Houses of Knights Templar

A History of the County of York: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1974.

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'Houses of Knights Templar', in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, ed. William Page( London, 1974), British History Online [accessed 22 July 2024].

'Houses of Knights Templar', in A History of the County of York: Volume 3. Edited by William Page( London, 1974), British History Online, accessed July 22, 2024,

"Houses of Knights Templar". A History of the County of York: Volume 3. Ed. William Page(London, 1974), , British History Online. Web. 22 July 2024.

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The Order of Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem was founded in 1119, but it was not until the middle of the 12th century that they began to acquire possessions in Yorkshire, where they eventually established at least ten preceptories. Their prosperity was brought to an abrupt close early in the 14th century; in 1308 Sir John Crepping, Sheriff of Yorkshire, received the king's writ to arrest the Templars within the county and sequester all their property. (fn. 1) Twenty-five Templars were placed in custody in York Castle and examined on the charge or heresy, idolatry, and other crimes, brought against the order by Pope Clement V and Philip IV of France. After a long-drawn-out trial, in which the evidence adduced against the knights was too flimsy to secure the desired conviction, a compromise was arrived at by which the brethren, without admitting their guilt, acknowledged that their order was strongly suspected of heresy and other charges from which they could not clear themselves. They then received absolution at the hands of the Bishop of Whithern on 29 July 1311, were released from prison, and were distributed amongst the various monasteries. (fn. 2) Next year the suppression of the order was decreed by the pope, and a large portion or their estates was made over to the order of the Knights Hospitallers.

The Yorkshire estates of the Templars consisted of the preceptories of Copmanthorpe (with the Castle Mills of York), Faxfleet, Foulbridge, Penhill, Ribston, Temple Cowton, Temple Hirst, Temple Newsam, Westerdale, and Whitley, and the manors of Alverthorpe and Etton, which, although possessing chapels, do not seem to have had preceptors. All these estates, with the exception of Faxfleet, Temple Hirst, and Temple Newsam, passed to the Hospitallers.

So important were the Templars' holdings in the county that a ' chief preceptor' or ' master' was appointed for Yorkshire from early times.

Chief Preceptors of Yorkshire

Walter Brito, c. 1220 (fn. 3)

Roger de Scamelesbi, c. 1240 (fn. 4)

William de Merden, c. 1270 (fn. 5)

Robert de Haleghton, or Halton, occurs 1290, 1293 (fn. 6)

Thomas de Thoulouse, c. 1301 (fn. 7)

William de Grafton, occurs 1304, (fn. 8) arrested 1308 (fn. 9)


William Malbys gave the manor of Copmanthorpe and other property to the Templars on condition that they should support a chaplain to celebrate for the souls of himself and his relations in the chapel of the manor. (fn. 10) The date of this grant is uncertain, but it must have been prior to 1258, as the manor is mentioned as belonging to the brethren in a confirmatory charter by William de Ros, who died in that year. (fn. 11)

A return made in 1292 states that the preceptor of Copmanthorpe was keeper of the mills below the castle at York. (fn. 12) These mills were given to the Templars by Roger de Mowbray prior to 1185, at which date they were let for 15½ marks. (fn. 13) With the mills at this time the brethren held in York three tofts which they had bought, and another which had been given them by Thomas ' Ultra Usam,' a prominent citizen of York. Henry III in 1232 gave them another strip of land adjoining the mills. (fn. 14) In 1308 the property in York consisted of the mills, a messuage with a garden, and three plots of land. (fn. 15) There was a chapel at the mills to which William de Appelby paid 48s. yearly for the support of a chantry. (fn. 16) This chapel was well furnished, possessing a gilt chalice worth 100s., nine service-books of different kinds, and various vestments and ornaments. (fn. 17) The value of the mills was returned at £10 11s., while the estate of Copmanthorpe, of which the chapel was exceptionally well provided, was valued at £80 16s. 2d.

