Templars & Hospitallers in Scotland

I’m trying to catch up with some of the requests for Templar-related information I’ve received over the last four months (from which you will gather that this has not been a quiet time). Some of these are clearly points of general interest, so there will now follow two general information blogs: do please pass on to anyone who is tempted to email me to ask about these things.

So, you believe you live next to/ are related to/ Templar property in Scotland? It’s always Templars, never Hospitallers, even though Torphichen is much more impressive than Temple Midlothian. Anyway, I assume you have seen the book The Knights of St John of Jerusalem in Scotland, ed. Ian B. Cowan, P.H.R. Mackay and Alan Macquarrie, published by the Scottish History Society, 4th series, vol. 19 (Edinburgh, 1983); this sets out all the known Hospitaller and Templar lands in Scotland.

If you are looking at this blog, you will know about the inventories of Templar property that were made in England in 1308, when the Templars were arrested. However, no inventories from Scotland survive. The only detailed records that survive were those made by the Hospitallers, who rented out most of the ‘templelands’. After the Hospitallers were dissolved in Scotland, these lands were either taken by the king or sold.

The Knights of St John of Jerusalem in Scotland includes a Hospitaller rental of 1539-40 (i.e., a list of rents due to the Hospitallers in Scotland in those years) which records which properties owed rent. The book also lists all known Hospitaller and Templar property in Scotland, giving the sources of this information, so you can go and check it yourself — brilliant!

So, you have discovered that your house/ local park was ‘templeland’? This doesn’t mean that there were ever Templars living here. The Templars held small pockets of land all over Scotland, which held special rights (exemption from Church taxes, for example), and were called ‘Templelands’. Most of these areas were nowhere near a Templar property, and the Templars probably never went there. One Scottish scholar of the Templars tells me that ‘in my view templelands were a medieval version of our direct debits to charity’: a piece of land which a local landowner had given to the Templars. The land would pay rent to the Templars, and such donations were an important source of regular income to them.

So your local park is called ‘Temple’? From the name, it’s easy to assume that it belonged to the Templars before the Hospitallers owned it. And that might well be the case. But because the Hospitallers were given the Templars’ land after the Templars were dissolved in 1312, some places which never belonged to the Templars were later called ‘Temple’ by local people. This happened in England at Temple Grafton and Temple Newbury — both Hospitaller estates which never belonged to the Templars. As there doesn’t seem to be any surviving evidence from before 1539 that this land belonged to the Templars, it isn’t possible to be sure that it did.

I hope this helps to clarify that — and now rush out and grab a copy of The Knights of St John of Jerusalem in Scotland, ed. Ian B. Cowan, P.H.R. Mackay and Alan Macquarrie. It really is worth the investment.


About gawainsmum

I'm an academic researching on the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller, the crusades, religion and the role of women in warfare and in religious life in medieval Europe. This blog will feature developments in my research as it progresses.
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4 Responses to Templars & Hospitallers in Scotland

  1. I’ve been needing a book on the Hospitallers in Scotland, so thanks for the reference. I’m looking at a site at Ancrum near Jedburgh….. Maltan (sic) Walls, which it has always been speculated has connections with the Knights of Malta. This is unlikely (according to academic opinion) as the name is said to be a mangled version of “mantle walls” denoting the outer defences of a castle, and some inconclusive excavations have taken place in recent years. However….. in the near vicinity is a site known as “Ancrum Spital” (in the grounds of the house belonging to Michael Ancrum…. Lord Lothian). I have written to Lord Lothian ( a high ranking member of the modern “Knights of Malta”), asking if I could interview him regarding his knowledge of the area, but as yet I have received no reply. But the name “Spital,” does surely raise the question of a possible presence of the “Knights” in the vicinity. I will be blogging on this and other subjects related to the area in the imminent future. “Falling Angels, Lost Highways blogspot” (sorry, can’t seem to get the direct “link” to work!)
    All the Best,
    Brian Moffatt.

    • gawainsmum says:

      Thanks for this — this is really interesting! I’ve taken a look at your blog.

      • Just as a matter of interest…. Michael Ancrum never did reply. But from my own point of view, the business of the “City of Refuge” (on my blog posting) is now of just as much interest as “Maltan Walls.” Those landowning folk round Ancrum, sure seem to have liked removing their history!
        I’lll be blogging a little more on the “Green Man” in the next couple of weeks. New info, and rather revealing in it’s own way.
        All the Best,
        Brian Moffatt.

  2. gawainsmum says:

    Thanks for the update!

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