The Preceptory of Garway

Translation : Mark W. Chenoweth

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Great Britain, West Midlands

Great Britain, England, West Midlands Region, 25km south of Hereford in the County of Herefordshire.

In 1180 Henry II, King of England, gave the Templars all the lands to the west of Llangrewi to the current border between England and Wales.
Once there, the Templars started to build a chapel on the site of an ancient Saxon church. This chapel was based on the style of the Church of St Sepulchre in Jerusalem, i.e. of a round external form with a crossed Choir.
The revenues from this Commandery contributed to the organisation of several military expeditions into the Holy Land. This Commandery was so important that Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Order, visited in 1294.
At the dissolution of the Order the Commandery of Garway was recovered by the Hospitallers, who incorporated it into their domain of Dinmore. Then, to a certain extent, they transformed the church and enlarged the pigeon loft that can still be seen a little further away. One peculiarity of this pigeon loft is that it comprises 666 pigeon holes…
The Hospitallers’ occupation was a period of heated disputes with the Bishop of Hereford from whom they claimed total independence. Matters came to a head in 1523 when the Hospitallers refused once again to pass on to the prelate the monies due to him and found themselves excommunicated.
To this day Garway remains a Sanctuary where criminals may take refuge and shelter before continuing on their flight. However, at the time of the dissolution of Monmouth Priory by the provosts of King Henry VIII in 1536 the last Prior, Richard Talybush, fled to the Sanctuary of Garway, but there he found no-one but the King’s men who had arrived before him and had already seized the whole domain of the Commandery.
At this time there was nothing left of the primitive round chapel, apart from its foundations, discovered in 1927 at the time of the excavations to the north of the "New Church". To the south, and forming part of the main church, is found what is known as the "Templar Chapel" which dates from before 1210 and which had served the Templars as a place to practise their initiations.
This chapel was partly reconstructed by the Tudors. At the western extremity of the church, staggered at an angle, and connected by a corridor, is a tower of 33 feet square and 70 feet high. This tower was used as a stronghold against the frontier attacks of the Welsh as well as a prison.
The nave has a splendid vaulted ceiling decorated with 24 six-pointed stars. There is a Norman arch between the nave and the choir, described as having a very sarrasine appearance. The roof of the choir dates from around 1400. Outside several edifices are engraved with crosses.

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