House of Knights Templars: Preceptory of Temple Dinsley

A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.

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'House of Knights Templars: Preceptory of Temple Dinsley', in A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 4, (London, 1971) pp. 445-446. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]

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In a chapter of the Order of the Temple held at Paris in the Octave of Easter 1147, (fn. 1) at which Pope Eugenius III was present, Bernard de Balliol gave the knights 'Wedelee,' a member of Hitchin, or land to the value of £15. (fn. 2) This estate, which was at Dinsley, (fn. 3) was confirmed to them by King Stephen, (fn. 4) who added two mills with the land and men belonging to them, (fn. 5) and granted them also sac and soc, tol and team and infangtheof, with all other free customs in Dinsley. (fn. 6) At what date the preceptory at Dinsley was founded is not known, but that it was already established at the beginning of the 13th century is certain, since a chapter was held here between 1200 and 1205. (fn. 7) Besides, the agreement of Mabel Abbess of Elstow, c. 1218-22, (fn. 8) to pay the Templars a mark a year and 4 lb. of wax for the maintenance of a chaplain and the light of his chapel at Preston (fn. 9) was apparently later than the arrangement by which the nuns were to find a chaplain to perform divine service three times a week at Preston for the brothers of the Temple living at Dinsley. (fn. 10)

The property of the knights in the neighbourhood was increased from time to time, (fn. 11) among the larger gifts being 13 acres of land in Wandon in King's Walden, (fn. 12) and Charlton received in 1244-5 from Maud de Lovetot, formerly the wife of Gerard de Furnival, (fn. 13) and 2 marks rent in Welles in Offley (fn. 14) from John de Balliol. (fn. 15)

The Templars in January 1252-3 were granted by Henry III free warren in their demesne lands of Dinsley, Preston, Charlton, Walden and Hitchin. (fn. 16)

Not much is known about the preceptory, but it was perhaps fairly important. Chapters of the order, besides that already mentioned, were held here c. 1219-29, (fn. 17) c. 1254-9, (fn. 18) in 1265, (fn. 19) 1292, (fn. 20) 1301, (fn. 21) and 1304, (fn. 22) and, to judge from evidence given in 1310, on several other occasions. (fn. 23)

The preceptor's jurisdiction extended to Baldock, for in 1277 he was summoned to show warrant for hanging a man there. (fn. 24)

At the time when the Templars were all arrested by the king's order in January 1308 there seem to have been six brothers at Dinsley, since the manor was charged with the maintenance of that number between 14 February and 12 June while they were imprisoned in Hertford Castle. (fn. 25) Whether, however, they were resident at Dinsley, and whether they included Richard Peitevyn and Henry de Paul, 'brothers at Dinsley,' who were afterwards sent to the Tower of London, (fn. 26) is uncertain. There were besides six men then living at Dinsley as pensioners of the house: one who had meals at the squires' table and five who boarded with the brothers. (fn. 27)

After the suppression of the Order of the Temple in 1312 the manor was occupied for some years by the lords of the fee, and then let by them for 27 marks a year to William de Langford, who in 1338 was still the tenant. (fn. 28) The Knights of St. John had meanwhile become the owners in virtue of the Statute of 1324, (fn. 29) and eventually placed members of their order there, for the preceptory of Dinsley is mentioned in the reign of Richard II. (fn. 30)

How long this cell was maintained is doubtful. The manor was leased 12 September 1498 (fn. 31) to John Tong, preceptor of Ribston and Mount St. John, for the term of his life at a rent of £26 13s. 4d., Tong undertaking to find a chaplain to perform the religious services for which the lands had been given to the Templars. (fn. 32) It may, therefore, be concluded that Dinsley had then ceased to be a preceptory. Yet it seems likely that the arrangement marked a new departure and was regarded as temporary, for 9 November 1500 Prior Robert Kendal and the Chapter granted to Robert Shawe, chaplain, (fn. 33) his board in the manor of Dinsley at the table of their gentlemen there, a room and salary of 5 marks to be received from the prior, or from the preceptor, farmer or warden of the manor, and in return Shawe was to perform the services in the chapel as long as he was able.

