The Knights Templar may have been disbanded in the 14th century, but their legacy lives on in Leeds until this day. We find out where you can see the Templars for yourself.
Home sweet home
The Knights Templar owned a preceptory at Temple Newsam from around 1155. Although a lot of the site was destroyed by mining, an archaeological dig in 1991 found evidence of a great barn and other farm buildings on the site. The area can be seen best from just south of Temple Newsam House, at Dog Kennel Hill, although you will need a good imagination to make out what used to be there!
Colton deserted medieval village, located centrally on the northern boundary of the modern Temple Newsam Estate, was built in the 12th century and inhabited by the tenants of the Knights Templar. The village was abandoned around 1490. The wooden houses have left post holes identified during digs in 1980 and 1993. Although the site is now pasture, with careful observation the houses, gardens and streets can still be seen, along with the characteristic “ridge and furrow” of the surrounding fields.
The mark of the cross
Among the favours granted to the Knights Templar is that they did not have to pay from certain taxes. The inhabitants of the manor of Leeds had to grind their corn at the Kings Mills, but tenants of the Templars did not. A Templar Cross was put on the exempt buildings. Such crosses could be seen in buildings in Leeds up to the 1900s.
You can still see a cross on the side of a building at the foot of Briggate.
What’s in a name?
Place names in the city can also reflect the presence of the Knights Templar. It has long been suggested that names which include the word Temple or Templar are connected with the order.
Take a look at a local street directory and you’ll see there are lots of places in Leeds – Templar Street, Templegate Drive, Temple Row – with names that suggest the Templars. Many of these are in the Temple Newsam, Colton and Whitkirk areas where the Knights Templar owned land.
Templar Gardens in Wetherby may well reflect the fact that the Templars owned property in that area too.
Temple Moor High School in Leeds takes its name from the Knights Templar on whose land it was built. It continues to use the Knights Templar cross on its logo with a Latin motto translated as ‘tending the temples of the mind’.
In the 19th century there was a vogue for historical novels. Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, featuring the Templars as the villains, was a huge success. Ivanhoe features a preceptory called Temple Stowe. There was no Templar estate with this name, but many people believe the novel was using Temple Newsam under a different name.
There is a clock in the Thornton’s Arcade in Leeds city centre which features a scene from Ivanhoe and some modern places in Leeds may carry the name of Temple Stowe (such as Templestowe Crescent).
Arms and armour
It is very rare today to find actual artefacts left by the Templar Knights, but there are plenty of objects from the same date on display at the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds.
Why not go out and explore for yourself?