No preceptor of Copmanthorpe was amongst the knights arrested in 1308, and the only holder of the post whose name is known is Robert de Reygate, who, with John, chaplain of the Castle Mills, was accused in 1292 of having set nets below the mills to catch the king's fish. (fn. 18) He was still preceptor the following year. (fn. 19)


Although very little is known of this preceptory, it was clearly one of the most important in the county. The value in 1308 is returned as £290 4s. 10d., a greater sum than was set down for any other Yorkshire preceptory; the chapel was remarkably well provided, the value of its contents reaching the exceptional sum of £12, and there was 'a certain treasury with many written deeds and bulls relating to estates in Yorkshire,' which was duly locked up and sealed with the seals of the sheriff and the preceptor of Yorkshire. (fn. 20)

Several of the Templars arrested in 1308 said that they had been received into the order of Faxfleet. Hugh of Tadcaster, for instance, related how he had formerly been ' claviger' at Faxfleet, and when he desired to be admitted the Grand Master, William de la More, received him into the order in the chapel. (fn. 21)

Geoffrey Jolif was preceptor in 1290; (fn. 22) Brother Stephen held that office in 1301, when Thomas, le Chamberleyn was admitted to the order; (fn. 23) and William del Fen was preceptor in 1308, when he was arrested, with Richard de Ryston, chaplain, Thomas Tyeth, claviger, and Roger de Hugunde or Hogyndon, a brother in residence at Faxfleet. (fn. 24)


Little is known of this preceptory. At the time of the suppression of the order the estates of Foukebridge, Allerston, and Wydale were returned as worth (?) £254 3s. 2d. The furniture of the chapel included four crosses, ' two with images and two without.' (fn. 25) Another return mentions that the Templars supported a chaplain and gave alms three days in the week to any poor persons who came. (fn. 26) The only known preceptor is Richard de Hales, who was arrested in 1308. (fn. 27)


Roger Mowbray, by a charter assigned to about 1142, granted timber from his forests of Nidderdale, Malzeard, and Masham for the building of three of the Templars' houses wherever they might wish at Penhill, Cowton, and ' Reinhou.' (fn. 28) While this points to the early establishment of a preceptory here, it is noticeable that in the survey of 1185 the estates at 'Pennel,' consisting of 2 carucates given by William son of Hugh, were accounted for under Temple Newsam. (fn. 29) That the knights had some sort of an establishment here shortly after this date seems clear, as a fine of 1202 relating to their property in Witton mentions the house and the cemetery of the brethren. (fn. 30)

There was a chapel at Penhill, of which the ruins, containing an altar and some stone coffins, were excavated some years since. (fn. 31) This no doubt adjoined the cemetery just mentioned, as a number of coffins were found outside the east wall. Early grants are recorded for the support of the lights of St. Katherine and the Holy Cross at Penhill, (fn. 32) and the chapel is mentioned at the time of the suppression of the order as containing a chalice worth 20s, and a few books and vestments. (fn. 33)

The only known preceptor of Penhill is Thomas de Belleby, who was arrested in 1308. (fn. 34)


About 1217 Robert de Ros gave to the Templars his manor of Ribston, with the advowson of the church, the vill and mills of Walshford, and the vill of Hunsingore. (fn. 35) This property had come to Robert de Ros from his mother, Rose Trussebut; and her sisters, Hilary and Agatha, at some date prior to 1240, made grants of various woods in the neighbourhood to the preceptory. Robert son of William Denby gave the vill of Wetherby to the Templars, and other smaller grants followed.

Besides the church of Hunsingore the Templars had chapels at Wetherby, Ribston, and apparently at Walshford. The chapel of St. Andrew at Ribston stood in the churchyard of the parish church, and in 1231 was the subject of an arrangement between the brethren and the rector. About this time a sum of £2 16s. was assigned for the support of a chaplain at Ribston for the good of the soul of Robert de Ros.

