House of Knights Templars: The preceptory of Sandford

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

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'House of Knights Templars: The preceptory of Sandford', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2, (London, 1907) pp. 106-107. British History Online [accessed 13 April 2024]

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The beginning of the rich possessions of the Templars in Oxfordshire was in 1136, when Queen Matilda granted them a manor in Cowley, where they built a church and established a preceptory. (fn. 1) Some twenty years later Simon, earl of Northampton, gave them Merton, or at least 7 hides of it, and there, too, there appears to have been temporarily a preceptory. (fn. 2) About the year 1153 they had obtained the whole manor of Sibford Ferris, and the chapel of Sibford Gower, (fn. 3) and as early as 1142 a manor in Hensington of 2½ hides. (fn. 4) Before 1185 they were granted by Alan de Limesy 5 hides in Bradwell in Oxfordshire, and also the church, as well as many smaller gifts. (fn. 5) Early in the next century the manors of Littlemore and Warpsgrove came to them; (fn. 6) and in 1225 the two manors of Horsepath were obtained on a perpetual lease, (fn. 7) while in 1239 or 1240 they were given the important manor of Sandford-on-Thames. Here they established tbeir head preceptory, and, to judge from the chartulary, (fn. 8) they managed from this centre their properties in Hants and Berkshire as well as most of their possessions in Oxfordshire. Their lands, however, at Bradwell seem to have been under some other preceptory, perhaps that of Temple Guiting, Gloucestershire. After this Cowley and Merton appear to have been reduced to the status of camerae or granges, but though the preceptor resided at Sandford he was often called 'preceptor de Couele,' as well as 'preceptor de Sandford,' even as late as 1279. By obtaining the manor of Sandford the Templars became the patrons of the priory of Littlemore, and another curious prerogative which they had was the right to a bed in the Hospital of St. John at Oxford, granted them by Drogo de Barentin.

In 1338, though their former possessions in Oxfordshire—then in the hands of the Hospitallers—had been somewhat reduced by that time, they were still worth over £170 per annum. (fn. 9)

When the order was suppressed in 1308 William Sautre, preceptor of Sandford, was amongst the knights seized and brought up for trial, as were William de Warrewyk, priest, an inmate of the same house for three years, and Richard de Colingham, who had been one of the brethren there for the past six years. (fn. 10) Sautre was one of the principal witnesses examined by the commissioners for the trial of the Templars, as he had been present at the annual chapter every year save once for the previous twenty years, and was acquainted with a very large number of the knights, of whom he mentioned Robert de Waus, Michael de Baskevile, William de Chalesey, Walter de Rokele, Richard de Colingham and William de Warrewyk, as known to him at Sandford. He gave important evidence on the alleged granting of absolution by the president of the chapter (fn. 11); Richard de Colingham spoke on the subject of the mystic girdles which the brethren were said to wear, saying that they used certain belts called 'girdles of chastity'; (fn. 12) William de Chalesey described his admission at Sandford five years earlier, when he took an oath to live in chastity and poverty, to serve the Holy Land to the best of his power, and to maintain the good customs of the order; (fn. 13) and similar evidence was given by Ralph de Malton, who had been admitted twenty-six years before in the chapel at Cowley in the presence of John de Dokesworke, then 'claviger' of Cowley. (fn. 14) A foreign knight, Robert de Sancto Justo of Beauvais diocese, declared that when he was admitted at Sandford by Imbert, 'called Iderand,' the grand master, he was ordered to spit upon the cross and to deny the Christ; evidently wishing to damage his order with the least risk to himself, he said that he did deny Christ, but only with his mouth and not with his heart, and spat upon the ground near the cross. (fn. 15) Another brother, Thomas de Walkington, who had been admitted in the same house boldly stood up for his order, and said that he did not believe the alleged confessions of his brethren were ever made, or if they were it was only through fear of torture. (fn. 16)


  • 1. Wood, MS. 10, fol. 14.
  • 2. Ibid. fol. 102.
  • 3. Ibid. fol. 90.
  • 4. Ibid. fol. 99.
  • 5. Misc. Books, Exch. K. R. 16, fol. 29.
  • 6. Wood, MS. fols. 9 and 42.
  • 7. Ibid. fol. 33.
  • 8. Ibid. (empt.), 10.
  • 9. The Hospitallers in Engl. (Camd. Soc.), 193.
  • 10. Wilkins, Concilia, ii, 347.
  • 11. Ibid. 356.
  • 12. Ibid. 343.
  • 13. Ibid. 341.
  • 14. Wilkins, Concilia, ii, 344.
  • 15. Wilkins, Concilia, ii, 359.
  • 16. Ibid. 366.