Cosgrove -Templars & Hospitallers
Templars and Hospitallers in Cosgrove

The Templars and Hospitallers were orders of Knights formed during the Crusades to the Holy Land from 1186.
When they returned, many of them set up their own houses on lands given to them by supporters. The leaders of these houses were often called Priors – and the lands were Priory Lands.
We have a Priory in Cosgrove – but there were never monks there – could this have been a Templar and Hospitaller house returning money and taxes to the Crusaders?

These notes are offered to the reader as clues to the influence of these Knightly orders in Cosgrove – we hope that this will eventually be further investigated.

The Norman Invasion

Following the Norman invasion of 1066, William the Conqueror divided lands between his closest lords to assure himself of their loyalty. In the Cosgrove and Furtho area, William’s follower Robert of Mortain held lands, whilst out in Deddington William’s half brother Odo, later Bishop of Bayeaux, built a massive fortification to protect Norman lands.

These allocated lands were bought, sold and exchanged over the next centuries to cement allegiances, or, when given in a Holy cause, such as the Crusades, to increase a family’s chances of getting to Heaven and obtaining favours from the Church.

During the first two centuries under the Normans, Cosgrove was under the ownership of several influential families. It is important to understand that they probably visited Cosgrove and Furtho very rarely, if at all – just collecting the profits of the manors.

Henry II [1133-1189]                            Baker, ii. 130

In hidarium of Henry II Robert Ryvell or Revell was returned to hold in Cosgrove eight small virgates, William le Brun six small virgates, and one Adam nine small virgates

Pipe R. 1162-3 (Pipe R. Soc.) 41.

Who were the Templars & Hospitallers

The Knights Templar were an elite fighting force in the Crusades dating from 1116, swearing to a code of conduct including humility, chastity and obedience.

The Knights Hospitaller, claiming to date from 1113, vowed to carry out humanitarian tasks including caring for injured Crusaders.

Both orders owned vast donated lands giving them huge income and investments.

The Revell Family

Robert Revell 1164 - 1200

In the reign of Richard 1, (c1191)Robert Revell owed £100 for seizing lands in Coagrave, Puxley and more.

Between 1200 and 1221 the Lay Rector of Cosgrove Church was Hugh Revel, son of Robert.

Robert Revell granted the advowson of Cosgrove to the Knights Hospitallers.

From 1258 to 1277 a man named Hugh Revel served as Grand Master of the Hospitaller Order of St John in the Holy Land.

Scholars know that he can’t be the Hugh Revel who lived in Cosgrove but think that he must be a close relative.

Revel family land was spread out across the East Midlands and East Anglia. Many of their lands held Hospitaller commanderies and priories.
In studies of the Revel family, Cosgrove always figures prominently.

The Prior of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem was the patron of Covesgrove Church.

Reign of Henry III (c1235)
Roger Revell held a small fee in Covesgrove, Tiffield and [Long] Buckby.

Tiffield church goers have never forgotten their Hospitaller roots –
they proudly show visitors round their church telling them about it.
In Long Buckby, the Hospitaller history of the village seems long forgotten –
we did find a Hospitaller cross on a drainpipe but it was wishful thinking!

The Cosgrove Church Advowson

Inscribed in the 1707 Cosgrove Church Register

The Advowson or Right of Patronage of the Rectory of Cosgrave, alias Cosgrove before the Dissolution of Monasteries, 1540,
was in the knights-Templars or Priors of St John Clerkenwell, London.

The Church is dedicated to St Peter and St Paul.

The Rectors, since the Erection of the See of Peterborough are, as followeth:

                                                                                       [The Advowson is now in the Lord Maynard]

The early records of the advowson of Cosgrove Church indicates that most of the Rectors were directly under the control of the Hospitallers.
The Templars seem to have taken a less direct role, although they may also have been supported by funds from the Priory lands.

The oldest documents from this area were collected by Edmund Arnold of Furtho – they refer to land ownership in both Cosgrove and Furtho from the 13th century.

Clues in the landscape

In the twenty fourth year of Edward I [1293]

Walter de Furtho was found to hold here thirty one virgates of the small fee of Morteyn, John de Cumlenton twenty one virgates of Roger de Lewkenor; Ala de Brune five virgates at the rate of xs per annum of the Earl of Warwick, with four virgates of the heirs of Patrick Chaworth; the heirs of Peter de Cheney five virgates of the heirs of Geoffrey de Lucy; and the Knights Templar to hold six virgates of the Earl Ferrars.

We think that Furtho also had Templar lands, perhaps given to the Revel family, because a lane which used to run from Furtho Manor Farm to the Watling Street up to the 19th century was called Temple Lane, usually a clue to this connection. A man living in Furtho in the 13th century was called Nicholas att Temple.

