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THE first mention which we have of this place is a grant of certain lands called the Cow Pasture, at Belwode, by Roger de Mowbray, to a Preceptory of Knight Templars*, which he had founded at Balshall, in Warwickshire, about the year 1145. “ Dedi etiam eisdem fratribus illam terram quæ vocatur Vacheria de Belwode, et totam meam terram quæ est inter eandem Vacheriam terram Abbatis de Seleby, usq. ad meum fossatum, et terram in quce frutectum sedet apud australem orientis, ad caput illius, terræ quæ extenditur inter terram præ
* A short account of this famous religious military order of the Templars may not be unacceptable to the general reader. In the year 1119, the twentieth of the christian dominion in Syria, nine pious and valiant Knights, the greater part of whom had been companions of Godfrey of Bouillon, formed themselves into an association, the object which was to protect and defend pilgrims on their visits to the Holy City, and vowed in honour of the sweet Mother of God to unite Monk-hood and Knight-hood. The King of Jerusalem assigned them for their abode a part of his palace, close to the place where once stood the Temple of the Lord, and contributed to their support; and the Abbot and Canons of the Temple assigned them as a depot for their arms, &c. the street between it and the Royal palace. Hence they took the name of Soldiers of the Temple, or Templars.
During the first nine years after their institution the Templars lived in poverty and humility, and no new members joined the society, which was eclipsed by that of St. John.
Their clothing consisted of such garments as were bestowed upon them by the charity of the faithful, and so rigorously were the gifts of pious princes applied by them to their original distinction, the benefit of pilgrims, and of the Holy Land in general, that in consequence of their poverty, Hugo de Payens and Godfrey de St. Omer had but one horse between them. When the order had arrived at wealth and splendour, its seal, representing two knights on one charger, commemorated this original poverty of its pious founders. By the direction of Pope Honorius, the council appointed them a white mantle, as their peculiar dress; to which Pope Eugenius afterwards added a red cross on the breast, the symbol of martyrdom. Their banner was a black and white stripe, called in old French BEUSEANT, which word became their war-cry. The banner bore this pious inscription, “ Non nobis domini, non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam."
The Templars became the most distinguished of the christian warriors. By a rule of their order no brother could be redeemed for a higher ransom than a girdle, or a knife, or some such trifle : captivity was therefore equivalent to death, and they always fought with spartan desperation, and the BCEUSEANT was always in the thick of the battle,
dictorum hominum de Beautunia. Dedi etiam eis boscum de Belwode, et terram in
qua idem boscus sedet ; et praticulam quod est inter domum Wibaldi et vacariam et fossata mea,” containing in all twenty-four acres and eight acres. This land was given in exchange for certain other lands in the neighbourhood. From this donation of Belwode to the Knights Templars, has arisen the name of Temple Belwood or Belwode, of or belonging to the Templars. Richard of Bel
The order of the Templars consisted of three distinct classes, not degrees, Knights, Chaplains, and Serving Brethren; to which may be added, those who were attached to the order under the name of Affiliates, Donates, and Oblates, i.e. persons who gave themselves and their property to the order; and of children which were dedicated to it, and were to take the rule when they were of sufficient age ; or lastly persons who vowed to serve the order all their life-long without reward.
So large and extensive a society as this soon became, required numerous officers to direct and regulate its affairs. At the head stood the Grand Master, who was independant of all authority but that of the Sovereign Pontiff. He ranked with princes, and his establishment corresponded thereto,four horses, a chaplain, two secretaries, a squire of noble birth, a farrier, a turcopole, and cook, with footmen, a turcoman for a guide, who was usually fastened by a cord to prevent escape. The other chief officers were first, the Seneschal, that is the deputy of the grand-master : he had the same retinue and the seal of the order. Second—the Marshall, who was the general, and carried the banner of the order. He regulated every thing relating to the war: the horses and equipments were placed under his care. He had four horses, two esquires, a serving brother, and a turcopole*. Third -the Treasurer. Fourth—the Drapier, who provided and regulated the clothing of the brethren. He had four horses, two esquires, and a servant to pack and unpack his goods. Fifth—the turcopole, who commanded the light cavalry of squires and serving brethren. Sixth—Prior of Jerusalem, whose office was, with ten Knights, to accompany and protect pilgrims on their way to the Jordan, and to guard the cross whenever it was brought into the field. He too had four horses, two esquires, a serving brother, a secretary, and a turcopole.
The enormous † wealth of the Templars, their over-weening pride, the disdainful neglect of the rules of their order, their close attachment to the Popes and their interests, the excessive exemptions and privileges they enjoyed, their luxury and sensuality, caused them to be universally detested by the secular clergy and laity. When Acre fell in 1292, the Templars, having lost all their possessions in the Holy Land, and seeing that the recovery of it was hopeless, retired to Cyprus, and it is supposed meditated the removal of the chief seat of their order to France.
