Preceptory at Temple Balsall


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Preceptory at Temple Balsall
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Solihull (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 20721 75960, SP 20912 76365

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 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.


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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Various SMR officers, Unpublished notes in SMR,


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

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