On Friday, 13 October 1307, France arrested its Knights Templar. A dawn swoop in January 1308 saw the English, Scots and Irish Templars taken in. The commander [Preceptor] at Temple Sandford was held in Oxford Castle, while his sergeants [servants] and lay-brothers continued running Templar lands under open arrest.
Wheatley tenants rented over 100 Templar acres, mostly at Acremead Wood, a Shotover fringe wasteland. Templars Close reminds us of a Temple Close, an unknown site. Oxfordshire’s £170 rents financed about 20 Templar Knights on Crusade (‘yearly foreign service’), guarding western pilgrims to Jerusalem and the site of Solomon’s Temple. The Knights Hospitaller Order saw to pilgrim care and watering. Both Orders answered only to the Pope, by-passing bishops and kings. When Muslim forces expelled the crusaders from Palestine in 1291, the warrior-monk Orders twiddled thumbs on Cyprus (Templars) and Rhodes (Hospitallers, who ended up in Malta). The Pope urged them to recapture Palestine together, but jealousy prevented cooperation, corruption rumours dogged the Templars and recruiting collapsed.
By 1308, England had just 12 Templar knights and 140 brothers, hardly the terrorist cavalry formations of Ivanhoe and Dan Browne. Papal inquisitors judged them, but English law banned use of torture for ‘evidence’: in England, no magic, devil worship or orgies were ‘confessed’. France allowed torture, so its leading Templars were burned. In 1312 the Pope abolished the Order, transferring all assets (including Wheatley) to The Hospitallers. The legal handover took 30 years – public feeling weighed so strongly against these pseudo-religious warlords.
John Fox, February 2016 (from the Wheatley Newsletter)