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Knights Templar

Tithes — when the Templars weren’t exempt

20 January 2016

One of the Templars’ most famous and notorious exemptions was not having to pay tithes (a tenth of income, paid to the Church). This was a particular complaint against the Order at the Third Lateran Council in 1179, when both the Templars’ and the Hospitallers’ privileges were attacked by the secular clergy. The pope, Alexander III, allowed them to keep this privilege for newly-cultivated lands. In addition, as these two orders were allowed to own parish churches, they collected tithes due to the parish priest.

So in Herefordshire at Newton and Harewood (dependencies of Garway) and at Garway the Templars received the great tithe (TNA: E358/19 rots 47d, 50d) and at Dingle and Dunwich in Suffolk they received the small tithes (E 358/18 rots 11, 38(1), 44d). At their church at Cardington in Shropshire the vicar received the small tithes (E 358/18 rots 4, 54; E 358/19 rot. 36, E 358/20 rot. 5).

Yet the Templars did pay some tithes! The accounts of 1308-13 show that they paid tithes as well as receiving them. At Gislingham on the Norfolk/Suffolk border (TNA: E 358/18 rots 3, 24d) the Templars paid a tithe on fleeces, geese and hens, and at Garway in Herefordshire they paid a tithe on lands they held from the earl of Striguil (E 358/18 rot. 2, E 358/19 rot. 25). At Keele in Staffordshire the Templars paid a tithe on lambs and wool (E 358/18 rot. 4, E 358/20 rot. 5) and at Thornton in Northumberland the Templars paid a tithe of lambs (E 358/18 rot. 6d).

Why these different payments? — that is for further research.