Saddlescombe - The Templars and Hospitallers

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The Knights Templar were founded to protect Christian pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land after the Crusaders re-captured Jerusalem. The organisation attracted huge charitable endowments of money and land to help defend Jerusalem, and also in the hope of a place in heaven for the donor. Saddlescombe was one of those endowments, given to the Templars in the 1220s by Geoffrey de Say who was the Fifth Earl of Warenne's tenant.

Saddlescombe as a Preceptory

The farm became a Preceptory, a centre where profits from the farm and other Templar properties nearby would be collected in support of the knights adventuring overseas. The Templars were a religious order and as such Saddlescombe would have been administered by several monks, but no knights would actually have lived here.

The 1308 survey

This shows the Preceptory as a small manor house with a room used as a chapel and farm buildings. Nothing at all survives from this date but there are various lumps and bumps around the farm that hint at earlier settlements. Included in the survey was:

  • 170 acres for arable crops, chiefly barley and oats
  • Over 600 sheep, one horse, 12 oxen, 40 sheep hurdles
  • 2 wagons, 2 ploughs, 3 harrows, shovels, spades, dung forks, sheaf forks, an axe and 2 choppers
  • For cooking: a tripod, an andiron, a firefork, a kettle and a crater (a sort of cauldron)
  • Serving meals: 2 brass pots, 2 pipkins (pottery bowls), 2 dishes, a basin, a mazer (a wooden cup).
  • Cider-making & brewing: 2 casks & one pipe of cider, 3 empty casks, 3 barrels, 4 vats, 2 kneading troughs and a tub for chopping malt.

The chapel

The chapel, within the house, contained what a monk needed to celebrate Mass. The most valuable item on the whole farm was here: a manuscript book called a Missal (giving the text of the Mass), valued at 20 shillings. The next highest valuations were 13s for each ox and 10s each for the two brass pots and for the chapel's cup.

A bizarre letter

The only other known document was a bizarre letter, found in Saddlescombe’s deeds, from Archbishop Azo. He requested that the Order take in a woman, unthinkable for such a group of “bretheren”.

In 1312 the Templars were disbanded and their property was transferred to the Knights Hospitallers (a similar organisation to the Templars) but John 7th Earl of Warenne intervened at Saddlescombe. He obtained the manor for his illegitimate son Sir Thomas Nerford until 1397 when Saddlescombe was restored to the Hospitallers.

View the full Medieval surveys and inventories of Saddlescombe Manor