The estates at Ribston and Wetherby seem to have formed a single preceptory, but were valued separately at the time of their seizure in 1308. Wetherby (fn. 36) was then returned as worth £120 7s. 8d., and Ribston, including North Deighton and Lound, at £267 13s. (fn. 37) The chapels in each case were simply furnished, but Ribston was remarkable as possessing two silver cups, three masers, and ten silver spoons—more secular plate than all the other Yorkshire preceptories put together. At the time of the trial of the Templars, Gasper de Nafferton, who had been chaplain at Ribston, related certain cases in which the brethren had observed a great and, as he now perceived, suspicious secrecy in matters touching admission to the order. (fn. 38) And Robert de Oteringham, a Friar Minor, who gave evidence against the Templars, (fn. 39) said that at Ribston a chaplain of the order, after returning thanks, denounced his brethren, saying ' The Devil shall burn you!' He also saw one of the brethren, apparently during the confusion which ensued on this exclamation, turn his back upon the altar. Further, some twenty years before, he was at Wetherby, and the chief preceptor, who was also there, did not come to supper because he was preparing certain relics which he had brought from the Holy Land; thinking he heard a noise in the chapel during the night, Robert looked through the keyhole, and saw a great light, but when he asked one of the brethren about it next day he was bidden to hold his tongue as he valued his life. At Ribston, also, he once saw a crucifix lying as if thrown down on the altar, and when he was going to stand it up he was told to leave it alone. As this was some of the most direct and damaging evidence given during the trial the weakness of the case against the Templars is obvious.

Of the preceptors only two names appear to have survived. William de Garewyz was preceptor of Wetherby in, or a little before, 1293, (fn. 40) and Richard de Keswik, or Chesewyk, who was admitted to the order at Faxfleet in 1290, (fn. 41) became preceptor of Ribston about 1298 (fn. 42) and still held that post in 1308 when he was arrested, with Richard de Brakearp, claviger, and Henry de Craven, a brother in residence at Ribston. (fn. 43)


Cowton was one of the three estates of the Templars to which Roger Mowbray, about 1142, granted timber for building purposes. (fn. 44) But in 1185 the 6 carucates in 'Cutun,' said to have been given by Robert Cambord (?), were returned under Newsam. (fn. 45) The manor of Kirkby was given to the Templars by Baldwin Wake, (fn. 46) and the estates belonging to the preceptory were worth about £100 at the time of their seizure in 1308. (fn. 47) The preceptory at that time consisted of hall, chamber, chapel, kitchen, brewhouse, and smithy. In the chapel were two hanging bells worth 26s. and two hand-bells worth 12d., and in the chamber was a sealed chest containing 'all the charters of the Temple of Scotland together with various charters of certain estates in England.' (fn. 48)

At the time of its suppression the community at Cowton consisted of John de Walpole, the preceptor, Henry de Rerby, claviger, and Roger de Thresk. (fn. 49)


This preceptory originated in the grant of the manor of Hirst in Birkin made in 1152 by Ralph Hastings to the order, of which his brother Richard was grand master. (fn. 50) Henry Lacy, Ralph's superior lord, confirmed this grant and another by Henry Vernoil of land at Potterlaw. (fn. 51) Other grants followed, including the church of Kellington, given by Henry Lacy. (fn. 52) They had also a chapel at Norton, and a chapel must have been built at Hirst before 1185, as 40 acres in Fenwick were given prior to that date by Jordan Foliot for the support of a chaplain at Hirst. (fn. 53) Adam of Newmarket stipulated that one penny should be paid to the chapel of the Temple at Hirst to light the altar of the Blessed Mary on the Feast of her Assumption, and at the suppression of the order in 1308 we have an account of the furniture of the chapel, which included two chalices, one silver and one gilt, a cross, a pyx, a censer, some half-a-dozen service books and a few vestments. (fn. 54)

When the Templars' lands were seized in 1308, Sir John Crepping, the sheriff, made a return which showed the total value of this preceptory to have been £64 15s. 2½d., of which sum the church of Kellington accounted for rather more than half. At Temple Hirst were some 200 acres of land, and the preceptory itself, of which considerable remains still exist, consisted of a hall, chapel, kitchen, larder, and outbuildings.

At the time of the trial of the Templars, Master John de Nassington, the archbishop's official, deposed that Sir Miles Stapleton and Sir Adam Everingham had told him that they were once invited with other knights to a banquet given by the preceptor of York at Temple Hirst and that when there they were told that many of the brethren had come to that place for a solemn feast at which they were accustomed to worship a calf. (fn. 55) Sir Miles Stapleton, who figures in this story, made a grant to the Templars in 1302, and effected an exchange of lands with them as late as 1304. (fn. 56) Five years later he had charge of the estates belonging to the preceptory, then in the hands of the Crown.

Little is known of the preceptors of Temple Hirst; Robert Piron was preceptor at the time of Henry Vernoil's grant, and Ivo de Etton, who occurs elsewhere as Ivo de Houghton, (fn. 57) was preceptor in 1308, when he was arrested together with Adam de Crake, ' claviger.' (fn. 58)


The date of the foundation of this preceptory is uncertain, but it arose from the grant of land in Newsam, Skelton, Chorlton, and Whitkirk made to the Templars by William de Villiers, who died in 1181. This grant was confirmed by Henry Lacy, who at the same time stipulated that the brethren should return the estate of Newbond which he had previously given them. (fn. 59) It is possible, therefore, that the Templars had settled at Newbond before they founded a preceptory at Newsam. In the survey of 1185 (fn. 60) it is stated that the property at Newsam, amounting to 16 carucates, was obtained from William de Villiers by purchase. At this time, Penhill and Cowton seem to have gone with Newsam, the total value of the whole being just under £10, The church of Whitkirk was then returned as in demesne, except the altar which Paul the priest held for a yearly payment of 3 marks. About the year 1200 Robert Stapleton obtained licence from the Templars at their chapter in London to build a chapel and establish a chantry at Thorpe Stapleton, swearing fealty to the Templars and reserving the offerings to the church of Whitkirk; In 1291 the vicarage of Whitkirk was returned as in the hands of the Templars and worth £5. (fn. 61)

At the time of its seizure in 1308 the preceptory of Newsam was one of the most wealthy in the county, the total value being returned as £ 174 3s. 3s. (fn. 62) With the exception of a chalice worth 60s. the furniture of the chapel was plain.

Brother John, preceptor of Newsam, was attorney for the Master of the Temple in 1293, (fn. 63) and Godfrey de Arches, or de Arcubus, was preceptor in 1308 and was then arrested, as were also Raymond de Rypon, claviger, and Thomas de Stanford, a brother in residence. (fn. 64)


On 25 June 1203 King John confirmed to the Templars the gift of Guy de Bonaincurt, which Hugh Balliol had confirmed, of the vill of Westerdale, (fn. 65) and this was one of the estates for which free warren was granted to the Templars in 1248. (fn. 66)

A moiety of the advowson of Beeford Church, which was shared between the Templars and the priory of Bridlington, (fn. 67) seems to have gone with this preceptory. (fn. 68) In 1308 the Westerdale estates were valued at £32 19s. 6d. and the preceptory itself consisted of chapel, hall, kitchen, and outbuildings. (fn. 69)

Two preceptors are known; Stephen de Radenache held that office in 1308, (fn. 70) and during the trial in 1310, Sir John de Eure said that once William de la Fenne, 'then preceptor of Wesdall,' had dined with him, and after dinner had produced a book which he showed to Sir John's wife. The lady found in it a paper containing certain anti-Christian heresies, which she showed to her husband; the Templar then said with a smile that he who wrote the paper was 'a great ribald,' and took the book away. Brother William, who at this time was preceptor of Faxfleet, said by way of excuse that he was a layman, and so did not know what was in the book. (fn. 71)


The manor of Whitley came into the hands of the Templars before 1248, in which year they had a grant of free warren on their lands there. (fn. 72) This property was valued in 1308 at £130 15s. 10s., and the live stock included two saddle-horses belonging to William de Grafton, preceptor of Yorkshire, and a black saddle-horse belonging to the preceptor of Whitley, Robert de Langton. (fn. 73)