Tax Records

Needless to say, the riches acquired by the Templars, along with their fighting prowess, drew the attention of the King. Edward 1 commissioned a survey of the worth in rentals of the possessions of the Templars in the early 14th century.

Extracts appear below:

SC 12/13/47 Northamptonshire, Templars’ lands: summary of rents due. 1 Edw II. One roll.    1307

\Buckebi {Long Buckby}// – Will[elm]o Russel + Will[elm]o Garry de ij mes’ ij virgat’ t[er]re ad eosd[em] t[erm]i[n]os eq[ui]s porc[i]o[n]ib[us] ix s x d ob[ol’].

\Norht[ampton]’{Northampton}// – Joh[ann]e Longemle Juniore de J mes’ ad eosd[em] t[erm]i[n]os eq[ui]s porc[ionibus] xxs. – Et Steph[an]o Osbern de ead[em] ad eosd[em] t[erm]i[n]os iiij s eq[ui]s por[ionibus].

 \Fortho {Furtho}// – Thom’ fil’ Nich[olai de Temple de iiij virg[at’] t[er]re in Forcho ad e[osdem] ter[minos] xxvj s viij d equis porc[ionibus]

\Conesg[r]\a/ve {Cosgrove}// – Will[elm]o seriaunt de J virg[at’] t[er]re cu[m] p[er]tin[entibus] ad eosd[em] t[erminos] v s eq[ui]s por[tionibus].

\Aldrynton’ {Alderton}// – Th[o]m’ Polter de iiij\ta/ p[ar]te J cotag’ ad e[osdem] t[erminos] v d eq[ui]s por[tionibus]. – Et de Walt[er]o Cart[er’] de J crofto ad e[osdem] t[erminos] x d eq[uis] por[tionibus].

\Shotelanger {Shutlanger}// – Henr[ico] de Borenho de mediec’ J virg[at’] t[er]re ad eosd[em] ter[minos], viij d ob[ol’] eq[uis] por[tionibus].

\Stok bruere {Stoke Bruerne}// – Joh[an]ne Guyford ad eosd[em] t[erminos] xij d eq[ui]s por[tionibus].

The Fall of the Templars

Many English Templars were arrested in January 1308. None of their properties were very large and the Templars' income from the Northamptonshire holdings was relatively small.  

The Crown seized most of the money and divided their lands between local lords and Hospitaller commanderies. Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall, was a close favourite of Edward II, and many Templar estates were given to him, including Cosgrove and Furtho. The nobles exiled him in 1308 and executed him in 1311-12.

John of Bloxham received Templar estates from Piers Gaveston’s attorney, including Cosgrove and Furtho.

Year 5 (1311–12) 

The same renders account for £11 16 s 8½ d for rents of assise from the town of Welford, Long Buckby, Northampton, Furtho, Cosgrave, Alderton, Shutlanger, Stoke Bruerne, Great Doddington, Floore, Harpole, Bradden, Walmesford, Thrapston, Barton Seagrave, Winwick, Aldwinckle, Warmington, Papley, Loddington and Great Houghton in Northamptonshire.

John of Bloxham seems to have been an administrator commissioned by the King to review and collect rents from previously held Templar lands, including Furtho, Cosgrove and other places nearby.

He appears to have found several loopholes used to avoid paying in the past.

We have a record of his accounts until 1314.

We don’t know if these “Templar” lands overlapped with the Revell “Hospitaller” lands

We can follow the holdings of the Hospitallers in documents from the Arnold collection – each named person can be verified thereafter.

Reign of Edward II (c1316)                     Hospitallers held one acre of arable and one acre of meadow in Cosgrove.

Henry Spigurnel, living at Kenilworth, was a Judge and Lord of Cosgrove. He had a manor house!

48 men and 6 women possessed land enough to be taxed.

Lords of the Manor

Gradually the Priors of the Hospitallers began to style themselves Lords of the Manor of Cosgrove. Some probably held many other titles.

Manors referred to lands that carried manorial rights, giving owners the right to make and enforce local laws and collect rents and income.

A farmhouse with a bailiff on the Prior’s lands in Cosgrove would have looked something like a farmhouse.

And it would have been called a Priory because the Prior owned it.

Robert le Warde of Couesgrave is mentioned in documents from the 13th century.

It is possible that this surname refers to a man who managed estate lands for an owner who lived elsewhere.

This owner could have been the Prior of the Hospitallers, but no documentary proof is available.

In 1315 Richard de Paveley was Prior of the Hospitallers.

By 1361 Sir John de Paveley was Prior.

Walter de Paveley held the Manor of Cosgrove for a short time in 1341 and then abdicated it.

We can imagine how this family held on to rights and profits unconnected with their duties in respect of the advowson of Cosgrove Church.

