House of Knights Hospitallers: Preceptory of Halston

A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.

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'House of Knights Hospitallers: Preceptory of Halston', in A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 2, (London, 1973) pp. 87-88. British History Online [accessed 21 April 2024]

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This preceptory (fn. 1) was founded between 1165 and 1187, when Roger de Powys, lord of Whittington, granted the Hospitallers a portion of his demesne. (fn. 2) By the second decade of the 13th century it was sufficiently well established to be considered by the bishop of St. Asaph a suitable guardian for his hospital at Oswestry (fn. 3) and by 1240 it had acquired some interest, if only temporary, in the churches of Oswestry and St. Martin's. (fn. 4) Kinnerley church had been appropriated to Halston by 1248, when the knights owned the tithes of Osbaston in Kinnerley. (fn. 5) The great tithes of Whittington demesne were also granted to Halston at an early period, apparently in return for the provision of a chaplain at Whittington castle. (fn. 6)

By 1294 the preceptory of Dolgynwal (Yspytty Ifan, Denbighs.) had been united with Halston, (fn. 7) which was subsequently the administrative centre for all Hospitaller estates in north Wales. (fn. 8) Dolgynwal, which had been founded c. 1190, (fn. 9) had acquired Ellesmere church, its most substantial property, from Llywelyn the Great in 1225. (fn. 10) Its estates also included the chapel of Penmachno (Caern.) and presumably Gwanas grange (Merion.), since this also lay in Gwynedd. Of the three remaining properties in north Wales later administered from Halston the church of Tregynon (Mont.) already in part belonged to Halston by 1254, (fn. 11) while Carno manor and Llanwddyn grange (Mont.) may always have been dependencies of this preceptory rather than that of Dolgynwal. (fn. 12) The unification clearly followed the Edwardian conquest and may have taken place in 1288, when the prior of the order was visiting royal castles in north Wales. (fn. 13) During the later Middle Ages Halston also possessed a small estate, later known as the manor of St. John's, in Ellesmere and its townships of Haughton, Colemere, and Crosemere. This was said in 1371 to have belonged to the order for over a century (fn. 14) and may originally have been the Ellesmere church estate.

Although domestic buildings at Dolgynwal were apparently still in use in 1338, (fn. 15) when periodic visits were being made by the preceptor of Halston, it no longer housed any brethren. Its small demesne, only capable of growing oats, was, however, still in hand. Aparts from the preceptor there were then at Halston a serjeant-at-arms, a corrodiary, and two chaplains. There were also eight hosuehold or farm servants, a steward, and two 'frary' clerks. A 200-acre demesne was kept in hand and the hosuehold consumed 70 qr. wheat, 30 qr. rye, and 160 qr. malt annually. Of a total gross income of £152 2s. 6d. nearly half (£72 13s. 4d.) was derived from tithes and £42 15s. 10d. from rents. Ellesmere, which produced about £50 in rents and tithes, was and remained the most profitable part of the estate. The preceptory also drew a substantial income from two sources not available in the same form to other religious houses: in 1338 £26 13s. 4d. was received from confraria or voluntary contributions and £7 was paid by expedores. (fn. 16)

Surviving estate records of the manor of St. John in Ellesmere of the late 14th and early 15th centuries (fn. 17) suggest that the knights were managing this nearby property with some care. In 1366 the 27 tenants held a little more than 6½ virgates. Although the total rents of some £4 a year remained unchanged until the Dissolution (fn. 18) entry fines were sometimes heavy, life leases were the usual form of tenure, and amobyr dues were scrupulously exacted. In 1415 a new preceptor required the tenants to erect crosses on their houses and wear crosses on their caps, as was common on Hospitaller estates, and in 1429 an unsuccessful attempt was made to claim the third part of the goods of deceased tenants.

