Saturday, March 18, 2023

A Night for Knights and Greensleeves

As I've mentioned in previous posts, one of our favourite places to walk locally, is the Enville Hall Estate.  Enville offers everything you could wish for in a walk; lung busting hills, rewarded with incredible views, glimpses of pleasure gardens past (if you know where to look) and on the return, you have refuelling choices; village cafe or real ale pub.  

Enville is mentioned in the Domesday Book compiled in 1086 for William the Conqueror.  Overlooking the village of Enville, (previous designations, Evenfield, Enfeld, Envil or Enfeild) from a spur of land, is the Church of St Mary the Virgin dating back to the early 12th century.  The current St Mary's has a Norman nave, 13th century chancel and a Victorian tower added in 1871.  Today, the church prides itself as being "A 12th Century Church with a 21st Century Welcome."

As an atheist, my interest in churches is relatively superficial.  I can appreciate the history and skills utilised to erect houses of worship and marvel at the details, but if I'm honest, I'm more interested in them on a human level, preferring to seek out old graves and learn more about the figures associated with them or entombed within, like the incredible alabaster chest tomb we spotted in the east end of the south side of the church, belonging to "Thomas Grey of Enveld esquire & Anne his wyfe, daughter to Sir Ralph Verney of Yeardley in ye Countie of Bucks..."  Thomas passed on 31st December 1559 (see below).

Thomas Grey

So, the recent discovery of not one, but three graves belonging to the ancient order of The Knights Templar, demanded a visit.  Impulsive as we are, we had a family chat about it and in spite of the darkness, driving rain and blustery wind, we headed out there and then.

We immediately sought shelter from the rain inside and took in the atmosphere and natural, rapidly fading light of this historic church.

The impressive organ came from St Leonard's church, Bridgnorth and was dismantled in Bridgnorth and rebuilt at Enville by Messrs Longstaff and Jones of Dudley and given to the church in the 1970s.

The church boasts a fine set of four misericords or mercy seats, which rival the famous sets found at Ripley and Ludlow, with scenes depicting bear baiting, a lute playing angel and Arthurian legend, Sir Yvain trapped by a portcullis when trying to get through the gate upon entering an enemy castle.

Whilst it's not known when they were installed, they could well be the ones recorded back in 1697 in the church records, in which case, it's conceivable that they came from a neighbouring abbey at the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries on Henry VIII's watch.  To think these were around when Greensleeves was penned!

However, there was no denying our key mission, to find the Templar graves.  Given their recent restoration, they weren't hard to locate, but I decided we needed to visit in daylight to capture the details.

The Knights Templar were a powerful military organisation of devout Christians in the medieval era, formed in 1119 and tasked with providing safety to pilgrims to Jerusalem.  

They created a different model of knight, one in which members were monks, sworn to poverty, chastity and obedience and committed to fighting "infidels" in the Holy Land.  Promising to serve the Christian cause, they received papal recognition at the council of Troyes in Champagne in 1129.  

Highly disciplined, the knights were required to live austere lives.  Chastity was a must, so no kissing, even their own mothers.  Fur and fancy clothes were forbidden, as were pointed shoes and shoe laces, which were deemed pagan.  They could have meat only 3 times a week (which doesn't strike me as particularly austere).  

In reality, the knights being sworn to poverty meant very little.  The Order as a whole became astonishingly wealthy.    Pope Innocent II exempted them from paying any taxes.  The Templars collected donations from all over Europe.  Kings and Queens gave them huge estates.  Even ordinary people would leave donations in their wills, leaving the Order small plots of land that added up.

The knights were highly trained and known as fierce fighters who refused to surrender.  But they were also strategic thinkers and would not pick a fight they didn't think they could win.

Some scholars believe that the Knights helped import Muslim ideas that transformed Western legal and educational systems.  For example, the Inns of Court in London, legal institutions formed in the medieval period with ties to the Templars, have some striking similarities to madrassas built around  mosques, where Sunni scholars debate the law.

Photo Edward Tenny

Don Croner

Falsely charged with heresy, the order ultimately disbanded in 1308/9.  To think that three of the knights ended up resting for eternity just a few miles away from us, forgotten and overlooked for so many years, just blows my mind.  Here they are, captured on our daylight visit.

The three graves are believed to be around 800 years old, each bearing the Templar cross within double circles in a standard Templar design and one of the graves also includes a Crusader cross indicating the knight was a Templar and a Crusader of the ancient military order.

Templars were believed to attach themselves to churches dedicated to St Mary the Virgin and so, it is the belief of local researcher Edward Dyas, that Enville Church was a Templar Church.  

Edward also believes that one of the graves is that of a Templar Chaplain of a Templar Preceptory - most likely in Staffordshire, whose Commanderie was at Onneley, near Leek, the other two being acolyte assistants.  His research continues.

