The Knights Templar and Knights of St. John

The original Templar seal emphasised their poverty with the two knights sharing one horse
The original Templar seal emphasised their poverty with the two knights sharing one horse

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon(Latin: Pauperes Commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici), better known as the Knights Templar, were founded around 1129 and became the most prominent and wealthiest of the crusading Christian military orders. The Templars were disbanded by Pope Clement V in 1312 and their vast wealth and land-holdings were re-distributed by the various European rulers.

The Templars English holdings of “Holstrete (Holt Street) in Nonyngton parish” and “Wymynges-wold (Womenswold) in Kyngeston (Kingston)  parish”, came into the possession of the English Grand Priory of the Knights Hospitaller, or Knights of St. John, which held them held until King Henry VIII suppressed the Priory and confiscated its property in 1540. King Henry sold some of this property along with property confiscated from other religious orders and institutions to raise money and this is how Thomas Bate, of Charlock (Challock) appears to have gained possession of the Priory’s Nonington holdings.

Knights Hospitaller 14th century bronze seal
Knights Hospitaller 14th century bronze seal

Thomas Bate held land in both Challock and Nonington and in his will drawn up in the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII he made bequests in both parishes. Part of his bequest to St. Mary’s Church in Nonington was:
“Landes given by Thomas Bate to thentent that one priest shulde celebrate masse within the said parishe iij (3) tymes yerelie for ever.
(This appears to be the piece of land which later became known as “Clerk’sAcre”, the revenue from this land, which actually amounted to just over one half acre, went to pay the salary of the parish clerk.  It adjoined the southern boundary bank of Chapman’s Close, the enclosed field on the south-western side of the top of the Chapman’s Hill).

“Also: rent or ferme of v rods (5 rods or 1 ¼ acres) of land in the parish of Nonyngton next Harelestrete (Holt Street)butts now or late in the tenure of Richard Mockett there, yerely ijs (2s). Rents resolute.
(Rents resolute were Crown rents from lands formerly in possession of dissolved religious bodies. Rents are shown in pre-decimal “old money”; 2.4 old pennies (d) equals 1 new penny. 12d made 1 shilling (s), and 20 shillings made one pound).

“To the King in right of late Priory of St. John of Jerusalem in England for suit of court issuing from v (five) rods in tenure of Richard Mockett yearly viij d (8d) (extinguished)”.
(Suit of court was the duty of attendance at the lord’s court, in this case the Manor of Wingham’s, at a specified time and place. Here it appears to have been extinguished, probably in return for a cash payment to the King who had gained possession of the Manor of Wingham in 1538 from Thomas Cranmer, then Archbishop of Canterbury, in exchange for other property the King held).

Edward_VI_of_England
Edward VI, the only son of Henry VIII who succeeded to the throne aged nine in January of 1547. A staunch Protestant he died in July of 1553 aged 15 after a short but turbulent reign

A few years later the Priory’s confiscated property in Nonington and Womenswold appeared in the Exchequer Minister’s accounts of 1547 (38 Henry VIII & 1 Edward VI) as:
“Holstrete (Holt Street) in pochia de Nonyngton ij s. iiij d.(2s 4d,), Wymswold (Womenswold) infra pochiam de Eyngeston (Kingston)   xxx s. vj d (30s 6d)”. 

The Womenswold holding was much larger and therefore more lucrative than Nonington, the 1558 Philip and Mary Roll (see below) identifies it as being “Deanehill”(Denne Hill), which was recorded as being at Womenswold but in Kingston parish.

On succeeding her staunchly Protestant half-brother Edward to the throne the devoutly Catholic Queen Mary and her Spanish husband, Phillip, decided to re-establish the English Grand Priory of the Knights of St. John and ordered the compilation of what became known as the Philip and Mary Roll. This roll was begun in the fourth year of their reign (1558) and contained provision to re-establish the English Grand Priory as well as being a register of all the English Grand Priory’s pre-Dissolution property and assets to be restored.

Queen Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII and half-sister of Edward VI. A devout Roman Catholic she was dubbed"Bloody Mary" for her brutal persecution of Protestants whilst trying to lead England back to the Church of Rome. She married King Philip II of Spain in 1554.
Queen Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII and half-sister of Edward VI. A devout Roman Catholic she was dubbed”Bloody Mary” for her brutal persecution of Protestants whilst trying to lead England back to the Church of Rome. She married King Philip II of Spain in 1554.

The roll listed the Priory’s lands in Nonington and Womenswold as:
‘One other rent of ours of twenty pence and service due to us yearly, arising from one tenement (dwelling and out-buildings) and lands in Holestrete in the parish of Nunyngton  in the said County of Kent, now or lately of Richard Mockett.
(This is the first mention of a tenement on the land, possibly indicating the present Butter Street Cottage was built in the early 1550’s).

One other rent of ours of eight pence and service due and belonging to us yearly, arising from certain lands in Holestrete aforesaid called the Church Landes now or lately of the Wardens Of the Parish Church of Nunyngton aforesaid. (See Clerk’sAcreabove).
(28d total = 2s 4d).

‘One other rent of ours of 15/3d. And service due to us yearly ect……certain lands called Deanehill (Denne Hill) in Wymyngeswold in the parish of Kingston held by (blank) Watson.
Also, 15/3d. rent from aforesaid Deanehill held by Thomas Deane and John Nethersole
(a favourite of Henry VIII)’.
(Total; 30s 6d= £.1 10s 6d).

Elizabeth I, portrayed after the victory over the Armada of her brother-in-law Philip II of Spain in July of 1588
Elizabeth I, portrayed after the victory over the Armada of her brother-in-law Philip II of Spain in July of 1588

After her death in 1558 Mary was succeeded by her-half sister Elizabeth, a Protestant like her half-brother Edward VI, who confiscated the restored properties in 1559. However, despite the seizure of their property no provision was made to suppress the English Grand Priory and the remaining handful of English Knights later fought the Turks during their Siege of Malta in 1565.

The Boys family acquired the Holt Street Butts tenement and absorbed it into their Holt Street estate during the late 1500’s, and Holt Street was eventually sold around 1684 by Christopher Boys to Fulke Rose, a Jamaica merchant.  Holt Street eventually came into the possession of infant Sir Brooke Bridges of Goodnestone in the 1750’s but at the end of the 1700’s the majority of the Holt Street estate, and Woolege Farm, was sold back to the Fredville estate, now owned by the Plumptre family who bought several farms in and around Nonington at this. However, the Holt Street Butts tenement, which eventually became known as Butter Street Cottage, was one of several small properties excluded from the sale and retained by the Goodnestone estate.

Butter Street cottage, probably built in the mid-1500's
Butter Street cottage, most likely dating from the early 1500’s

After World War II Butter Street Cottage became known as “Posty Morgan’s Cottage” after the long serving village postman who lived there for many years and older villagers still use this name when referring to it. “Posty” lived there until his death the mid-1960’s after which the Goodnestone estate sold the cottage which had long since been detached from its “five rods of land”. The cottage was badly damaged by fire and extensively restored in the 1980′s.

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