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The Knights Hospitaller in Herefordshire

King Richard I gave a grant to the Knights of St. John to establish the Preceptory at Dinmore and, as we have read, the Knights were granted Garway after the Knights Templar were dissolved.

From original account books of Dinmore (which you can find at the Herefordshire Record Office), we know that it was a busy administrative centre for many properties and farms.

It was also a place of retirement for knights, and for other men who paid a large sum of money to the order so that they could retire there in their old age to be looked after and given an annual pension. This is a very early form of pension planning. 
 
Offering hospitality - that means food and drink and a place to stay for a traveller - was another role of the Preceptory. As part of its charitable calling, Dinmore also supported a small hospital for men in Hereford. This former hospital, on Widemarsh Street, is now a museum.

When the Pope would not allow King Henry VIII to divorce his wife, Henry decided to take over the Church in England himself. In 1536 Parliament passed an act to dissolve (close down) many religious communities. During this period of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, many monasteries and convents were plundered and their lands and wealth given to the King.

The End of the Hospitallers

In 1540 King Henry VIII ordered that the Order of St. John should be dissolved in England. The prior of each Preceptory had to make a list of the possessions and estates of the order in his area. This list, called an inventory, is a good source of reliable contemporary information.

From this inventory, for example, we know that Dinmore had had at least two water mills, one on the River Lugg and one at Shottesbrook. 

The members of the order were forbidden to continue to wear the dress of the order or to use their titles. After 1540 all the properties went to new owners and the King benefited from the sale or the leases. For example, a John Scudamore bought 110 acres of pasture called "Kentchurch Park", land which had previously belonged to the Knights of St. John. This land was part of a medieval deerpark.

The Herefordshire Record Office holds some sources relating to the Order of St. John in this county. These are: Richard Hollins Murray, Dinmore Manor and the Commandery of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem at Dinmore (1936)- BG30/5; and references to the order in Monasticon Anglicanum Vol. VII, pp. 762, 784-812.

[Original author: Toria Forsyth-Moser, 2002-3]