A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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HOUSE OF KNIGHTS HOSPITALLERS
18. THE PRECEPTORY OF ANSTY
The manor of Ansty was granted to the order of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem by Walter de Turberville in 1210-11. (fn. 1) But the terms of his grant did not satisfy the prior of the Order because he failed to warrant the manor or to acquit it of scutage. After some years of litigation a settlement was reached in 1220, under which Walter was to pay the prior 9 marks which had been charged on the manor in the interval. (fn. 2) The Order was to hold the manor of Walter and his heirs for ever, paying an annual rent of £12, but the prior still had to distrain for his 9 marks. (fn. 3) In 1236 another virgate in Ansty was acquired from Robert de Stafford, (fn. 4) and in 1242-3 the Knights held 1 fee there of Robert de Stainton. (fn. 5) In 1251 they had a grant of free warren in this manor amongst others. (fn. 6) Henceforth the manor was always returned as being 1 knight's fee. (fn. 7) For the Hospitallers this was a comparatively large holding, and a natural place to establish a preceptory. This was certainly done before 1281, when the Preceptor, Walter de Permort, came into conflict with the hospital of St. Nicholas at Salisbury. This hospital drew an annual pension of 5 marks from the church of Ansty. The pension was payable by the Knights as early as 1245, and continued to be paid in the 17th century, long after they had departed. (fn. 8) Before 1275 the Hospitallers of Ansty had an annual rent of 12d. in Salisbury, given to them by John de Mulecote, (fn. 9) and the preceptory also came to hold lands in Swallowcliffe, and in 1333 undertook to find a chaplain to celebrate in the church there in return for 40 acres given to them by Thomas West. (fn. 10)
It is probable that the preceptory had a continuous history of 300 years, but only on one occasion during that period is it possible to get a glimpse of it. This is in 1338 when it was included in the survey of the Hospitallers' lands. (fn. 11) Then there was a manor-house at Ansty with a garden, dovecote, and watermill. The demesne lands were worth £25, whilst rents produced £18 and the court 1 mark. The lands could maintain 900 sheep. The church was worth £6 after the pension to St. Nicholas's Hospital had been paid. The small holding at Swallowcliffe, comprising 1 messuage and 36 acres of land and pasture, produced £2 a year. Altogether the revenue of the preceptory was £93. Of this sum £40 was required to maintain the household at Ansty in food and clothing, and to entertain the prior of the Order for three days. So that rather more than half the revenue was available for the central treasury of the Order. The household at Ansty consisted of the Preceptor, then Brother John Dyngeland, John de Wyncestre, a Knight of the Order, and William West, who occupied the place of another Knight. With them were 1 corrodian, a chaplain, 3 clerks, the preceptor's squire, and 6 servants, making a total of 15 persons.
Two hundred years later, in 1534, the income of the preceptory was said to be almost exactly the same, £90, or £81 after the deduction of the pension to St. Nicholas's Hospital and the wages of the bailiff, (fn. 12) but in the year 1540-1 the king's receiver accounted for only £38 1s. 7d., of which sum £30 was derived from the manor of Ansty. The remainder was produced by small parcels of land situated in 28 different places, almost all in Wiltshire. (fn. 13) In the same year the possessions of the preceptory were granted to John Zouche. (fn. 14) The Order was revived in England by Queen Mary, and all the scattered lands were once more listed as the possessions of Ansty. (fn. 15) The commandery was pulled down in the reign of Elizabeth I, but the guest house near the church survived until 1927, when it was burnt out. A water-colour drawing of this building by J. Buckler in 1817 is preserved in the William Salt Library at Stafford. (fn. 16)
Preceptors of Ansty
Walter de Permort, occurs 1281. (fn. 17)
Reynold de Segrave, occurs 1326. (fn. 18)
John Dyngeland, occurs 1338. (fn. 19)
Cuthbert Leighton, occurs 1534. (fn. 20)