Recorded Lords of the Manor of Cosgrove during this period

Henry Spigurnel
1328 Thomas Spigurnel
1339 Henry Burgursh Bishop of Lincoln
1341 Walter de Paveley (relative of Burgursh)
1345  Sir Adam de St. Philbert and Richard le Forester
1351 Walter de Paveley (again!)
1397 The Crown – forfeited by Thomas of Warwick
1400s The Beauchamp Earls of Warwick

In 1321, Henry Burghersh, Bishop of Lincoln, visited Snelshall Priory, near to Cosgrove.  He was given the Manor of Cosgrove by Spigurnel in 1339 and still held the title at his death.

In 1329, the Prior of the Hospitallers was summoned to show why he claimed to have view of Frankpledge of all his tenants in Covesgrave, to which he pleaded prescription.

[In medieval England, frankpledge was a system of law enforcement and policing in which members of society were mutually responsible for the behavior of their peers. The system included everyone in the community except the highest nobility and their households.]

In 1359 Walter de Paveley was granted the manor of Cosgrove from Robert le Forester

The Hospital at Old Stratford

We know that the Hospitallers retained some of their philanthropic interests in the area. Old documents refer to a Hospitaller inn on the Watling Street – clearly there were influences in the neighbourhood.

A Patent Roll of 1257 refers to a leper hospital “without Stony Stratford” dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

The Chapel of the hospital of St. John upon the causeway leading to the bridge at “Stone Streford” is mentioned by Bishop Tanner [Tanner’s Notit., p. 31]

The hermitage was probably at the brow of the hill at Old Stratford whereas the hospital would be between the river and the Deanshanger Road, where the Saracen’s Head Inn stood. There is a car dealership there today. Hospitals then were religious houses providing a refuge for the traveller and for the sick and needy; and the site at Old Stratford, near the ford on a main route, seems an obvious choice for such an institution.

This site is believed to be where the Hospitallers built their refuge.

Modern Research

Modern archaeologists are now taking an interest in Hospitaller sites. In 2016, the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council teamed up to run a series of archaeological excavations at Castle Hill Country Park in Beaumont Leys.

Their results were featured by the BBC on “Digging for Britain” in 2021.

Their site photograph shows the outline of a Hospitaller enclosure – characterised by earthworks featuring relatively straight lines.

Previous opinions about the Priory site at Cosgrove noted

a(3) MOAT (?) (SP 796432), lies on the N.E. side of The Priory, close to the R. Tove, on river gravel at 64 m. above OD. An L-shaped ditch with a maximum depth of 1.3 m. is correctly shown on OS 1:2500 plan SP 7943. There is no trace of other sides and it is uncertain whether the feature is a genuine medieval moat.

The Leicester Archaeology project at Castle Hill Country Park Beaumont Leys reconstructed a possible sketch of the Hospitaller farm holdings. Note the neat straight lines of the earthworks and ditches.

A similar holding of such a site in France shows very much the same kinds of buildings – in Cosgrove we recognise that the church at its current site was so close to the Priory, upon the main Northampton Road, passed by important and influential people, may have made the need fore a chapel on the site unnecessary.

Future digs may discover otherwise.

St. Vincent's Well

St Vincent’s Well, off The Green in Cosgrove, has no known written history, like most Holy Wells.

Old legends say its waters help eye conditions.

Most Holy Wells date from pre- Christian times.

So why is this one named after a saint?

Nobody knows, but

St Vincent of Saragossa was a popular martyr Saint story at the time of the Hospitallers.

He was martyred in 304 AD

(there is another St Vincent but he was much much later)

Templars and Hospitallers would all have known about Saragossa, in Spain. They might even have been there during their crusading years.

Alfonso I, known as "the Battler“, a Christian King, marched into town in 1118 and put an end to four centuries of Muslim rule.  He made the magnificent Aljaferia his home, renamed the city Zaragoza/Saragossa, and made it the capital of the newly formed Kingdom of Aragon.

The Carved Heads
In Cosgrove Church there are two carvings that may have been made during Templar or Hospitaller times, although they would not have been in these positions originally. They are two stone heads which were rescued from a fire. They have no dates or names.

We know that these heads were popular during the period when Templar and Hospitaller influence over parish churches was greatest. Similar heads can be found in known Templar churches and buildings, in Northamptonshire and elsewhere.

All these pieces of evidence and clues in the village of Cosgrove, with documentation from Furtho, cannot be considered absolute proof of Templar and Hospitaller roots. However, they do provide intriguing pointers for further research, and certainly lend weight to the reasons why the Priory – the original site of the manor house at Cosgrove, should be so named.

Simon Brighton In Search of Knights Templar Weidenfeld & Nicholson 2006 Descripton of Templar Houses
Helen J Nicholson The Every Life of the Templars Fonthill Publishing 2017 Descriptions of Priory system
Cecil R. Humphrey-Smith Hugh Revel Phillimore & Co Ltd 1994 Hospitallers in Cosgrove