The demesne at Dolgynwal was set on a threeyear lease in 1377 (fn. 19) and, to judge by the absence of ploughmen among the farm servants at Halston, the demesne arable there was no longer being farmed directly by 1428. (fn. 20) In spite of unsettled conditions in Wales (fn. 21) the gross annual income had, however, risen to nearly £208 by this date. Rents and tithes produced £151 and the income from confraria, oblations on St. John's Day and other dues was put at £53. (fn. 22) Although the preceptor was occasionally resident in the early 15th century (fn. 23) the only permanent staff at Halston in 1428 seem to have been two chaplains and ten servants, including a miller, a warrener, a stabler, and a dairymaid. (fn. 24) These consumed the corn and hay tithes of Halston and of four townships in Ellesmere and Kinnerley.

Little evidence survives to illustrate the relations of Halston with neighbouring magnates. Gifts totalling £10 a year to royal officials and other lords to secure their good will were recorded in 1338. (fn. 25) The earl of March paid a visit in 1355 (fn. 26) and fodder was bought in 1428 for the horses of Richard, Lord Strange, the lord of Ellesmere and Knockin, (fn. 27) with whom the Hospitallers seem to have been on somewhat uneasy terms. In 1430 they had to counter his claim to the assize of bread from their Ellesmere tenants (fn. 28) and in 1432 his servants were alleged to have burnt down the Halston tithe barns at Maesbrook. (fn. 29)

It is unlikely that any preceptor resided at Halston in and after the later 15th century. (fn. 30) In 1535, when the whole estate was valued at £160 14s., a little more than in 1338, the domestic buildings were probably leased with the demesne, and manor courts were no longer being held here or at Ellesmere. Dolgynwal was leased, with the confraria of Caernarvonshire and Anglesey, to Robert ap Rees and all other confraria were leased to Rhys ap Owen who was styled 'frary clerk'. (fn. 31)

Richard Mytton, who in April 1539 was granted a five-year lease of the whole estate except Kinnerley rectory and Dolgynwal, was required to live at Halston, to provide hospitality, and to find a priest for the chapel. (fn. 32) In 1543 the Halston demesne was granted by the Crown to John Sewster (fn. 33) and it was excluded from a new lease made to Mytton in 1545. (fn. 34) Sewster, however, sold Halston in 1544 to Alan Horde, who exchanged it with Mytton for lands in Warwickshire in 1551. (fn. 35) The manor of St. John in Ellesmere was granted to Thomas Onslow in 1545 (fn. 36) and at the same time Carno and Tregynon were acquired by Rhys ap Morris. (fn. 37) Ellesmere rectory, Dolgynwal, Penmachno, Gwanas, and Llanwddyn were granted in 1560 to George Lee, who also obtained portions of the tithes of Kinnerley and Whittington. (fn. 38) Kinnerley rectory, the last portion of the estate to be disposed of, was granted later in the same year to Robert Davy and Henry Dunne. (fn. 39) Although a preceptor of Halston was appointed when the order was revived in England in 1558 (fn. 40) there is no indication that this had any practical effect.

Apart from the fine timber-framed chapel, which probably dates from the earlier 15th century, there are no structural remains of the preceptory above ground, It is said to have stood to the west of the chapel (fn. 41) and was presumably demolished c. 1690, when the present house was built on a more elevated site to the north. There are, however, a number of clearly artificial irregularities in the surface of the field in which the chapel stands, notably two rectangular ditched enclosures to the south.

Preceptors of Halston (fn. 42)

Thomas, occurs 1239 and 1248. (fn. 43)

Odo de Neneth, occurs 1294 and 1300. (fn. 44)

Richard de Bachesworth, occurs 1330. (fn. 45)

Philip de Luda, occurs 1338. (fn. 46)

Walter of Kinnerley, occurs 1350 and 1362. (fn. 47)

Robert of Normanton, occurs as custos 1367 and 1377. (fn. 48)

Walter Grendon, appointed 1382, resigned 1415. (fn. 49)

John Kilquyt, appointed 1415, (fn. 50) occurs 1417. (fn. 51)

