all belonging to the preceptory of Friar Mayne, but certain other lands and rents in the county belonging to the preceptory of Temple Combe in Somerset included in the same patent of reedification.
  • 17. Tanner, Notitia, Dorset, xvi.
  • 18. Larking, The Knights Hospitallers in England (Camd. Soc.), 105–6.
  • 19. Hutchins, Hist. of Dorset, ii, 502.