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Penhill Knights Templar preceptory and earlier field system at Temple Farm

A Scheduled Monument in West Witton, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.2967 / 54°17'48"N

Longitude: -1.9462 / 1°56'46"W

OS Eastings: 403598.325007

OS Northings: 489009.893995

OS Grid: SE035890

Mapcode National: GBR GLVR.GJ

Mapcode Global: WHB5R.28HF

Entry Name: Penhill Knights Templar preceptory and earlier field system at Temple Farm

Scheduled Date: 17 June 1970

Last Amended: 6 October 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019232

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24502

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: West Witton

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire


The monument includes remains of the Knights Templar preceptory at Penhill,
Wensleydale. The monument is located on the southern side of the dale on a set
of broad natural terraces in fields to the north and south of Temple Farm.
Included in the monument are the earthwork remains of two preceptory centres
with associated agricultural and industrial structures and the renovated
remains of the Chapel of Our Lady and St Catherine, more commonly known as the
Templars Chapel, which is also a Listed Building Grade II. Also included is
part of the estate boundary, which forms the eastern and south eastern edges
of the monument, and the remains of an earlier field system. The monument
extends from the field in which Templars Chapel survives to the field south
west of Wellclose Plantation. Throughout this area significant remains of the
Templar complex survive.
A preceptory at Penhill is first mentioned during the period c1170-1181, when
timber for buildings was granted by Roger de Mowbray from his Forest of
Nidderdale. The preceptory was originally centred on land 150m to the north
of Temple Farm but only lasted a few years before being relocated to another
site 0.5km up the hill to the south. The original site is known to have been
abandoned by 1202 when an agreement records land passing from John de
Tattershall to the Templars. It is not known why the relocation took place.
The preceptory was occupied until 1307, when the Templar Order was suppressed
on the grounds of heresy and their property confiscated by the Crown. Accounts
taken at this date record 480 acres of arable and 589 stock animals at
Between 1308 and 1312 the house at Penhill was acquired by the Knights
Hospitallers who apparently chose not to develop the site. By 1338 when the
estate was held by Geoffrey Le Scrope the buildings were ruinous. The estate
remained broadly intact for many years and the estate boundary can still be
traced in the current field pattern. The general location of the site is
remembered in the place name, Temple Farm. In 1840 the foundations of a chapel
were partly excavated and exposed.
At both the centres of the preceptory the earthwork and buried remains
demonstrate the typical layout of a Templar house which included provision for
both worship and communal living. The core administrative and domestic
functions and church were centred around a courtyard which reflected the
monastic arrangement known as a cloister. Around this central area were
further buildings, yards and gardens usually contained within an area known
as the inner court. Throughout its lifetime, and in common with other
ecclesiastical houses, the preceptory operated as a self-contained community.
Beyond the core buildings is an area known as the outer court, where
there would have been an extensive range of structures associated with the
wider economic activity, including workshops, barns, stables and some
industrial processes such as textile production, smithing and tanning.
Agricultural and industrial buildings and associated facilities were not
restricted to the outer court and could be located throughout the estate land
held by the Preceptors.
The remains of the first preceptory core and inner court show a large
courtyard at the northern end of the monument defined by opposing ranges of
buildings up to 90m in length north to south with the northern ends partly cut
into a raised natural bank. To the south of this court on a higher terrace are
a sequence of rectangular buildings forming a further courtyard. On the north
west of this terrace is an earthwork approximately 20m square which is thought
to be the footings for a substantial tower - a prominent feature at all
Templar preceptories. After the abandonment it is likely that some of the
buildings were reused for some other purpose within the Templar estate.
The second preceptory centre to the south followed the same broad pattern.
Earthwork remains of a rectangular courtyard approximately 60m square lie to
the south east of the chapel. Ranges of buildings survive as earthworks to
the south of the chapel and also along the foot of Layrus Wood. The chapel
lies at the north western corner of the courtyard and survives as stone
walls up to 1.1m high. It was partly excavated in the mid-19th century. The
exposed chapel measures 17.5m east to west by 6.8m internally. There is a
doorway in the west end of the south wall. At the east end of the interior
there is a rectangular stone platform which was the base for the altar. There
are three stone coffins within the chapel; two small and narrow ones sunk into
the ground and a third which is slightly larger. All the coffins have grave
covers alongside or partly covering them. An earlier excavation at the end of
the 18th century revealed a circular stone structure, but the location of this
is not currently known. There is a prominent bank 10m wide and up to 1.25m
high at the east side of the courtyard which is the remains of the inner court
To the west of the chapel and courtyard complex is the site of a mill. This
lies on the east side of a beck which provided power for the milling process.
There are substantial earthwork remains of the mill building and the
associated mill ponds and channels for water which extend south towards Layrus
Wood. The management and control of water here was also required to control
the supply for domestic and industrial purposes throughout the estate. Remains
of a stone lined conduit heads north through Long Bank Wood towards the first
preceptory site.
Some sections of the estate boundary survive at the east side of the monument.
On the north side of the road the boundary is preserved as a substantial bank
running north to south through the field. South of the road the boundary
survives as a low bank beneath a field wall. At the south east of the inner
court of the second preceptory the southern boundary survives as footings of a
stone wall on a terrace cut into the steep slope. The terrace extends for 400m
east to west and is up to 3m wide. At the east end of this stretch the
boundary turns north to run along the west side of Hargill Lane, and sections
of medieval wall are incorporated into the lower courses of a fieldwall.
Remains of structures and activities associated with the wider estate beyond
the core buildings for each preceptory survive throughout the monument. Within
the north east side there are rectangular earthworks alongside the surviving
boundary bank showing that there was a range of buildings approximately 25m
wide with the rear wall formed by the estate boundary. In two places there are
structures placed against the outside of the boundary. Between the boundary
and the first preceptory site there are further earthworks of buildings of the
outer court and land divisions. Further remains will survive in the improved
field east of the inner court of the second preceptory site. In the north
eastern part of the monument near to Wellclose Plantation there are sub-
circular earthworks identified as stack stands where recently harvested crops
would be stored to dry. In the field to the south of Temple Farm there are a
series of rectangular building platforms extending along the edge of Long Bank
Wood. These earthworks end at some long banks which extend north across the
field. These banks are part of the pre-Templar field system and it appears
that they were incorporated into the Templar field pattern. In the south west
corner of the monument there is a trackway linking the second preceptory with
the earlier site and the wider estate lower down the dale side to the north.
Where it passes through Spring Bank Wood, the estate boundary is marked by a
rock-cut ditch and the lower courses of a revetment wall lie on the north
lower side. The revetment wall to the south (upper) side survives below
current ground level.
The A684 road now runs through the centre of the Templar estate. It is a
post-medieval road line, although where it crosses the estate boundary it may
be on the site of an earlier entrance into the estate and thus evidence of
gatehouses may survive.
The pre-Templar field system survives as a series of banks forming regular
fields in what is known as a coaxial field system. The banks of the field
system are extensive and can be traced across much of Wensleydale. Parts of
the system are visible across the monument. Examples survive in the field
between Long Bank Wood and the road, where at least three banks survive, and
the field just south of Wellclose Plantation where at least five banks
survive. These banks are up to 5m wide and 40m long and an average of 20m
apart. Such field systems are known from prehistoric times and most known
examples are predominantly from this period. However, some early medieval
field systems, both nationally and in the Dales, are known to have a coaxial
basis to them, and so in the absence of precise dating evidence, the example
at Penhill cannot as yet be dated.
A number of features are excluded from the monument; these include, all gates,
fences, the surface of tracks and roads, the barn and steps 60m north east of
Temple Farm, the sheep fold, all water troughs, the water tank near the
chapel, modern pipework and the barn by Hargill Lane, although the ground
beneath these features is included. Most walls are excluded from the monument
except for three lengths where the lower courses below ground level are
included to protect their medieval foundations. These are the short length of
wall north of Temple Cross; the wall crossing the field southward to the south
of Temple Cross (both of which stand on top of the former estate boundary);
the wall at the north of the field in which the chapel stands which is on the
line of a medieval wall. The lower 0.5m of the wall at the west side of
Hargill Lane contains intact medieval masonry and the ground below is
included, although the upper part is excluded.