At this time Philip the Fair, a tyrannical and rapacious prince, occupied the throne of France, and he formed the scheme, attracted no doubt by their enormous wealth, of destroying them. The history of their ruin is involved in much obscurity. Suffice it to say that, by means of suborned agents,
• A name given by the Greeks to those who were born of a Turk and a Christian. + See the rental which is given in Dugdale's Monasticon, Vol. 11, p 526. Matthew Paris says, they had nine thousand warriors in Christendom and Heylin remarks that at their suppression, sixteen thousand lordships, besides other lands, &c. belonged to them.
wode possessed property here as early as the reign of Edward the Third, being one of the eleven freeholders mentioned in Mowbray's deed; and mention is made, in certain letters, of protection granted to Rich. Wynchedon*, “qui in obsequium regis in comitiva carissimi filii Regis Edmundi, Comitis Cant. ad partes transmarinos profecturus est,” of Johannes Belwode de Belton, “ in comitatu Lincoln," Some of the family were in existence in the sixteenth century, for the inscription on one of the gravestones in Belton Church, records, that Margaret, the wife of Robert Monsoun, who died in 1570, was the sole heiress of Francis Belwood, Esq.
Mr. Stovin informs us, in a memorandum made on one of the leaves of his MS. History of the Drainage, but without giving any authority, that this Richard de Belwood had two daughters, Emmot and Elizabeth; one of whom married Thomas Beltoft, whose daughter Margery married Oliver at Hall, whose son and heir Robert at Hall had three daughters, Joan, Elizabeth, and Mary. Joan married Henry Vavasourt, seventh son of Sir Peter Vavasour, who was the nephew of Sir John Vavasour, one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas; and in the partition of his wife's father's property, Belwood was given to him. It remained in this family for four generations, until at the time of the drainage, Thomas Vavasour was appointed by the Isle Commoners to manage their cause against the Participants; and although he was not a member of the legal profession, they called him their solicitor. Being, however, a man of a generous disposition, he
the most infamous charges were brought against the Templars, who were arrested, thrown into prison, and confessions extorted or attempted to be extorted by the rack. Many of the valiant knights perished in the flames, protesting their innocence, and sealed with their blood the honour and purity of their order.
A Bull of the Pope dissolved the order, and transferred their possessions to the Knights of St.John of Jerusalem, who, however, had to pay such enormous fines to the King and Pope, before they could enter on them, as were perfectly ruinous.
* Federa. + This famous and very antient family of Vavasour, or Valvasor as Camden expresses it, assumed its name from their office, being formerly the King's Valvasor, a degree then little inferior to a Baron. “There are,” says Bracton, "for the government of mankind, Emperors, Kings, and Princes,
spent great part of his estate in defending his neighbours' rights, and was obliged to sell the patrimony of his ancestors*.
After the dissolution of the religious houses, and when the possessions of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, to whom had been transferred the property of the Templars, had been by Act of Parliament conferred upon the King, two new families appear upon the scene, Ryther and Popplewell. John Ryther was a cofferer in the King's household, i. e. an officer who paid the servants, under the direction of the comptroller of the house. hold. No one was more likely to get a ahare of the good things which were then to be disposed of. This person we find in possession of the property of the Templars ; and Popplewell had obtained, probably by purchase, Mosswood, which was another piece of land close by, included in the original grant of Mowbray to that Order. When the Vavasours sold Belwood, Ryther, who had married into that family, became a purchaser. In the next generation Robert Popplewell married Katherine the daughter of Robert Ryther : and this was the person who headed the mob to destroy Reading's corn, and to pull down his house, and who was included in the bills found against them by the grand jury for that offence. Her brother, Robert Ryther, died without issue, and left his estate, after his wife's decease, to the Ryders of Scarcroft, who were debarred of succession by statute, as Roman
Magnates or Valvasors, and Knights.” Accordingly we find that the Vavasours were sometimes summoned to sit in Parliament. Legal antiquarians, however, are not agreed upon what was their original or antient office. Some have thought that Vavasours were such as held fees not in chief of the king but of the nobility. Sir Mauger le Vavasour is mentioned in Doomsday Book, in the 10th year of William the Conqueror, as holding in chief of the Percies Earls of Northumberland, considerable manors and estates in Yorkshire. In Camden's Britannia, by Gough, the family of Vavasours is thus spoken of, “On the other side of Hesslewood, the chief seat of the very famous and antient family of the Vavasours; and in the end of King Edward the First's reign, William Vavasour was summoned to Parliament.” Under this is that very famous stone quarry called Peter's Post, from which the magnificent Church of York was built of stone, dug there by the liberality of the Vavavours.