By Kathleen Much
Paper given at Stanford University, December 10, 2007
Introduction: Cressing Temple, about 10 miles northeast of Chelmsford in Essex, is thought to be the earliest settlement of the Knights Templar in England. Queen Matilda (wife of Stephen, not to be confused with Stephen’s cousin and rival, the Empress Matilda) gave the manor of Cressing to the Templars in 1137. It is one of the three original Templar properties in the country, with the Old Temple in London and Temple Cowley in Oxfordshire founded slightly later. In 1147 King Stephen granted the manor of Witham to the Templars as well, and the inquisition of 1185 into the English possessions of the Order indicates that the size of the two properties combined was 12 hides. The size of a hide varied but was usually 120 acres.
Another document, dated 1309, gives the order’s landholdings as 1,287 acres and describes the buildings: a mansion house with associated buildings, gardens, a dovecote, a chapel with cemetery, a watermill, and a windmill. An inventory of 1313, taken after the suppression of the order, mentions a chapel, two chambers, a hall, a pantry, a buttery, a kitchen, a larder, a bakehouse, a brewhouse, a dairy, a granary, and a smithy.