It is clear, however, that the preceptory was never re-established. The manor was let in 1507 at £26 13s. 4d. a year to Thomas Hobson, who was to provide the chaplain and maintain for two days and nights the officials sent once or twice a year by the Prior of St. John to survey the property. (fn. 34) In 1514 it was let on the same terms to Reginald Adyson and his wife Dorothy for fifty years, (fn. 35) and their lease becoming void in 1519 through non-payment of the rent, to John Docwra for forty years. (fn. 36)

It is evident, therefore, that beyond a change in the ownership of the land the dissolution of the order of St. John in 1540 (fn. 37) made little difference here. (fn. 38)

The receipts of the Templars' estate at Dinsley from Michaelmas 1311 to Michaelmas 1312 were £82 19s. 9¾d., (fn. 39) but of this sum the amount derived from rents and profits of court was only £24 12s. 8d. In 1338, as has been said, the manor was let for £18, (fn. 40) in 1535 it was valued at £29 3s. 4d. a year. (fn. 41)

Preceptors of Dinsley

Richard Fitz John, occurs 1255 (fn. 42)

Ralph de Maltone, occurs 11 June 1301 (fn. 43)

John Dalton, occurs 1380-1 (fn. 44) and September 1389 (fn. 45)


  • 1. The year is not given, but at this chapter arrangements were made for the second crusade (Addison, The Knights Templars, 25), which began in 1147.
  • 2. Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 133 d.
  • 3. a V.C.H. Herts. i, 297; iii, 10.
  • 4. Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 134, 133 d.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid. fol. 134.
  • 7. It was held by Aymeric de St. Maur, master of the Temple, and William de Bernewood, preceptor of London, was present (Madox, Formulare, 185). Aymeric appears to have become master in 1200, and William in or before 1205 ceased to be preceptor of London (V.C.H. Lond. i, 490).
  • 8. V.C.H. Beds. i, 357, n. 10.
  • 9. Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 128.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Ibid. fol. 125 d., 126, 127, 130, 134.
  • 12. V.C.H. Herts. iii, 7, 33.
  • 13. Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 133.
  • 14. a V.C.H. Herts. iii, 41.
  • 15. Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 133.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. It was held by Alan Marcell (Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 131 d.), who occurs as master of the Temple at those dates (V.C.H. Lond. i, 490).
  • 18. In the time of Amadeus de Morestello, master of the Temple. On this occasion the Templars granted a messuage in Hitchin for an annual rent payable at their house of Dinsley (Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 127).
  • 19. Cal. Pat. 1258-66, p. 586.
  • 20. Wolley Chart. i, 52.
  • 21. Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 129.
  • 22. Harl. Chart. 83 C 39.
  • 23. Wilkins, Concilia, ii, 335, 337, 340-3, 365-6. As a proof that the place was well known, it is perhaps worth noticing that it was given as the scene of more than one of the crimes alleged against the Templars (ibid. 361-2).
  • 24. Assize R. 323, m. 41, 6 Edw. I.
  • 25. L.T.R. Enr. Accts. 18, roll 23.
  • 26. Wilkins, Concilia, ii, 347.
  • 27. Two were serving as priests (L.T.R. Enr. Accts. 18, roll 23). A man and his wife also received their food and drink from the preceptory.
  • 28. Larking, Knights Hospitallers in Eng. (Camd. Soc.), 172.
  • 29. Stat. of the Realm (Rec. Com.), i, 194-5.
  • 30. Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 129, 134 d.
  • 31. Lansd. MS. 200, fol. 54.
  • 32. At an inquisition in 1347 the jurors said that the Hospitallers held the manor of Temple Dinsley of the heirs of former lords of Hitchin, Dinsley Furnival and King's Walden, by the service of finding two chaplains to celebrate in the chapel of the manor for ever for the souls of those who enfeoffed the Templars (Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 133).
  • 33. Lansd. MS. 200, fol. 78. Tong was still farmer of the manor.
  • 34. Cott. MS. Claud. E vi, fol. 51.
  • 35. Ibid. fol. 144 d. On this occasion an inventory was made of the contents of the chapel, among which were 3 mass-books, one new and two old, 3 old graduals in parchment, an old portifory of parchment, a vestment of red camlet with a cross of black damask and Sir John Tong's arms upon it, another vestment of white linen, a cope with Sir John Tong's arms, 8 altarcloths including one of red tarterine with images of gold thereon with a frontal of the same, 8 curtains of various kinds, 2 canopies, one being of 'cypres bordered with silk with 4 knoppes of red silk,' 3 paxes, one of ivory, a chalice of silver parcel gilt weighing 6 oz., 2 pairs of cruets and a bottle of pewter, a copper cross, a pair of censers and two candlesticks of latten, &c. There were two altars besides the high altar and images of the Virgin Mary and St. John Baptist.
  • 36. Ibid. fol. 200, 217.
  • 37. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, 498.
  • 38. It does not figure in the list of preceptories then (Add. MS. 21315, fol. 59).
  • 39. L.T.R. Enr. Accts. 18, roll 51. Expenses amounted to £40 6s. 6½d.
  • 40. Larking, op. cit. 172.
  • 41. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 403.
  • 42. Assize R. 320, m. 4.
  • 43. Cott. MS. Nero, E vi, fol. 129.
  • 44. Ibid. fol. 134 d.
  • 45. Ibid. fol. 129.