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Preceptory at Temple Balsall

A Scheduled Monument in Balsall, Solihull

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.3818 / 52°22'54"N

Longitude: -1.6972 / 1°41'49"W

OS Eastings: 420708.810809

OS Northings: 276012.138366

OS Grid: SP207760

Mapcode National: GBR 4JH.PQB

Mapcode Global: VHBX1.JDMH

Entry Name: Preceptory at Temple Balsall

Scheduled Date: 16 April 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016919

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30035

County: Solihull

Civil Parish: Balsall

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Church of England Parish: Temple Balsall

Church of England Diocese: Birmingham

Details

The monument includes the surviving buried and earthwork remains of the
preceptory of the Knights Templar and its mill, within two areas of
protection, at Temple Balsall.
Located on low lying waterlogged land within the Forest of Arden, the estate
of the preceptory at Temple Balsall was formerly part of the extensive parish
of Hampton in Arden. The preceptory was founded during the reign of King
Stephen and a manor was established by 1185. Other grants of lands were
acquired in the vicinity, at Barston, Sherborne and Flechampstead. The knights
also enjoyed the privilege of free warren in all their demesne lands, (lands
farmed directly by the Templars rather than by their tenants), and a weekly
market was held on Thursdays in addition to two annual fairs. Accounts show
that the preceptory was a wealthy one, making a considerable profit in the
14th century. Among its assets were a watermill and a dovecote.
There were eight Templars resident at the suppression of the order in 1312
when the estate reverted to the de Mowbrays who later granted it to the
Knights Hospitaller. The present church appears to be largely the result of a
rebuilding programme which occurred around this time. The Hospitallers rented
out much of the estate as a farm. Following the Dissolution, the estates were
assigned to the dowry of Katherine Parr. In the late Tudor period the estates
passed through the hands of the Duke of Somerset; John Dudley, Earl of
Warwick; and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Robert Dudley's granddaughter,
Katherine Leveson, created a trust and founded a hospital at Temple Balsall
for women, the almshouses and other buildings of which survive today and
continue in that use.
The first area of protection includes the site of the precinct of the
preceptory, including the church, Templars Hall and the hospital buildings.
Archaeological watching briefs carried out during pipe and cable laying in
the vicinity of the hospital have confirmed the existence of the buried
remains of earlier phases of buildings and garden features in this area. These
are believed to relate to the successive occupation of the area by buildings
relating to the Knights Templars, the Hospitallers and the almshouses. Early
sewers and wells also survive in the area of the almshouses, and these too may
relate to earlier phases of development of the site.
The precinct is located on a large platform which slopes from east to west and
which was enhanced and terraced in order to accommodate successive building
complexes. It is defined in the north eastern angle by a large earthen bank,
2m to 3m high created by the scarp slope of the platform with a shallow ditch
1m wide along its base. On the north west, west and south west boundaries the
precinct is defined by a series of at least two large linear fishponds. A mill
pond survives, in part, to the south east and together the effect of these
water features must have given the precinct a semi moated appearance. The
remains of the earliest 12th century church of the Templars which formed the
focus of the preceptory are expected to survive below ground in the area of
the present church. The churchyard has served as the burial ground both of the
Knights Templars and Hospitallers including the tenants of the medieval
estates, as well as accommodating the burials of the later occupants of the
hospital. St Marys Church lies to the south west of the hospital. The church,
which remains in use and Listed Grade I is excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath it is included. The churchyard is closed to burial
and is included in the scheduling.
The main range of domestic buildings of the preceptory were sited to the west
of St Mary's Church in the area of the Templars Hall. Documents refer to an
extensive series of medieval buildings including a hall, domestic offices
including a chamber, chapel, buttery, kitchen, pantry, brewhouse and bake
house. The buildings were grouped around a courtyard and included a large barn
measuring 140ft by 40ft. The hall is the only extant building, but small scale
excavations in its immediate vicinity have confirmed that the floor levels,
foundations and cellars of further elements of the buildings survive below
ground. In addition the timbers of the hall have been dated to the 12th
century, suggesting that parts of the building relate to the earliest
period of the preceptory. The building is Listed Grade II* and is excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.
The main complex of medieval farm buildings is believed to lie to the south
east and south of the hall in the area now occupied by Temple House and Temple
Farm. The house, which is Listed Grade II, and farm buildings were largely
constructed during the 18th century and are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath them is included. The medieval remains will
include the remains of the early farm buildings described in the historical
documents.
The earthwork remains of two large linear fishponds lie in the north west,
west and south west of the monument and define the edge of the precinct. The
northernmost pond, orientated north west to south east measures approximately
200m by 90m. It runs from the edge of the precinct platform as far as a
large earthen dam to the south and was known as the lower pool on later estate
maps. The dam, orientated east to west is at least 100m long and 2m-3m high.
The southernmost pool called Over Pool, runs to the south of the dam and
defined the edge of the platform which now includes Temple House and Farm.
The bed of the pools still includes a stream which is subject to flooding and
the ground remains waterlogged.
A large linear mill pond defines the north east edge of the precinct platform
and measures approximately 120m by 30m orientated north west to south east.
This had a leat from its southern angle leading towards Over Pool. The most
recent mill building was removed at some time after the 1940s.
The second area of protection includes the buried and earthwork remains of a
water mill sited to the north of the preceptory on the River Blythe, where the
path to Barston forded the river. Here the parish boundary which defined the
estate was diverted to the north away from the river which acted as the
boundary for much of its course. A watercourse was created to the west of the
ford which channelled water in a loop away from the river through the mill and
returned the water to the river to the east of the ford. An artificial island
approximately 6m by 12m and rising 0.5m to 1m above the water level, included
the mill buildings. The partially infilled course of the leat can be traced
as a ditch 0.5m to 1m deep and 1m to 2m wide.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are the Listed
Grade II* buildings of the Lady Katherine Leveson Hospital, including the
hospital's Listed Grade II gateway and walls, 17th century almshouses and
later Masters House, St Marys Church, the Templars Hall, Temple House, the
Listed Grade II vicarage and all modern paths, walls and surfaces; the ground
beneath all of these features is however included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A preceptory is a monastery of the military orders of Knights Templars and
Knights Hospitallers (also known as the Knights of St John of Jerusalem). At
least one preceptory of the Knights of St Lazarus is also known to have
existed in England. Preceptories were founded to raise revenues to fund the
12th and 13th century crusades to Jerusalem. In the 15th century the
Hospitallers directed their revenue toward defending Rhodes from the Turks. In
addition, the preceptories of the Templars functioned as recruiting and
training barracks for the knights whilst those of the Hospitallers provided
hospices which offered hospitality to pilgrims and travellers and distributed
alms to the poor. Lazarine preceptories had leper hospitals attached. Like
other monastic sites, the buildings of preceptories included provision for
worship and communal living. Their most unusual feature was the round nave of
their major churches which was copied from that of the Holy Sepulchre in
Jerusalem. Indeed their use of such circular churches was unique in medieval
England. Other buildings might include hospital buildings, workshops or
agricultural buildings. These were normally arranged around a central open
space, and were often enclosed within a moat or bank and ditch. From available
documentary sources it can be estimated that the Templars held 57 preceptories
in England. At least 14 of these were later taken over by the Hospitallers,
who held 76 sites. As a relatively rare monument class, all sites exhibiting
good survival of archaeological remains will be identified as nationally
important.

Many preceptory sites were established as largely agricultural manors for the
purpose of raising revenue and were rented out to tenants at an early date.
Consequently preceptories are frequently very similar to the large manorial
estates from which they were created and few survive in good condition as
distinct religious precincts. In contrast the site at Temple Balsall was
purpose built by the Templars and is one of the better preserved sites in
which elements of the religious precinct survive well.
Temple Balsall preceptory has one of a very few surviving domestic buildings,
the Templars Hall, which can be securely identified as having Templar origins.
This and the buried remains of the agricultural building complex and the mill
will provide evidence about the agricultural and economic activities of the
Templars and of the technological development of the complex over 300 years.
Although the site of the church and the cemetery have remained in use, their
later development is well documented and the remains of the preceptory and
burials of the Templars are believed to be preserved below the present church
and churchyard. These will provide significant evidence about the construction
and development of the church and about its ritual use. The burials within the
churchyard will preserve evidence about the age, health, diet and social
origins and occupations of the successive populations which have lived and
worked at Temple Balsall, as well as including evidence about changing
funerary practices.
Much of the site is low lying and remains waterlogged and these conditions
will preserve organic and environmental remains which will provide an insight
into the natural climatic conditions of the period and will also clarify the
nature of the agricultural regime of the area under the Templars. Artefactual
evidence within the precinct would be expected to provide information about
the standards of living at the preceptory and about the range of trade and
exchange illustrating the spheres of contact and influence of the Templars.
The preceptory at Temple Balsall is well documented and appears to have been
one of the wealthier and more powerful establishments amongst the Templars in
Britain, being responsible for accepting a larger than usual number of members
into the order. The survival of the precinct and its building complexes will
allow an opportunity for a comparison of the written records and the physical
remains which is likely to be possible at only a very few Templar sites in
Britain. The post-medieval use of the site as a hospital for the sustenance of
aged and infirm women, and the establishment of a farm at Temple House, to
support the hospital, have meant that there has been a continuity of land use
and occupation at the site without seeing extensive redevelopment. This has
allowed a good level of below ground survival of remains from all periods.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Aston, M, Know the Landscape, Monasteries., (1993)
Gooder, E, Temple Balsall, (1996)
Hannett, , The forest of Arden, (1894)
Other
Various SMR officers, Unpublished notes in SMR,

Source: Historic England

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