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

Coaxial field systems are a form of land management introduced during the
Bronze Age (c.2000-700BC). They form elaborate complexes of fields and field
boundaries. They consist of simple linear stone banks used to mark out
discrete territories, some of which can be many kilometres in extent. Their
relationship with other monument types provide important information on the
diversity of social organisation, land divisions and farming practices
amongst communities. They show considerable longevity as a monument type,
sometimes surviving as part of medieval and later field patterns. Coaxial
field systes are also known to date from the early medeieval period and follow
broadly the same pattern as their prehistoric antecedents.The coaxial field
boundaries on the monument survive well and have in places been incorporated
into the Templar land divisions. They provide important scope for the study of
early agriculture in the Dales and the impact of such systems on the
development of the landscape into the medieval period and beyond.
At the Penhill Preceptory a wide range of features associated with the Templar
estate are preserved as earthworks and buried remains. The abandonment and
relocation of the core preceptory buildings is rare and preserves important
evidence about the workings of an early Templar house. Further important
remains of the wider estate survive beyond the core buildings and offer
important scope for the understanding of the economic and social development
of the Templar estate.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Denison, E, Historic Landscape Survey, Swinithwaite Estate West Witton North Yorkshire, (1995)
Denison, E, Historic Landscape Survey, Swinithwaite Estate West Witton North Yorkshire, (1996)
Denison, E, Historic Landscape Survey, Swinithwaite Estate West Witton North Yorkshire, (1996)
Denison, E, Historic Landscape Survey, Swinithwaite Estate West Witton North Yorkshire, (1996)
ANY 346/11, (1988)
ANY346/11, (1988)
Moorhouse, S. Dr, (1995)
Moorhouse, S. Dr, (1999)

Source: Historic England

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