Houses of Knights Hospitaller: Preceptory of Balsall and Grafton

Pages 100-101

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

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When the order of Knights Templars was suppressed in 1308, their possessions in this country came into the king's hands. In some instances their property was for a time enjoyed by the heirs of the donors, as was the case at Balsall, where the manor passed to John Mowbray, and was held by him until his attainder and death in 1322. At that date the whole preceptory and its members passed duly into the hands of the Knights Hospitallers according to the papal ordinance.

In 1338 Prior Philip de Thame drew up an elaborate report of the possessions of the Knights Hospitallers in England. (fn. 1) The total receipts of this preceptory and its members for that year amounted to £127 2s. 6d., the expenses and payments reached £74 19s., leaving the handsome balance for the London treasury of £52 3s. 6d. The manor and garden at Balsall produced 20s. a year; the dovecote, 10s.; 500 acres of land, £12 10s.; 60 acres of meadow, £9; rents of free tenants, 66 marks; labour of bond tenants, 100s.; a water-mill, 60s.; 60 acres of meadow, £6; pasturage, 8¼ marks; profits of stock, 60s.; profits of underwood, 100s.; pleas and perquisites of the manor courts, 100s.; and the appropriation of the church of Sherborne, 6½ marks. The 360 acres of land and other profits arising from the member of Fletchamstead, and the considerable rents and services of the member of Caldecote produced the remainder of the receipts. The expenses of the preceptor, two brethren, and others of the household, were thus apportioned, namely: bread, £15; beer, £10; flesh, fish, and other kitchen necessaries, at 5s. a week, £13; robes, mantles, and other clothing for the preceptor and two brothers, 104s.; a robe and salary for a clerk for the courts, and writing out the accounts, 20s.; a robe and salaries for a chamberlain, a cook, a baker, and a woodward, 1 mark each, 53s. 4d.; three servant lads of the preceptor, and a porter, half a mark each, 26s. 8d.; fee and robe for a steward, 40s.; stipends of two chaplains celebrating in the chapel, 40s.; stipend of a chaplain at Fletchamstead for the souls of the founders, 5 marks; a pension to Edmund Trussel of 100s., and another of 5 marks to Humphrey de Hastanet; wine, wax, and oil for the chapel, 5s.; repairs of buildings, 50s.; visitation of the prior for six days, £6; and robe and stipend for the bailiff of Fletchamstead, 2 marks.

The names of the three brothers of this house in 1338 were Henry de Buckston, the preceptor, Simon Dyseny, and John de Sprottelee. After Dyseny's name is miles, and after the two others the letter S. From its first foundation, the order of Hospitallers consisted of three classes of professed brethren who had taken the oath and assumed the habit. These were the milites or knights, the capellani or chaplains, and the servientes armorum or serjeants-at-arms. The chaplains of this house were ex obedientia, that is, salaried and not professed. The two brethren with S after their names were serjeants, and quite different from the salaried servientes officii.

The house of Templars beyond the bridge at Warwick, founded by Roger, earl of Warwick, in the time of Henry I, was united with the preceptory of Balsall when the Templars were dissolved. The return of 1338 gave its receipts as £18 3s. 4d., and the expenses as £12 6s. 8d., leaving a balance for the general treasury of the Hospitallers of £5 16s. 8d. The expenses show that 5 marks was the salary of the chaplain celebrating in the chapel for the souls of the founders, and 20s. for a bailiff who took charge of the lands and meadows.

The manor of Grafton Superior or Upper Grafton belonged to the Knights Hospitallers as early as the reign of Richard I. It never had any connexion whatever with the Knights Templars; and it is not a little remarkable how strenuously an historical blunder in nomenclature (Temple Grafton), first made in the time of Henry VIII, has been maintained.

