The Knights Templar and Saddlescombe Farm

Colour recreation of a downland village and landscape from the 14th century

The Knights of the Order of the Temple 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. It 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 Saddlescombe Preceptory would have been administered by several monks, but no knights would actually have lived here.  


A survey made in 1308 shows that the Preceptory was a small manor house with a room used as a chapel and farm buildings. Nothing at all survives from this date but the survey lists the land, livestock and equipment there seven hundred years ago, including: 
170 acres for arable crops, chiefly barley and oats
over 600 sheep, one horse, 12 oxen, 40 hurdles for fencing sheep 
2 waggons, 2 ploughs, 3 harrows, shovels, spades, dung forks, sheaf forks, an axe and 2 choppers 
furniture: a chest, 3 tables with trestles and one form
cooking over a fire: 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.

Woodcut medieval writing scene
Woodcut depicting a medieval writing scene

The chapel 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. 


In 1312 the Templars were disbanded and their property was transferred to the Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, but John the seventh 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.