  • 1. Kenrick, Papers on Arch. and Hist. 44. A list of documents of the reign of Edward II relating to the Yorks. Templars, and now in the Public Record Office, is given on p. 63.
  • 2. Rec. of the Northern Convocation (Surt. Soc.), 19-60.
  • 3. Rievaulx Chartul. (Surt. Soc.), 26, 240; occurs, as Walter only, in 1216; Rot. Lit. Pat. (Rec. Com), i, 165.
  • 4. a Percy Chartul. (Surt. Soc.), 46. He was preceptor of Willoughton (Lines.) in 1223, and of Lindsey in 1234; Cott. MS. Nero, D. iii, fol. 15.
  • 5. Yorks. Arch. Rec. xxxix, 162.
  • 6. He was falsely accused of being concerned in the death of William de Eyvill of South Cave; Pat. 18 Edw. I, m. 37; 21 Edw. I, m. 21.
  • 7. Wilkins, Concilia, ii, 341.
  • 8. Yorks. Arch. Journ. x, 286.
  • 9. Ibid. 432.
  • 10. Exch. Anct. Extents, 17.
  • 11. Yorks. Arch. Journ. vii, 441.
  • 12. Assize R. 1268, m. 27.
  • 13. Exch. K.R. Misc. Bks. xvi, fol. 64.
  • 14. Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, p. 148.
  • 15. Exch. Anct. Extents, 16, no. 23.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Ibid. 18, no. 6.
  • 18. Assize R. 1268, m. 26.
  • 19. Ibid. 1098, m. 60.
  • 20. Exch. Anct. Extents, 18, no. 13.
  • 21. Wilkins, Concilia, ii, 335.
  • 22. Pat. 18 Edw. I, m. 37.
  • 23. Wilkins, loc. cit.
  • 24. Yorks. Arch. Journ. x, 432.
  • 25. Exch. Anct. Extents, 18, no. 14.
  • 26. Ibid. 16, no. 25.
  • 27. Yorks. Arch. Journ. x, 432.
  • 28. Ibid. viii, 259.
  • 29. Exch. K.R. Misc. Bks. xvi, fol. 60.
  • 30. Yorks. Fines, John (Surt. Soc.), 26, lxii.
  • 31. W. S. B. Jones Barker, Hist. and Topog. Acct. of Wensleydale (1853).
  • 32. Yorks. Arch. Journ. viii, 259.
  • 33. Exch. Anct. Extents, 18, no. 4.
  • 34. Ibid. no. 1.
  • 35. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 838. The charters relating to this preceptory have been fully treated in Yorks. Arch. Journ. vii, viii and ix.
  • 36. Exch. Anct. Extents, 18, no. 11.
  • 37. Ibid. no. 15.
  • 38. Wilkins, op. cit. 362.
  • 39. Ibid. 359.
  • 40. Assize R. 1101, m. 62.
  • 41. Wilkins, op. cit. 372.
  • 42. Ibid. 377.
  • 43. Yorks. Arch. Journ. x, 432.
  • 44. Ibid. viii, 259.
  • 45. Exch. K.R. Misc. Bks. xvi, fol. 60.
  • 46. Dugdale, loc. cit.; Yorks. Fines, John (Surt. Soc.), 160-1.
  • 47. Exch. Anct. Extents, 18, no. 16.
  • 48. Ibid.
  • 49. Yorks. Arch, Journ. x, 432.
  • 50. Dugdale, loc. cit.
  • 51. Worsfold, Haddlesey Past and Present, 11, 12.
  • 52. Yorks. Arch. Journ. x, 280.
  • 53. Ibid. 281.
  • 54. Ibid. x, 433.
  • 55. Wilkins, op. cit. 358.
  • 56. Yorks. Arch. Journ. x, 285.
  • 57. Ibid. 439.
  • 58. Ibid. 432.
  • 59. Dugdale, op. cit. vi, 840.
  • 60. Exch. K.R. Misc. Bks. xvi, fol. 59-62.
  • 61. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 323.
  • 62. Exch. Anct. Extents, 18, no. 7.
  • 63. Assize R. 1101, m. 66.
  • 64. Yorks. Arch. Journ. x, 437, 439.
  • 65. MS. in Muniment room, Kirkleatham Hall.
  • 66. Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, p. 331.
  • 67. Yorks. Fines, John (Surt. Soc.), 4.
  • 68. Larking, Knights Hospitallers in Engl. (Camd. Soc.), 142.
  • 69. Exch. Anct. Extents, 16, no. 11; 18, no. 10.
  • 70. Yorks. Arch. Journ. x, 432.
  • 71. Wilkins, loc. cit.
  • 72. Cal Chart. R. 1226-57, p. 331.
  • 73. Exch. Anct. Extents, 18, no. 8.