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Temple Belwood Before 1900
Temple Belwood

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From prehistoric times the site at Belwood is said to of been used and occupied by Druids. The oak trees in the area being used for pagan festivals and practices.

The Doomesday survey of 1086 mentions a John de Belwood as one of the people swearing an oath to a Commissioner of William the Conqueror as to the assessment of lands at "Beltone".

In 1144, in the reign of King Stephen, Roger de Mowbray gave a "cow pasture at Belwode" (Belwood) to the Knight Templars, of Balsall, Warwickshire. The Templars were given permission to build and run a Monastic Institution, this becoming Temple Belwood.

The Templars were primarily soldiers but when not at war lived the life of monks with vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They fought recklessly and bravely for the Christian faith and soon won recruits, some from many of the important families of England and a consequence large gifts of land and money flowed in to their coffers. A gift of such lands at Balsall and Belwood was given by Roger de Mowbray.

In March 1312 the Pope abolished the order of the Templars. Their properties were transferred to the Knights of St John (the ' Knights Hospitallers'), The Hospitallers were another fighting, crusading Order, who also nursed the sick. It was at this time it can be presumed the Knight Hospitalers took over Temple Belwood. The Hospitalers built a chapel 500 yards to the east of the Temple in about 1530. The chapel being converted from a farmhouse.

After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 the Temple and the lands at Belwood were given to Henry Vavasour in right of his marriage to Isobel Brownlow. After his death it remained in the family for four generations eventually being owned by Thomas Vavasour. Thomas Vavasour had the title "The Solicitor" because he had petitioned King Charles I to stop Cornelius Vermuyden from draining Hatfield Chase, a very large area that included the Isle of Axholme. In 1627 Vermuyden had asked the King if he could drain the vast expanse of Hatfield Chase, it was this huge cost of trying to stop the drainage work that financially ruined Vavasour.

The house was bought by Robert Ryther who's descendant John Ryther died leaving it to his daughter Catherine and her husband Richard Popplewell. It then past on their deaths to their son Robert and on, in 1752, to his daughters one of which was married to Robert Steer, the other Katherine, was married to Alan Johnson.

Before the death of Alan Johnson (1795) Temple Belwood was rebuilt and extended with east and west wings and a new north front being added by his son, William Johnson, in 1787. A 30 feet high obelisk was built in the park as a memorial to the Squires favourite horse, Sir Solomon, that broke a leg while hunting. So aggrieved was the Squire he shot his best two hounds and buried them either side of the horse. Through local knowledge the burial site is not at the obelisk, as some believe, but in the Dog and Horse Plantation to the north east of the house.

Through some research though I have found reference to a racehorse called 'Tankersley' born in 1796 after not winning a race it was sold to a Mr Johnson in 1799 and renamed 'Sir Solomon'. At 4, he won the King's Plate at Nottingham and also at York, and one other race out of 7. In 1801 he hit his stride, winning all but one race, his successful 4 mile match against Cockfighter, in which he was never headed, at Doncaster, long-remembered. In 1802 he won four races, including the Newcastle Cup and the Newmarket Great Subscription Stakes. Sold to Lumley Savile at the end of the season, and retired to the Savile stud he died in 1819. Not particularly successful as a sire; sired the dam of Sir Hercules.

What was the link with the Sir Solomon of Temple Belwood?

William's son, William Popplewell Bellingham Johnson, was next in line but died childless in 1831 leaving the house to Robert Popplewell Steer, the great grandson of Robert Steer. Robert dropped the name Steer and took the name Johnson and in 1865 renovated the house at a cost of 30,000. Robert never married and died in 1871 leaving the house to his nephew, John William Dene Hilton , who also changed his name to Johnson. John modernized the house in 1880 at a cost of 16,000.

In 1897 the house was put up for auction following the retirement of John to his family home of Sarre Court, Kent. The auction was held at the Angel Hotel, Doncaster, at 3 o'clock on the 13th July 1897. The auctioneers, Messrs Osbourne & Mercer, offered 25 lots including the mansion in its own 200 acre grounds and all the other smallholdings, homesteads and accommodation lands totalling 2,113 acres in all. The 25 lots were bought by Mr. Thomas Wilkinson Esq. of Upperwood Hall, Darfield, Yorkshire.



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Temple Belwood Before 1900 | Temple Belwood After 1900 | Temple Belwood - Other Facts | Temple Belwood Booklet | 1905 Temple Belwood Brochure | Temple Belwood Photographs | Marriage Licence | Knights Templar Links

Temple Belwood

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