Knights Templar Sites


(Temple Ewell, like Ewell Minnis, originally came from the Old English æwell river-source. Temple was a later addition, alluding to its possession by the Knights Templar from the twelfth century. The place first appears on record as Æwille in 772.)


It is known that the Preceptory at Temple Ewell was founded sometime before 1164 and that it was an important Perceptory near Dover. The Templars acquired the manor in 1163 and replaced the wooden Saxon church with a Norman stone building. It was given to them by William, the brother of King Henry II and Wm. De Peverell, Constable of Dover Castle.


A survey of 1185 reveals an estate of over 300 acres. Mr. George Tull comments: "According to the monastic chronicler Matthew Paris, King John made his submission to the Papal Legate, Pandulph, on 15th May 1213 'in the house of the Templars near Dover', which must have been Temple Ewell. Others believe that this historic event occurred in the ancient Round Church nearby, a Templar church, on the Western Heights. (see below).


Nothing further is known of the history of the Temple Ewell Preceptory, except that in 1309, Ralph de Malton was the Preceptor and Robert de Sautre was a Brother at Ewell." (1)


On Temple Hill on this site, the Templars built their Preceptory. Unfortunately, there are no remains of the buildings above ground level, but an important exacavation was done in 1864-66, in which some medieval floor tiles and iron objects were unearthed. Revd. Dr. SSG Hale in an informative article about Temple Ewell, informs us that the Preceptory was "a two-storey building of flint and mortar dressed in Caen stone with the dimensions of 25 ft. wide and 60 ft long on an east-west axis." (2) The Chapel faced east and was only 15 ft. square, and also connected to the Chapel were the Chapter House, where official Templar business was transacted, and the Kitchen.


During the excavations, there was also found evidence of a doorway, external staircase, a loft used for storage purposes, and a dormitory for the permanent residents. The main hall, dating from the 12th c., seems to have been the earliest part of this site, and was most likely a refectory with trestle tables removed at night to use the hall as a sleeping area for pilgrims.


Also, according to Hale, "This central building has the same plan and building materials as the village church. As the number of pilgrims and business increased it was necessary to build an extension to the north and another wing at right angles to the central buildings." (3) This 13th c. north extension used part of the main building and was about 22 ft. wide and about 85 ft. long. The wall was lined with tiles on which was a fleur-de-lis pattern. By creating this extension, the space for accommodation was more than doubled!


After the suppression of the Templars by papal authority in 1312, the Knights Hospitaller took over the manor at Temple Ewell. The Hospitallers also made some improvements to Temple Ewell church , which lasted until the major renovations of 1874.


At the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII, (1536) the buildings would have been stripped of materials for building other structures or converted to other uses.


Remnants of the Temple Ewell Preceptory remained above ground until 1740. Since then, unfortunately, all is concealed to the NW of the present buildings.


On the Western Heights above Dover, are the remains of a small church building, a Knights Templars' round church. The well-preserved flint footings show that the building of this church had followed the same plan as the (completed) New Temple church in London, but that it was smaller. It has been suggested that the Templars may have occupied this maritime site before moving a few miles inland to Temple Ewell. George Tull adds that "If this was so, it is enigmatic that they then built a much smaller chapel, at a time when the Order was prospering. The notion of a move appears unlikely. Rather it would seem that the Preceptory was at Temple Ewell from the start, the Dover Church being additional to it and built on land already belonging to the Preceptory. The tower may have been visible from the sea, serving as a daymark for shipping coming into the harbour." (4)


Chev. Alain Robins tells us more about this ancient round church site: "(it) stood upon part of the Western Heights called Bredenstone Hill that lies outside of the town of Dover. This was believed to be the site of King John's 'Act of Vassalage' to the Pope. At an early hour on the morning of the 15th May 1213, King John and Pandulph- the Papal Legate- left the House of the Templars and retired to the precincts of the Round Church. There, surrounded by Bishops, Barons, Knights and various Nobles of the Realm, King John took an oath of fealty to the Pope on his knees before Pandulph. The occasion was the surrender of the Crown to the Pope. King John then made his submission, in the House of the Knights Templarto the Envoy.After this was done, King John then put into the hands of Pandulph, a Charter recording the Act." (5)