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Templar Preceptory Site at Temple Thorpe Farm
County: West Yorks
District: Leeds
Parish: -
Monument Number: ( 2292 )
Site of a Templar Preceptory, located at Temple Thorpe Farm, Skelton. The exact date of its foundation is unclear but it arose from a grant of land at Newsam, Skelton, Colton and Whitkirk by William Viliers, who died in 1181. The grant was confirmed by Henry de Lacy between 1154-1166 (VCH III p 259-260). A survey of 1185 provides detail of the preceptory estate at Temple Newsam, describing it as 16 carcurate of land obtained from William Viliers by purchase. The 1185 document records three mills, one being a fulling mill. The Templars were granted free warren in Newsam in 1248 (Cal chr Rolls I, p33). At the time of the seizure of the estate in 1308 it was wealthy, being worth £174 3s 3d. (VCH III p 259-260). An inventory made in 1311 gives details of the preceptory buildings and contents (Gent Mag 1857 pt 2). In 1311, after the order of the Templar’s had been suppressed. The Newsam Preceptory is recorded as comprising of a hall, chamber, chapel and kitchen (Michelmore 1981, p530). The Preceptory was described as a capital messuage in ruins in a document of 1347, (PRO C135/85/3), (Michelmore 1981, p530). ......................................................................... Henry Johnston's notebooks of 1669-70 include within the description of Whitkirk parish 'waterside being four or five houses on the north side of the river Ayre, where the tradition is that there was an old temple and there was ruins remaining about 40 years since. There is a croft called Almses croft near it and likewise a pasture called Temple pasture' (Bodleian Library Ms. Top. Yorks C13 fol. 171r, microfilm at Archive Division of Sheffield City Libraries). A late 18th century estate map of the Temple Newsam Estate annotates the field to the west of Temple Farm 'Almshouse Croft' (West Yorkshire Archive WYL189/A/1. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- A Preceptory at Temple Newsam was well documented but the exact location was not known. A small excavation was carried out in 1903 by Mrs. Meynell-Ingrams in an area c. 50 yards due south of Temple Thorpe Farmhouse following the discovery of a stone coffin by a local farmer. The stone foundations of a building thought to be a chapel were excavated at this time. This building was described as aligned east-west, with walls incomplete to the west. Two further inhumations, one within a stone coffin, were also excavated. At this time the farmer probed the field with an iron rod and found stone foundations over a large area. The moat or ditch was visible and further earthworks to the east of the moat are described as 'curious undulations ...appears to have been the site of a building or camp' (W. Braithwaite 1909. pp174-182). A rectangular building aligned east west is shown on the OS 1908 Sheet 218 SE, revised in 1905, to the south of the farmhouse. The west wall is missing and so it matches Braithwaite's description, although it is mapped c. 70m rather than 50 yards south of the farmhouse. Nothing is shown at this position on earlier historic OS maps, so the remains exposed in 1903 may have been surveyed by the OS in 1905. .................................................... Summarised from West Yorkshire Archaeological Service report of the excavation at Temple Thorpe Farm, Skelton, in Medieval Archaeology vol XXXIV 1990 P 223-224:- In advance of open cast mining WYAS excavated the site of the Templar Preceptory at Temple Thorpe Farm, Skelton. Machine stripping of this area located a complex of structures, in the form of sandstone foundations which had been considerably depleted by stone-robbing and the effects of later agricultural activity which had removed occupation deposits and floor levels. Evidence of destruction debris could be seen in the form of roofs that were covered with sandstone slabs secured with iron nails, with green-glazed ceramic ridge tiles. The interpretation of the floor plan of these structures suggested that these buildings had an agricultural function within the larger complex. This interpretation being further supported by the low volumes of contemporary pottery which was produced. It is suggested that the domestic elements of the complex may have been located beneath a pulverised fuel ash tip further to the south which overlies the site of a medieval chapel. The main structure identified was a rectangular barn of eight-bays with side and end aisles.The barn measures externally c.50.5m by c.13m and is aligned east west. The wall foundation, 1.1m in breadth, are indicated only by isolated fragments: but at least fourteen of an anticipated eighteen original aisle positions have survived robbing, ploughing and mutilation by farm drains. Opposed doorways to the north and south walls occupy the fifth bay from the east end; they are 4.7m wide, with projecting porches flanked by sub walls. Immediately east of the south porch a possible grain drying oven, which is 3.3m wide with a narrow flue, which had been built of rubble against the outer face of the south wall. It is unclear if it was a contemporary or later insertion. The east gable wall of the aisled building was linked to the south wall of a second building, a rectilinear structure lying approximately south-east to north-west. This structure measured externally c.32.5m by c.11.9m. Much of the south wall foundation still survived (up to 1.5m wide). The interior of this building remains un-excavated. To the east and possibly linked to the second building is a further structure. Other features to the south had been too heavily robbed for any interpretation. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Further detail of the excavation results can be found in the excavation reports, WYAS 1995 and a revised text 2010/11. 12th-15th century One phase of activity covering the construction and use of the preceptory buildings was identified by the excavation reports. The Preceptory site was enclosed by a moat and two sides were identified during the excavation. The north side, aligned east-west was traced for c. 80m with a width of c. 5m. A section of the western edge, measuring 100m was also identified. The southern edge had previously been removed by earlier mining operations in the area and the eastern edge was not identified. A grey clay was seen as the lowest fill with an organic layer above. A radiocarbon date was taken from wood in this layer and produced a date range of AD 1042-1270 (GU-3183). Demolished building material from the medieval building was found in the moat indicating that it was open after the preceptory buildings had begun to deteriorate. The report relates that the excavations recorded stone foundations for three substantial buildings along with several other fragmentary lengths of wall. The buildings were recognised as being part of the agricultural function rather than the domestic provision of the Preceptory. This interpretation was made on the basis of an absence of domestic artefactual evidence. The largest building measured c. 45.5m x 13.3m with entrances at opposite sides of the building, to the north and south, both with a porch. This building with a single construction phase was dated to the 12th century and was thought to be the largest building in the preceptory. A greater part of the fabric of the foundation trenches had been robbed (no date given for this activity). Only a small area of medieval floor was identified inside this building. Two rows of post pads which were identified, 14 of an original 16 had survived. They would have supported post which held the weight of the roof. The barn would have been divided into bays with aisles to the north and south. Five of the post pad setting shad been damaged by the construction of pipes leading to a pig slurry lagoon in the 20th century. The foundations were shallow implying that they supported dwarf walls supporting timber studs and walls infilled with laths or wattles covered by daub. The roof was constructed from thackstones with glazed ridge tiles. A broad scatter of thackstone fragments used for roofing and glazed roofing tiles were found around the perimeter of the barn. The report states that the destruction of the building occurred in the early to mid 15th century. Fourteen barrel pits set immediately outside the south wall of the barn, to the east side of the south entrance, were found. A small assemblage of pottery was recovered from these pits and dated to the 13th-15th century. Post medieval pottery was found in one of the fills and a 15th century silver penny was found in the lining of one of the barrels. The report suggests that while the barrels were likely to have been established while the barn was extant it had probably ceased to be used for its primary function. Building debris was found in the barrel pits and stone-lined pits fills and this is suggested as indicating that the pits were in use until the buildings began to decay or be demolished in the 15th century. The function is unknown but it is suggested that they may have been used in some part of a tanning process. Alternative uses of the barrel pits are suggested as the storage of fish or water. Three stone lined pits were discovered 20m south of the barrel pits. Two gullies were found one to the west and one to the east of these pits and may have been associated, acting as drainage from the pits. A small quantity of medieval pottery was recovered from one of the gullies. A second building, built in a single construction phase on a north-west south-east alignment and dated to the mid 12th century, measured 22m x 12m. Two post setting were found in this building and it is likely that this building was also aisled. A third building, on a similar alignment as the second building, and also with a single construction phase dated to the mid 12th century. Its surviving walls allowed an estimate of its area to be 7.5square metres.The footings of this building were very substantial and it was thought to be a dovecote or a granary, although there is no specific evidence presented to support this interpretation. A fourth building was represented by two lengths of wall foundation forming the corner of a building. Other fragmentary lengths of walls were also recorded. For WYAS 1989 preliminary investigations please see PRN 7455 and for further work see PRN 7454 copies of these reports are filed in the HER.

Sources
Report
WYAS, 1995. Skelton Excavation 1989-91 Research Archive 3 vols'
Publication
Braithwaite, W., 1909. 'Discovery of Ancient Foundations and Human Remains at Temple Newsham' Thoresby Society 15, pp.174-6
Desc.text
Yarwood, B., 1983. 'Leeds Arts Calendar 1992' , pp5-12,(for terr.assoc. with precept).
Desc.text
SMR record card with details of flint finds
Desc.text
OScard SE 33 SE 6 (preceptory wrongly identified as site of Temple Newsam House)
Doc.ref.
Leeds City Archiv. Tenple Newsam collection (abstracts in SMR - BY)
Report
WYAS, 1995. 'Skelton Excavation 1989-91 Research Archive vols 1-3'
Report
WYAS, 2010. 'Draft Revised Excavation Report'
Publication
Michelmore, D.J.M., 1981. 'Township Gazeteer: Temple Newsam', in Faull, M.L. & S.A Moorhouse, 1981. 'West Yorkshire Archaeological Survey to AD1500'
Publication
WYAS, 1990. 'Excavation at Temple Thorpe Farm, Skelton', in Medieval Archaeology vol. XXXIV, pp223-224
Publication
VCH Yorkshire II, 1912. p350,388n.11
Publication
VCH Yorkshire vol III, 1913. p259-260
Doc.ref.
PRO C135/85/3
Doc.ref.
Gentlemans Magazine, 1857 pt 2