Penhill Knights Templar preceptory and earlier field system at Temple Farm


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Penhill Knights Templar preceptory and earlier field system at Temple Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Richmondshire (District Authority)
West Witton
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SE 03691 88772

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.

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.


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 Penhill. 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 boundary. 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.

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.

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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)


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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