John Etton, resigned 1420. (fn. 52)

Walter Burley, appointed 1420, (fn. 53) died 1442. (fn. 54)

William Bathcote, appointed 1442, (fn. 55) occurs until 1454. (fn. 56)

Thomas West, appointed July 1454 but died soon afterwards. (fn. 57)

John Langstrother, appointed Sept. 1454, (fn. 58) resigned 1470. (fn. 59)

Augustus Middlemore, appointed 1470, (fn. 60) died 1471. (fn. 61)

John Kendall, appointed 1471, (fn. 62) resigned 1482. (fn. 63)

Stephen Lynde, appointed 1483. (fn. 64)

Robert Dalison, occurs 1492–1501. (fn. 65)

Roger Boydel, appointed 1506, (fn. 66) resigned 1523. (fn. 67)

Giles Russell, appointed by July 1523. (fn. 68)

Nicholas Roberts, appointed Aug. 1523. (fn. 69)

George Aylmer, appointed Nov. 1523, (fn. 70) found to be insane and presumably removed from office, 1535. (fn. 71)

Richard Shelley, appointed 1558. (fn. 72)


  • 1. The assistance of Professor C. L. Tipton of Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who supplied material from the Archives of the Knights Hospitallers at the Royal Malta Library, is gratefully acknowledged.
  • 2. Eyton, xi. 41–42; Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), 16. The bounds given in the grant coincide with those of the later township of Halston. The topographical evidence is reserved for discussion in a later volume.
  • 3. See p. 105.
  • 4. S.P.L., Deeds 106.
  • 5. Eyton, xi. 28, 372; cf. W. E. Lunt, Valuation of Norwich, 471.
  • 6. L. B. Larking, The Knights Hospitallers in England (Camd. Soc. lxv), 38; Req. 2/66/88.
  • 7. Cal. Chan. Wts. i. 45.
  • 8. See W. Rees, A History of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in Wales and on the Welsh Border (Cardiff, 1947), map on p. 70.
  • 9. Ibid. 63.
  • 10. Cal. Pat. 1313-17, 576.
  • 11. Lunt, Valuation of Norwich, 468.
  • 12. Rees, Order of St. John in Wales, 66–67.
  • 13. Cal. Chan. R. Var. 319–20.
  • 14. S.R.O. 212, box 11C, St. John's ct. r. 1371.
  • 15. This paragraph is based on Larking, Knights Hospitallers in Eng. 38–40.
  • 16. The distinction between the two payments is obscure but, while confraria were levied by the order generally, expedores are found only on its Welsh estates. The word is thought to be the Latin form of the Welsh ysbytywŷr = Hospitallers (Rees, Order of St. John in Wales, 24). In 1284 the Hospitallers obtained a confirmation of the right they had enjoyed under the Welsh princes to the amobyr of their expedores and to a third of their goods at death: Cal. Inq. Misc. i, p. 383; Cal. Chan. R. Var. 287–8.
  • 17. This paragraph is based on S.R.O. 212, boxes 10A, 10C, 11C, St. John's ct. r. 1349–1448; ibid. boxes 10C, 73, reeve's accts. 1354–5, 1362–3; ibid. box 1, survey, 1366. Cf. ibid. box 1, Ellesmere hund. ct. r. 1348.
  • 18. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 455.
  • 19. T.S.A.S. xlvii. 83.
  • 20. S.P.L., Deeds 4028 (Halston steward's acct. 1427–8).
  • 21. The tenant at Carno was a ringleader of Welsh rebels: ibid.
  • 22. Ibid. In the mid 15th century Halston was reckoned one of the more wealthy preceptories in the English province (B. M. Add. MS. 17319, ff. 37–37v.) and an annual 'responsion' of some £64 was usually due from the preceptor to the order, 1520–35: ex inf. Professor C. L. Tipton.
  • 23. S.P.L., Deeds 132.
  • 24. Ibid. 4028.
  • 25. Larking, Knights Hospitallers in Eng. 39–40.
  • 26. S.R.O. 212, box 11C, reeve's acct. 1354–5.
  • 27. S.P.L., Deeds 4028.
  • 28. S.R.O. 212, box 10A, St. John's ct. r. 1430.
  • 29. S.P.L., Deeds 139.
  • 30. Roger Boydel (preceptor 1506–23) may have lived at Halston. This was implied by a deponent in a tithe suit of 1570 but other deponents stated that the preceptory had been occupied by a succession of farmers: Req. 2/66/88.
  • 31. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com), iv. 455–6.
  • 32. S.P.L., Deeds 4002; S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/7262 m. 12d.
  • 33. E 318/20/983; L. & P. Hen. VIII, xviii (2), p. 186; Salop. Shreds & Patches, iii. 97–98.
  • 34. S.P.L., Deeds 4003; L. & P. Hen. VIII, xx(1), p. 683.
  • 35. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xix (1), p. 506; Salop. Shreds & Patches, iii. 98; S.P.L., Deeds 6177.
  • 36. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xx (2), p. 229.
  • 37. Ibid. p. 232.
  • 38. E 318/45/2406; Cal. Pat. 1558–60, 273–4.
  • 39. Cal. Pat. 1558–60, 276.
  • 40. Ibid. 1557–8, 313.
  • 41. S.P.L., Deeds 6177. The domestic building may have adjoined the west end of the nave, where there is a 19thcentury tower; cf. S. E. Rigold, 'Two Camerae of the Military Orders', Arch. Jnl. cxxii, 120.
  • 42. Alan, c. 1195, and Ednyfed, n.d., appear in the list of preceptors in Rees, Order of St. John in Wales, 104, but no source is given.
  • 43. S.P.L., Deeds 106; Eyton, x. 372.
  • 44. Cal. Chan. Wts. i. 45; Cal. Pat. 1292–1301, 549.
  • 45. Eyton, x. 375.
  • 46. Larking, Knights Hospitallers in Eng. 40
  • 47. S.R.O. 212, box 10A, St. John's ct. r. 1350; ibid. box 11C, St. John's ct. r. 1362; B.M. Cott. MS. Nero E. vi, f. 169v.
  • 48. S.R.O. 212, box 11C, St. John's ct. r. 1367; T.S.A.S. xlvii. 83.
  • 49. Archives of the Knights Hospitallers, Royal Malta Libr., Valetta, Cod. 321, f. 137v; ibid. 338, f. 128.
  • 50. Ibid. 338, f. 124v.
  • 51. Ibid. 340, f. 117.
  • 52. Ibid. 345, f. 131v.
  • 53. Ibid.
  • 54. N.L.W., MS. 9092, p. 15.
  • 55. Malta Cod. 355, f. 179.
  • 56. Ibid. 364, f. 117v.
  • 57. Ibid. 365, f. 116.
  • 58. Ibid. 365, f. 117v.
  • 59. Ibid. 379, ff. 140–141v.
  • 60. Ibid. f. 144v.
  • 61. Ibid. f. 148.
  • 62. Ibid.
  • 63. Ibid. 388, ff. 134–134v.
  • 64. Ibid. f. 135.
  • 65. Ibid. 391, ff. 100–100v.; ibid. 393, f. 109v. Presumably still preceptor of Halston at his death in 1504: ex inf. Professor C. L. Tipton.
  • 66. Malta Cod. 397, f. 138.
  • 67. Ibid. 410, ff. 180–180v.
  • 68. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iii (2), p. 1584; cf. The Book of Deliberations of the Venerable Tongue of England, 1523–67, ed. Sir H. P. Scicluna (Malta, 1949), 5.
  • 69. Malta Cod. 410, f. 180.
  • 70. Ibid. f. 181.
  • 71. Ibid. 86, f. 2.
  • 72. Cal. Pat. 1557–8, 313.