THE ORDER OF ST. JOHN IN HEREFORDSHIRE
by Herbert James Harris
Within the parish of Bosbury, near Ledbury, the Order of
St. John had a grange called Upleadon, sometimes known as
Temple Court, which had formerly been the property of the Knights
Templars. Leland in his Itinerarium says; “Bosberie x. Miles
by North Est from Hereford at the Head of the Ledon Reveret,
and therby is a Place longinge to Seint John’s in London caullid
All tenants of Templar property were accustomed to mark
their houses with a cross as an indication of their right to the
privileges of the Order, but this only led to others abusing this
right, for Coke tells us :—
“As the cross was the sign of their profession, and their tenants
enjoyed great privileges, they did erect crosses upon their houses.
. . . And many tenants of other lords, perceiving the state and
greatness of the Knights of the said Order, and withal seeing the
great privileges their tenants enjoyed, did set up crosses upon their
Henry I., however, soon put an end to this abuse, by Statutes in
1285, prohibiting it and inflicting a penalty of forfeiture of
In the year 1312 the Order of Templars was suppressed and many of its Knights
imprisoned in the Tower of London. Among these were Thomas de Tholouse, the
Preceptor of Temple Court, and Thomas de Chamberleyne, one of the brethren.
They were afterwards set at liberty and pensioned, the property passing to
the Order of Hospitallers at Dinmore. Very little was heard of Upleadon until
1521, when Bishop Charles Bothe of Hereford asserted that the lands at Upleadon
had for long past paid greater tithes to the Bishops of Hereford and lesser
tithes to the vicar of Bosbury, despite the privileges the tenants enjoyed.
He complained that a certain farmer, Thomas Leyland, who held land under the
Order of St. John at Upleadon, had withheld these tithes; also that he has
built an oratory within the manor and installed a priest of whom nothing was known.
The Grand Prior at that time was Thomas Docwra, one time Prior of Dinmore, who,
in his reply to the Bishop, said: “I thinke that Leyland hath not done amiss,
fyrst because he is reputed for none of the parysshe of Bosebury.”
Among the many privileges of the Order was that of sanctuary for felons who came
to their Houses, and in a Cartulary or Register of the Order dated 1442 to be
found in the British Museum we find proof of this right of sanctuary having been
exercised at Upleadon. The following is the extract: -
“Delivery of the King’s gaol of his castle of Hereford,
made at Hereford before Thomas Tumayle and Reginald Pagge,
the King’s justices for that purpose appointed on the Friday after
the Feast of St. Peter in Cathedra 6 Henry VII, (1490-1491) Hereford.
Philip Beret of Upleadon in the parish of Bosbury co. Hereford,
tailor, otherwise called Philip, Tailior, imprisoned upon an indictment
made before Thomas Broynton and other justices of the Peace
of the said county, for that he on the Sunday after Michaelmas in
the said year made an assault with violence upon John Berne at
Upledyn, with a woodknife of the value of 2.S., giving him a wound
in the middle of the belly of which he died, Philip Beret being brought
by the sheriff to the bar, says that by reason of the said felony, to
save his life, he fled to the manor house of Upledyn, commonly
called Templecourt, on the Sunday before Michaelmas 6 Henry VII.,
which house from time immemorial has been parcel of the possessions
of the Hospitallers and for the whole of that time a privileged house
and sanctuary. And he there claimed the liberty of sanctuary.
And he sayd that on the Tuesday before the said feast, John Ravenhill
and John Wyn and others helping them, came into the said sanctuary
and forcibly removed him from the same and brought him to the
King’s gaol in his castle and this he is prepared to prove and he
demands jugement and that he shall be restored to the said privileged
place. And as regards the felony he says he is not guilty and puts
himself upon the country with regard thereto.
“And John Plomer who prosecutes for the King in this behalf, says that
he does not know that the said house is a privileged place or sanctuary and
demands an inquiry by the country, and the said Philip likewise. Therefore let a jury come.
“And there comes before the said justices one Thomas Leyland
on behalf of the Hospitallers who says that the site or mansion
house of the manor of Upledyn is and was a parcel of the preceptory
of Dinmor co. Hereford which from time immernorial has belonged
to the Hospitallers, who have always therein had the privilege of
sanctuary, as he is prepared to prove and he begs that this privilege
may be allowed to them and that the said Philip Beret may be restored
to the site or mansion of the manor of Upledyn, there to remain safe
and secure so long as he pleases according to the privilege. The
matter is thereupon referred to a jury, who fmd as Beret alleged as
above. Therefore it is considered that he shall be restored (as
above) and the sheriff is ordered to conduct him there in safety
under a penalty of £100.”
It is noted that Thomas Leyland claimed the right of sanctuary
through Upleadon being a parcel of the Comrnandery at Dinmore.
This right of sanctuary was a privilege granted to churches and
certain other places, to which criminals might flee for safety.
According to tradition, a pair of horns were set upon the altar
at Dinmore and anyone seeking sanctuary had to grasp these horns
with both hands to claim that right. It is doubtful, however, if
such tradition were true, because anyone stepping inside the
boundaries of Hospitaller estates could immediately claim refuge.
No one could claim the right of sanctuary for a period of more
than 40 days. The privilege of sanctuary was abolished in the
The estate of Temple Court continued in the hands of the Hospitallers until 1544, when
it was conveyed by Henry VIII. to Hugh Appare. The only remains that can be traced of
the Hospitallers’ possessions is the course of the Moat at Temple Court. There is,
however, in the parish church at Bosbury a tomb with a floreated cross, believed to be
that of a member of one of the Orders.