On a bitterly cold winter`s day, Chris Halton from Haunted Earth visits the ancient medieval chapel of St John, at Duxford, Cambridgeshire to investigate the ghostly monks that still worship there.
Haunted Earth UK
PRECEPTORY OF DUXFORD
The 'Temple' at Duxford appears to have been established on land given by a member of the Colville family. At the chapter of the Templars held in London at Easter 1273 Guy de Foresta, the master, granted a lease of certain lands in Pampisford, the rent to be paid in the 'House of the Temple in Duxworth'. The seal bears the device of the Paschal Lamb, with the words TEMPL. DOKSFORTH, and the first witnesses were Brother Walter de Wilbraham and Brother Baldwin de Akeny. This is the earliest direct reference to the preceptory which has been found.
In 1276 it was reported that the fee of Colville which the Templars now held used to owe suit, but that exemption was now claimed for it, and in 1279 that the Templars had a demesne manor at Duxford with 4 hides and 20 acres of land which they held of Roger Colville in alms.
John Mohun, Preceptor of Duxworth, was arrested with the rest of the Templars in the county on 10 January 1308. At the time there seems to have been no brother with him, and he was probably the sole professed member of the house, for John Creke found only one bed, with its furnishings, in the chamber, and this he valued at the preceptor's rate of 20s. There is no mention in the sheriff's account of the secular chaplain with whose stipend of 5 marks the house, according to Philip de Thame, had been charged by the founders. The office may have been vacant at the time, since the books and ornaments of the chapel were sent to Cambridge Castle, and Mohun was charged at his trial with having spoken contemptuously of the immortality of the soul—perhaps in excuse for this neglect of the chantry. There were fifteen dependants, of whom the majority were outdoor servants, the others being the preceptor's secular squire or groom, a reeve, porter, and cook. The buildings consisted of a hall and chamber with buttery and bakehouse. In the preceptory chest, probably for transmission to the grand master, was a sum of £4 13s. 4d. in cash. House, garden, and movables together were valued at £18 10s. 8d. With the chapel fittings, the clothing and bedding of the preceptor were sent to Cambridge Castle, and the chapel gear was retained in the charge of the Sheriff there when the preceptor's 'harness' was sent to the Constable of the Tower of London for his personal use on his transference thither as a prisoner. On 3 June 1309 Duxford, with Denney, was committed to Master Roger of Wingfield who, in 1310, was appointed keeper of all the Templars' lands in England, and it apparently remained in Wingfield's hands until November 1313.
Mohun had been 38 years in religion: he had nothing to say about the details of admission or funeral rites. He was, however, the object of the only damaging piece of outside evidence recorded against a Cambridgeshire Templar. An Austin Friar, William de Bernay, said that 'he had heard some brother of the Temple at Duxford beside Cambridge in Ely diocese, whose name he knew not (but he believed it was the preceptor of that place), say that no man had a soul after death any more than a dog'.
On 21 December 1313 John le Clerk of Wilbraham accounted for the manor of Duxford with that of Wilbraham when he handed both preceptories over to Brother William de Sauston, for the usè of the Knight Hospitallers. In 1338 Duxford was in the charge of a bailiff, but it never became a preceptory or even a camera of the Hospital, though it maintained sufficient independent existence in 1338 to be subject to the formal visitation of the prior and was charged with 20s. for his entertainment for one day. The stipend of the bailiff at that date was 40s. and the wages of the farm-servants 16s.; the chaplain received 5 marks. During the Peasants' Rising in 1381, on Saturday, 15 June, the band under Hanchach on the way to attack Shingay, turned aside to Duxford and sacked the manor of the Prior of St. John of Jerusalem there.
The Hospital of St John at Duxford was founded by Sir William de Coleville some time soon after 1200. It was used by the Templars and subsequently, one assumes, the Knights Hospitaller. All that remains now, wedged rather awkwardly between Whittlesford railway station and the A505, is the 13th century hospital chapel.
It is very nice, though: the moulding around the windows is elegant and severe, and there is some carving by way of decoration on the rood beam. I particularly liked the arrangement of piscina-window-sedilia in the south-east corner.
After the hospital fell into disuse, the chapel was used as a chantry, until it was converted into a barn at the Reformation and used by the inn next door for a good few centuries. Despite these indignities, though, it's survived relatively unscathed, though the big east window has been bricked up, which is a shame. Kelly's Directory of 1929 says the following about it:
"The Red Lion hotel, at Whittlesford Bridge, is said to have formerly been part of a small monastic establishment anciently existing here: the rafters of the ceiling and the mantel-piece are very fancifully carved. The chapel belonging to this religious house, though but little known, is an exquisite structure of rubble of the Decorated period, and its design is of extraordinary merit: the tracery of the once fine east window has disappeared, but the piscina and sedile recess remain, and there are side lancet windows with beautifully moulded hood arches: the building may fairly be regarded as a perfect model for a small but plain chapel."
From: 'Houses of Knights Templars: Preceptory of Duxford', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2 (1948), pp. 262. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=40007 Date accessed: 12 January 2009.
Video: Medieval Chapel of St John, at Duxford - Haunted Earth UK
Would you like to comment and discuss this posting? Go to Phantoms and Monsters Wiki and become a member of this unique network. Start a page on this subject or add your input to an existing page. We also send updates at Twitter