Artist David Vale
Temple Bruer is situated in Lincolnshire in the middle of the great heath that lies South of the city of Lincoln. At the beginning of the 12th century the heath would have been a formidable place, uninhabited and desolate. Around the middle of the 12th century an estate of land was given to the Knights Templar by William Asheby. It was on this estate that the Templars built one of their round churches and formed the preceptory of Bruer. Bruer being the french word for heath. The diligent hard working Knights and their retinue set about transforming the bleak baron heathland into a productive valuable estate. Wool was the major product, and it would have been sent from Bruer to local markets, with the main bulk of the 'harvest' going to the port of Boston for wider distribution. Bruer was the second richest preceptory in England c. 1308, with an income of over £177 ( the richest being Willoughton).
The site has been excavated twice, first in 1833 by the Rev. G. Oliver, and again in 1907 by St.John Hope. The first excavation provided some lurid tales of underground vaults being found, with burnt interior walls and containing skeletons that showed signs of violence. St. John Hope dismissed these stories, when he could find no evidence of underground vaulting. He did however find two flights of stairs leading down to a crypt. The excavations did manage to clearly define the shape of the church, thus allowing the artists impression recreated above.
Temple Bruer Church Plan
Temple Bruer was without doubt one of the most important Templar sites in the country. Primarily, no doubt, due to the wealth it created with it's sheep rearing activities. During the inquisition of the Templars there seemed to be confirmation of the importance of the site, perhaps for other reasons though. A brother John de Donyngton of the order of the Minorites, testified that he had been told by a Templar veteran that, there were four chief idols held by the Templars in England. One was held at London in the sacristy of the Temple; another at the preceptory of Bistlesham; a third at Bruere in Lincolnshire; and a fourth in a place North of the Humber, the name of which he could not remember. Whilst this report could have been total fabrication it certainly confirms the importance of the site.
Bruer was the center of Templar activity in the Mid Lincolnshire area. Under the control of Bruer were two other preceptories, those at Eagle and Mere. Though there is some debate over whether Mere was a preceptory or just a large Manor house. Later the preceptory at South Witham also came under Bruer' control.
To the South of the estate around the area of the hamlet of Byards Leap, the Templars would hold tournaments. The large expanses of flat heathland making the area ideal for such occasions. Tounaments at the time were not Hollywood style jousting competitions, but major mock battles fought between large groups of men. It was possibly tales passsed down from such events that account for the origins of the legend of Byards Leap, with its story of a great leap by a horse.
Following the termination of the Templars, the property passed into the hands of the Hospitallers. Under who's charge the preceptory at Bruer seems to have fallen into disrepair. The Hospitallers made their area head quarters at Mere. When Henry VIII also disbanded the Hospitallers he sold Temple Bruer to the Duke of Suffolk. In 1541 the Duke entertained Henry at the preceptory even though the site had by this time become quite dilapidated and tents had to be erected to house all of the entourage. In 1540 the valuation mentioned a farm site, recently the preceptory, with orchards, gardens and houses, a rabbit warren, 2000 acres of sheep ground and a windmill. The property remained as a block until 1935 when it was split up and sold by Lord Lonsborough.
Today the site is one of the few left in Britain where any Templar remains can be seen. All that is left visible is the Southern of the two church towers. The picture above shows how it looked before restoration. The tower now, is complete and has a roof. It is open to the public at all reasonable times and is managed by Lincolnshire County Council. Recent vandalism, unfortunately, has lined the walls with obscene graffiti, though some more artistic older graffiti is visible, with some said to be from Templar times. Access to the site is through the farm yard, so be careful if you go. The small car park is actually situated on top of the round church, and people sensitive to such things have been said to have experienced strange sensations whilst sat there.
Bruer pictures by Simon Brighton