Temple Manor

From Wikishire
Jump to: navigation, search
Temple Manor
Temple Manor, Strood - geograph.org.uk - 1397511.jpg
Temple Manor, with brick extension and turret
Grid reference: TQ73216845
Location: 51°23’20"N, 0°29’32"E
Town: Strood
Built 1159
For: Knights Templar
Owned by: English Heritage
Website: Temple Manor

Temple Manor is a mediæval manor house by the mouth of the River Medway at Strood in Kent, which once belonged to the Knights Templar, from whom it takes its name. The manor has been owned by owners, religious and secular, over 600 years, and the building has been added to and adapted over the centuries, though the basic structure is now clearly visible.

The house is now owned by English Heritage and is opened to the public on weekends in season. It is scheduled ancient monument[1] and a grade I listed building.[2]

A camera is a subsidiary farm of a preceptory (a mediæval monastery of the military orders of Knights Templar or Knights Hospitaller). Camerae are very rare in England with less than 40 known examples. In view of this rarity, and their importance in supporting the monastic communities of the preceptories (examples of which are also rare), all camerae exhibiting archaeological survival are identified as nationally important.

Introduction to the official listing record


Some form of occupation of the site has occurred since Roman times, a burial to the south-east of the present building is thought to date from then.[1]

The larger part of the parish of Strood was the rural area stretching south from the urbanised bridgehead along the River Medway. This area formed the Manor of Strood and lay within the Hundred of Shamel.[3] Following The Anarchy of 1135 to 1153 the Crown was in debt to the Knights Templar and probably this was why the manor was given to them in 1159 by King Henry II.[3] The manor was in the Hundred of Shamel and the dues and administrative rights went with it.[1] There only six to fifteen actual Knights Templar in England, along with maybe 140 brethren who handled administration.[1] Strood may not even have had a permanent brethren presence, possibly a lay-reeve or baliff would have run the estate.[1] The Templars established a hall, barns and stables by 1185 but these were in timber and no trace remains above ground.[4] The stone building visible today was originally built around 1240.[4] It is not known precisely why Strood was rebuilt, perhaps to provide suitable lodging for dignitaries travelling along Watling Street between London and the continent by way of Dover.[5]

When the Knights Templar were suppressed in 1312, their assets were granted to the Order of St John, known as the Knights Hospitaller,[2] though some years afterwards the Grand Prior of the Hospitallers complained that the king was still occupying ex-Templar lands at Denny in Cambridgeshire and at Strood. The complaint was to no avail and in 1324 the lands were ceded to the King.[1]

In 1342, King Edward III granted the manor to Mary of St Pol, Countess of Pembroke who in turn granted it to her nunnery at Denny, Cambridgeshire.[2] Given the lack of transport at the time, it could not have been used to supply the nunnery with goods, and so must have simply been a source of revenue.[6]

Around the time of the suppression of the Templars, the building was extended to the north with a ground-floor hall roughly 14 feet wide.[1] Many of the scattered farm buildings were cleared between 1308–1344 and evidence from archaeology indicates relatively little disturbance during the changes of ownership.[1] It is possible that the tenants were the Creyes, known to be the wealthiest family in Strood but who held not feudal lands.[7] An inventory of Templar estates in 1313 lists a hall, a chamber, a chapel and a barn as being at Strood.[8]

The following century a new wing was added to the north of the building at its western end, where the entrances are. This wing was 16 feet (E-W) by 27 feet (N-S) with a parlour below and chambers above.[1] The ground-floor hall was reduced in status to a kitchen and further additions (in timber) were made to the north.

View of Temple Manor from Rochester, 1767 (from Hasted's History of Kent)

At the dissolution of the monasteries the Abbey of Denny was dissolved and both it and Temple Manor granted to Edward Elrington in 1539.[1] He sold Temple Manor to the local Cobham family. It was lost to that family though when Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham was convicted of treason for a conspiracy hatched in 1603 against King James and I and his property forfeit. It was granted to Robert Cecil, the King's chief minister, who sold it on to Ludovic Stewart, 2nd Duke of Lennox, the future Duke of Richmond.[6] Richmond in his turn sold it to Isaac Blake.[1] The Blake family were possibly the richest family in Strood at the time.[4] The Blakes may have been sitting tenants for some years, Isaac was a Churchwarden and a dealer in iron-ware and possibly scrap.[6] The Blakes were responsible for the brick extensions and continued to hold it until the 18th century.

A succession of owners followed and as the fortunes of the estate declined parts were sold off until the residue was sold to the City of Rochester in the 1930s.[4] At this stage it was well cared for and surrounded by a fine garden.[9] Locally there was a debate over its future, the council planned to use the surrounding site for industrial development.[4] Having no obvious use for the house, a committee was formed to preserve it.[9] The Second World War interrupted plans, and by in 1947 the site was recognised and scheduled. However neglect and vandalism had taken their toll; the barn had fallen down and the roof collapsed.[9] In 1950 the building was listed as grade I and any plans for its demolition were thwarted. During the early 1950s the Ministry of Works oversaw work to preserve and restore the building as it can be seen today.[4]


Model of Temple Manor

The main section of the building has a stone-built vaulted undercroft which supports the single large room above.[10] This style of building is known as a first-floor hall. The upper room (reached by an external stair) was the higher status area, providing accommodation for travelling knights and officials.[4] This original section is 50 feet by 22 feet, and the undercroft walls are 2 feet 6 inches thick.[1] Construction is of flint and ragstone rubble with ashlar dressings.[1]

The doorway to the upper chamber is ornate with Purbeck marble shafts to either side and mouldings above.[10] There was originally a drawbar running into holes.[11] Originally the walls would have been plastered smooth and painted like stone.[10] The original division of the hall was into a high status decorated room to the west and a simpler room to the east.[2] The fireplaces and stack which dominate the room are from the 17th-century modifications by the Blakes.[2] The entrance door led directly into the western room which would have been used for communal activities and for eating.[11] The better lit eastern end was probably a chamber, similar to those provided at episcopal and royal palaces for visiting guests.[11] Heating would have been by brazier, there is plenty of height and no evidence of mediæval filerplaces.[11] There is continuous wall seating from which pilars of purbeck marble rose to carry an arcade. This arcade has been mutilated and partially restored.[9] Such plaster as remains carries later graffiti including a name, possibly Cray.[11] The chamber at the eastern end has two splayed recesses, tentatively identified as a wash baison and a privy within a screened off garderobe.[12] Scattered floor tiles have been found and it is probable that the upper floor was tiled prior to the departure of the Templars.[12] At the western end there appears to have been a form of serving hatch from a now lost and unrecorded western extension.[12] A later oven or still is of unknown purpose.[12]

The undercroft has three bays of quadrapartite ribbed vaults.[2] The ribs are of simple decoration with excellent dressed infill.[12] Illumination is from wide windows, externally lancet and internally square headed with the original oak lintels still in place.[13] Originally the windows were fitted with iron bars, possibly for security to what was originally, and remained, a cellar.[13]

The western extension is of three floors entered by a separate ground floor door. The stair is housed in a turret and gives access to three floors with a single room on each floor. There is no communication between the extension and the original structure. The brickwork is in English bond with moulded string courses.[13]

The eastern extension had a small store below supporting a wooden framed gazebo above. The gazebo forms an extension to the original hall and when built would have commanded extensive views over the River Medway. The original situation is best appreciated from the 1767 engraving in Hasted (above). Mature trees and a railway embankment block any such view today.

The roof is from the 1950s restoration, much of the original having finally collapsed from the neglect the building suffered during the war.

Outside links