A preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers, known as St John's Jerusalem, and an associated fishpond at Sutton-at-Hone
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Dartford (District Authority)
- Sutton-at-Hone and Hawley
- National Grid Reference:
- TQ 55917 70304
Reasons for Designation
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
Archaeological remains of the preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers at Sutton-at-Hone survive well and it is rare for standing remains to survive in monuments of this class. In addition, it will provide evidence relating to the occupation of the site and the nature of the surrounding environment. The waterfilled moat and the associated fishpond provide ideal conditions for the survival of organic remains.
The monument includes a moated preceptory and an associated fishpond situated
beside the River Darent.
The preceptory lies on a NNW-SSE orientated, sub-rectangular, artificial
island measuring 185m by 120m. In the north western quarter of the island are
the remains of the preceptory chapel, dating from the 13th century,
incorporated within a later, 16th century residence, with 17th and substantial
18th and 19th century additions and alterations in brick. The residence is a
Grade II* Listed Building. Documentary evidence suggests that the main period
of medieval building took place around 1234, when Henry III is recorded as
having ordered five oaks from Tonbridge Forest for the chapel roof. The chapel
is a rectangular building, with external buttresses, constructed of flint
rubble with ashlar dressings. It is lit by simple, lancet windows, several of
which, along with the original doorway on the south eastern wall, have been
blocked at a later date. Inside the chapel, on the ground floor at the eastern
end of the south eastern wall, is a double piscina, or alcove, originally
containing water basins. At the south western end is a further area of
medieval walling which may represent the remains of a tower. Traces of further
preceptory buildings may survive in buried form beneath the undulating ground
which forms the modern gardens surrounding the residence.
The island is surrounded on all four sides by a moat, the south western arm of
which is formed by the River Darent. The northward flow of the river both
feeds and drains the moat. The north western, north eastern and south eastern
arms remain waterfilled and are between 5m and 8m wide. A modern sluice
controls the flow of the river near the north western corner of the moat, and
the banks of the river at this point are retained with modern brick walls.
There is also a smaller modern sluice on the north western arm of the moat.
The moat is bounded by retaining earthworks which survive particularly well on
the north western and north eastern sides, taking the form of substantial
linear banks up to 2m high and 12m wide. Access to the island is provided by a
Grade II Listed, 19th century, brick-built bridge situated near the northern
end of the south western arm of the moat. Two modern footbridges span the
north eastern arm and the north western corner of the moat.
The preceptory is thought to have gone out of use by 1338, after which time it
was used as a residence. Amongst its later occupants were Abraham Hill, a
founder member of the Royal Society, who lived at the manor house between 1667
and 1721, and, between 1757 and 1776, Edward Hasted, the historian, who
carried out many of the 18th century alterations to the buildings. The
preceptory and its surrounding land were given to the National Trust by Sir
Stephen and Lady Tallents in 1943.
To the south west of the moat on the opposite river bank are the earthwork
remains of a narrow, rectangular fishpond originally fed with freshwater by
the river. This is a slightly sunken, marshy area of ground 146m long and 12m
The residence of which the chapel forms a part, and the main, 19th century
bridge across the south western arm of the moat, are excluded from the
scheduling as they are considered to be more appropriately protected by their
listed status. All modern garden walls, fences, greenhouses and outbuildings
situated on the island, the modern sluice and retaining walls near the bridge
and the two modern, wooden footbridges are also excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath all the above features is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Knowles, , Haddock, , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1953), 246,311
Leach, P, St John's Jerusalem, Sutton at Hone, Kent, (1994)
Kipps, P K, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in The Chapel of the Knights Hospitallers at Sutton-at-Hone, , Vol. 47, (1935), 205-210
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing