Templar estate management - subsoil and technological development

According to the information in the 1185 Inquest in England the Templars seem to have chosen the location of their holdings in Lincolnshire with care. Geology was important, also as the basis for technological development such as water- and (later) windmills. 

With regards to the subsoil, clay regions were avoided and upland settlement was preferred. Whilst there were holdings on the margins of wetlands, no settlement penetrated further within those wetlands. (...)

The consolidation of Templar holdings during the thirteenth century meant that by the time the Order was arrested in January 1308 the number of vills in which the Templars held land had been substantially reduced. Notwithstanding the reduction in the number of holdings, the distribution pattern was similar to that of 1185 with the absence of property on the heavy clay lowlands and a concentration on the lighter more cultivable soils of the limestone and chalk uplands. By the early fourteenth century the Templars’ estates in Lincolnshire had become more efficient operations by land acquisition and exchange. In addition, the number of estates and preceptories had been reduced. (...)

Of the twenty-three mills enrolled in the Inquest of 1185, only seven were in Lindsey. There were no Templar mills in the northern Wolds in 1185. The permeability of the chalk would have severely limited the potential number of watermill sites in the Wolds and windmills were not introduced into
England until the late twelfth century.(...) By 1308, the majority of mills were wind powered and the number of mills reduced from that of 1185 as a result of this technological advance. (...) by 1300 the windmill was only one relatively new technological development along with the ‘introduction of the horse to agriculture’. By the time of the arrest of the Order in 1308, each Lincolnshire preceptory had a mill. (...) The Templars were not merely progressive, they were innovative, using their international links to introduce new technology from abroad.

This blog consists of (in part edited) quotes from pages 39-54 of  The Templar lands in Lincolnshire in the Early Fourteenth Century, by J.M. Jefferson, thesis submitted to the University of Nottingham for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, July 2016. In 2020 this Thesis was published by Boydell Press; The illustration shows Temple Bruer Preceptory Grade I listed tower and Scheduled Ancient Monument at Temple Farm. All that remains of the Preceptory of the Knights Templar founded in 1185, this 13th century tower was one of a pair that stood east of the circular church. Photo by Richard Croft, source Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

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