The return of 1338 (fn. 2) gives the total annual receipts of this commandery or preceptory as £88 15s. 2d., and the expenses £29 15s. 1d., leaving the handsome balance for the Clerkenwell treasury of £59 0s. 1d. The messuage and garden were of the yearly worth of a mark; the dovecote, 6s. 8d.; 480 acres of land, £16; rents of free tenants, 4s. 2d.; court pleas and fees, 60s.; profits of 100 sheep, 20s.; profits of eight cows, 16s.; appropriation of the church of Grafton, £8; lands and stock at Berstanton (Barston in the parish of Berkswell), £16 1s. 8d.; and voluntary contributions (confraria), 24 marks. Every preceptory or commandery of the Hospitallers sent out clerks once a year to collect offerings for their funds within a given area. They thus gathered a very considerable annual sum. The amount gleaned throughout England and Wales in 1388 reached the total of £888 4s. 3d. The ground over which the preceptory of Grafton collected was probably coterminous with the county. The annual expenses of the house were £6 for bread; £5 for beer; 5 marks for flesh, fish, and kitchen necessaries; 4s. for wine, flour, and oil for the chapel; and 69s. 4d. for robes, mantles, and other necessaries for the preceptor and his tellow brother. The vicar of Grafton had his board in the house and a pension of 15s.; one Roger de Belve and his servant had a corrody worth £4; and another corrodian, Walter de Morcote, had a yearly pension of 20s. by order of the chapter. The repairing of the buildings involved an annual outlay of 20s.; procuration fee and entertainment for the archdeacon, 9s. 5½d.; the three days' visitation of the prior, 60s; the stipend of the bailiff at Barston, 13s. 4d.; and stipend of two pages, 4s. The two brothers of the house were Henry de Bokston, preceptor, S., and Thomas de Lynlee, chaplain. Hence there was no stipend for the chaplain in the account, as he was a professed member of the order.

The office of preceptor of Balsall was usually united with that of preceptor of Grafton in this county. Robert Mallory, who was preceptor of Balsall and Grafton, was raised to the position of grand prior of England in 1433. John Langstrother, who was also head of these two preceptories, was likewise made grand prior in the year 1470. He took the side of Lancaster in the Civil Wars, and being taken prisoner at the battle of Tewkesbury, was beheaded in cold blood in 1471 by order of Edward IV. (fn. 3)

It would appear that Balsall ceased to be the residence of a preceptor (who probably made Grafton his head quarters) in the fifteenth century. In the time of Edward IV and Henry VI, John Beaufitz was the farmer of the Hospitallers at Balsall, and resided there. (fn. 4)

In 1496 John Kendall, prior of St. John's, leased the commandery of Balsall to (Sir) Robert Throckmorton (afterwards knighted) for three years at £184 13s. 4d., the lessee being bound 'to keep due and convenient hospitalitie and one honest and able prest to minyster dyvine service in the said commandrie.' A further agreement was made that the lease should be renewed every three years to the term of twenty years, if the prior should live so long. (fn. 5) There seem to have been some preliminary difficulties, as the prior had to invoke secular aid to eject Robert Bellyngham, the king's 'serjeant porter,' serving a writ upon him in October, 12 (Henry VII), in the church of Erdington, (fn. 6) but Robert Throckmorton was duly put into possession and continued to hold the estate until Prior Kendall's death in 1503, when his successor refused to renew the lease, but allowed Sir Robert to hold for one year more on condition that he paid up all arrears and that yf Sir Launslott Dokwra . . . cam fro Roadys (i.e. Rhodes) ynto the Realme of England and would use and occupye the seid commaundrie for your said oratour (i.e. the prior) that then the seid Sir Robert and his assynes shuld departe and avoide from the same.

But when Sir Thomas Sheffeld and Sir Launcelot Dokwra, knights of the Hospital, went to take over the commandery, Sir Robert and Richard his brother fortified the manor-house and refused them admission, as could be testified by certain justices of the peace who accompanied the knights. (fn. 7) Sir Robert and his brother were summoned to appear before the council, but in the meanwhile put in Arthur Wylcokkes, chaplain, and other persons who sold the hay and did other waste and injuries. (fn. 8)

When the order of Hospitallers was suppressed in 1540, their property came into the king's hands, and Balsall was given by him to his last wife, Catherine Parr. (fn. 9)

Preceptors of Balsall

Henry de Buckston (Bokston), about 1338

Robert Mallory, about 1433

John Langstrother, about 1470


  • 1. Printed by the Camden Society in 1857.
  • 2. The Knights Hospitallers in Engl. (Camden Soc. 1857), 41-2.
  • 3. Porter, Knights of Malta, ii, 283, 284, 319.
  • 4. Dugdale, Warw. ii, 965.
  • 5. Star Chamber Proc. file i, No. 107.
  • 6. Ibid. file 33, No. 40.
  • 7. Ibid. file 1, No. 107.
  • 8. Ibid. file 1, No. 50.
  • 9. Dugdale, Warw. ii, 965.