As to why the graves were not noticed before, according to Dyas they were, but back in 1588 in a local survey.  For some unknown reason, the descriptions of the cemetery in the 18th and 19th centuries completely overlooked the graves.  It's thanks to Dyas, who, with the permission of the vicar, cleared away the physical remnants of time; earth, moss and lichen, to reveal the three crusading Templars.

I'm not sure the knights would have approved of my other hunt, for the perfect corduroy dress - ongoing for over 12 months.  Even worse, it's green, which, if one of the theories about the old English folk song Greensleeves is to be believed, green women's clothing had negative sexual connotations.  Perhaps they would cut me some slack for being frugal and purchasing one that is decades old, albeit a perfect specimen.  I spotted this beauty in a vintage clothing unit in a nearby Antiques Centre.  It stood out to me, even on the cramped and cluttered clothes rails.  It was love at first sight.  Here's a glimpse. 

I instantly felt better about the £30.00 price tag (I'm much more used to charity shop prices) when I returned home and discovered that its burgundy twin sold for £175.00 on Etsy.

Designed by 60s model turned dress designer Fiona Browne for Spectrum of Gloucester Road, London, the maxi dress is a beautiful muted shade of moss green, although as this blog title might have you believe, there are no sleeves.  But it is exquisite!  It's currently too long for me.  The hem has been clumsily altered in the past and is uneven - longer at the back.  However, my knight with shining thimbles, Vix, is coming to the rescue and has offered to alter it for me.  Watch this space!

Finally, as we're talking about the thrill of the hunt, this huntress is catching up on some much needed sleep after spending the best part of Thursday night attempting to wake me from my slumber. For no good reason, I might add. She has discovered a novel way to disturb my sleep which entails leaping from the window ledge onto the bed and running heavily across my back, chirping with wicked pleasure as she does so. 

Have a good weekend!


  1. cats! :-D
    very interesting read! templars were a very powerful bunch - left impressive architecture in the levant and brought advanced sience and medicine from the orient to europe.... until they got to powerfull for the taste of the pope and the emporer. and you have a little piece of that great history at you doorstep!
    can´t wait to see the new old dress in its full glory!

  2. What a fascinating read, Claire! It completely boggles my mind that those graves went unnoticed for so long. I absolutely love having a mooch around old churches and can never reist an atmospheric old churchyard. And I definitely have a fascination for misericords, particularly ones as glorious as these! I must see if we can fit Enfield in our itinerary in June.
    I can't wait to see you wearing you wonderful find once your knight with shining thimbles has worked her magic. I am actually green with envy :-)
    Naughty Lotte, though! Bess is usually well behaved at night, but I'm still sporting a bruise on my leg from when she jumped from the chest of drawers onto the bed - and my leg - earlier this week! xxx

    1. I couldn't believe it either Ann. They've been there my whole life and we just find out about them! Enville is a tiny village, but you could easily while away a few hours walking, refuelling and exploring. Kinver Edge is a mile down the road too.
      Oh my goodness - a bruise?! Bess must have landed heavily! I'm sure it was unintentional though...not like Lotte's antics. xxx

  3. Lord Jon, having a Templar Knight - the Blessed Adrian - as an ancestor, would be fascinated by those gravestones. We know the symbols well from visits to Rhodes Town & Valletta where thousands of tourists from all over the world visit - it's sad those three graves were overlooked and long forgotten.
    Like you I'm more interested in tombstones and mad looking statues of saints than actual church architecture but there's something about the smell of church interiors that I'm attracted to.
    This knight with shining thimbles is poised and ready for action, it's an absolute beaut and talking of which, how gorgeous is Lotte? You can forgive her bedtime antics with a face like that! xxx

    1. Oh of course, the Blessed Adrian! You'll have to come and take a look. At least they are there in pride of place now.
      I know what you mean about the smell. I also love the fact that this church always appears to be unlocked. Although they were always intended to remain open, a lot of churches do actually lock their doors now at night to avoid vandalism. Shame.
      Thanks Vix. Any excuse for a meet up! xxx
      P.S. Lotte says thanks for being in her corner!

  4. Wow, incredible that those graves were uncovered after being forgotten for so long. Thank you for such an informative post too. My knowledge of the Knights Templar previously extended as far as Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade! Wonderful moody interior shots of the church too, the fine organ, the detailed woodwork...

    I say banish the beast!!! She may be cute and fluffy, but I would I would be too grumpy after a disturbed night's sleep. Fab post Claire xXx

    1. Thanks Lulu. I find it incredible that they could ever be overlooked.
      I exact my revenge on the furry one in small ways; using the hair dryer when she's trying to catch 40 winks, extra's the little things. ;-D xxx


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