While many people have heard of the Knights Templar, most may not know of another similiar order – the Knights Hospitallers. This fighting religious order was also associated with running hospitals for pilgrims in the ‘Holy Land’ during the middle ages. In Lancashire, they came to own the small church at Stydd, together with its medieval hospital and surrounding estate.
The church of St Saviours, Stydd, was built during Norman times. Medieval records refer to “the hospital of St Saviour, under the Long Ridge and the Master and brethren also serving God”. By 1265 the buildings and surrounding estate land was acquired by the Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
The word hospital in medieval times has a number of meanings. It could mean a hospital for the sick, a hostel for pilgrims or a hospice for the terminally ill. It may have been that this was a leprosy hospital, hence the Knights Hospitallers interest in taking it over, but we do not know for sure. In 1338 a record of rent was paid to the regional headquarters of the Knights Hospitallers at Newland, near Wakefield, Yorkshire. The order owned the site for almost 300 years, until the reign of Henry VIII when the estate and buildings were confiscated in the dissolution of the monasteries. Shortly afterwards in 1543, Stydd was sold to Sir Thomas Holt of Grizlehurst, who paid for a chaplain to give occasional services at the church.
A group of Catholic gentlemen bought Stydd Manor in 1686, probably wanting the burial rights of the churchyard. In 1789 a new Catholic church was built virtually next door, leading to the decline of the old church, which was left to decay somewhat. It was greatly restored in 1925 by the Rector of Ribchester and remains connected with the parish church there.
Today we can see architectural features from all of this long history. From the outside on the North wall we can see a blocked Norman doorway with characteristic dog tooth patterning above it. The original is on the other side, leaning against the inner wall. Two narrow Norman windows can be seen either side of this doorway. The South side porch contains an impressive doorway from the Early English period (120os), showing deep moldings and columns with capitals either side. The studded oak door is suitably robust.
Once inside, we can see medieval features at the far chancel end of the church, including a distinctive stone coffin and a piscina (used to wash the vessles after mass). There are decorated grave slabs of Sir Adam and Lady de Clitheroe of Salesbury Hall. Sir Adam was a harpist at the Royal Court, and his slab features a spear and a sword. Near the south porch entrance, high up on the west wall is a blocked doorway which would have linked an outside building to a wooden gallery inside the church.
Linking the church to its Knights Hospitallers is the octagonal font, which features two connections to them. The first is to Sir Thomas Newport of Shropshire, a preceptor of the order. You can see his shield which features three arrowheads and a chevron with three stars. He died in 1502 and is buried in the Knights Hospitaller citadel at Rhodes, where his memorial also bears the same shield arms. The second is to Sir Thomas Pemberton, a later preceptor at the Newland headquarters from 1535-1538. A shield which bears the initials ‘TP’ and a small quatrefoil device, and a second shield shows the cross of St George at the top and a large quatrefoil beneath.
But what of the site of the hospital? Where does it lie in relation to the church? Excavations in 1912 and again in the 1970s found archaeological remains, but were unable to determine a date or function to the buildings. There has been speculation that the uncovered walls were medieval, or possibly even Roman, but a more in depth dig and analysis are required before any firm conclusions can be reached.
The estate at Stydd does include other interesting features. A medieval cross base can be seen in the churchyard. Stydd Manor farmhouse has a date stone dedicated to ‘Rebecca and John Sherburne 1698’, and a couple of other interesting stones lie on the lane between the church and house. Stydd almhouses (now private residences), its capped well, and the later barn-style catholic church are all worth seeing.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2014
Opening Times: The church is open to view at the weekends.
Parking: Park at car park of the nearby catholic church of Saint Peter and St Paul. Have a look at this large ‘barn’ style church too, and then head up the lane past the almhouses to Stydd (St Saviour’s) Church. (There is no parking next to Stydd Church)
Just a short walk away:
Ribchester Roman Museum. This excellent independent museum is open all year round and charges a small entrance fee. It details life before the Romans and during the time the fort was built and occupied by them.
Ribchester Roman Baths. This site is only open April through to October, and is kept locked during the rest of the year. It is free to visit.
Ribchester Roman Granaries: Free to visit, open all year
If you are interested in the Knights Templars in Lancashire, have a look at this post on Cartmel Priory and its founder William Marshall by clicking here
The Church of St. Saviours, Stydd, (2004), (booklet available from Ribchester Parish Church bookstall)
The Church of St. Saviour, The Holy House of Stydd, A Short Guide, (leaflet available within Stydd Church)