The Knights Templar in Brockley

Who says the media has dumbed down? In 1961, for no obvious reason, this is what the Kentish Mercury was writing about. Brockley Central has always attracted conspiracy theorists - now we know why:

The Kentish Mercury, May 12, 1961.

Monks at Brockley

"The ruins of the thirteenth-century Bayham Abbey, near Lambhurst, Kent, have an 800-year-old association with Lewisham and Deptford, for it was here that the Premonstratensian Order of Monks moved from Brockley in the year 1200.

Towards the end of the resign of Henry II (1154-1189) the manor of Brockley, or Brockele, as it was then called, was granted by Wakelin Maminot to his heir Michael de Turnham as an annual rental of 12d. Michael afterwards sold the land to Wakelin's wife, the Countess Juliana de Vere, that she might found a religious order and she duly gave the land to the Premonstratensian monks who had come from the Premonstre in France and settled at Ottham in Sussex in the year 1146.

Right of Might

On the death of Wakelin Maminot in 1191 Alice his sister and co inheritor of the estate, bestowed the land on the Knights Templar. In those days, when might was so often right, it was 23 years before the rights to the land at Brockley were regained by the monks, which land they then held until the dissolution of the monasteries in1526.

That part of the monastic land at Brockley which is in the borough of Lewisham passed to the Crown at the Dissolution, but in 1548 it was held by John Gaynesford, who conveyed it to Thomas keys for £200.

Noakes Estate

The manor of Brockley was then describes as consisting of one messuage (dwelling house), two barns, 284 acres of land and 12o acres of wood. It later became known as Forest place or Brockley Farm.

Many local residents will remember the Noakes estate, which, in 1932-1933, was built over, becoming Sevenoaks road, Brockley Hall road and others.


The other part of the monastic lands at Upper Brockley, in the borough of Deptford, descended from the Crown in the person of Queen Elizabeth I, to a Philip Conway. At the Restoration of King Charles II the land was vested in Sir John Cutler who later, in 1692, settled it on one Edmund Boulter, and through whom it passed to William Wickham, after whom the road is named. Later still it passed to one of his heirs Thomas Drake, a distant kinsman of Sir Francis Drake.


No monastery ever stood at Brockley, but around the year 1860 grassy mounds in a meadow belonging to a Mr. Joseph Myatt of Manor Farm, Brockley, marked the site of the remains of a small monastic building. Upon excavation of a building 344ft by 21 and a half feet (can't do the symbol for half on my computer), with walls 2ft thick, was uncovered.

When the foundations of St. Peter's Church in Wickham-road, Brockley, were being dug in 1870 an old well was discovered on th eland once owned by the monks and across which now runs the railway bewteen Lewisham and Nunhead. " [R.W.ELKIN.]

With thanks to JPM for his painstaking research!


Anonymous said...

Posted this on 'suggest a topic' it's a great site, not looked at all the links but has more info on brockley and Deptford.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating Stuff.

(Who's for opening up a coffee shop and naming it Brockele?)

Anonymous said...

Hence presumably Drake Ward (as it used to be) and Pepys was not Sam but his cousin. Not visited very often by the diarist who described him as a "turd" and a stupid fellow.

Anonymous said...

...but he did visit Deptford. Often caught the ferry to Redriffe or something (now Rotherhithe)and walked - a fit fellow. A bit shady, he worked for the admiralty and visited the victualler (army/navy store house I think)
and took all sorted of backhanders for the supply of rope and sails. The victualler is mentioned in the link i posted earlier.

...also shagged every barmaid he could get his hands on.

Anonymous said...

Also mentions...

"....In this parish stands one of the newly-invented telegraphs, which communicates intelligence between Dover and the Admiralty..."

Anonymous said...

Ah, who mentions? If Pepys that is very interesting. Could you give me a reference. I did not realise the telegraph was built so early. To the best of our knowlege it was not invented until the mid 18th C.

Anonymous said...

nope sorry my fault, i didn't make that clear.

The Telegraph hill ref was in the link I posted above, not Pepys.

it's an extract from 'Deptford, St Paul', The Environs of London: volume 4: Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent (1796) apparently

Anonymous said...

OK, my last word on this I promise. The 1796 reference also says:

"The invention of the telegraph, which promises to be of much utility, especially in time of war, has been lately introduced into this kingdom; where it has been much improved upon by our countryman Lord Geo. Murray"

Who needs the internet eh?

Transpontine said...

great post!

Anonymous said...

OK your last word, but I will indulge myself by continuing with the theme. I quote from the booklet produced by the LCC on the opening of the Telegraph Hill Park in 1895 (reproduced and reprinted by the Telegraph Hill Society in 2001).

"The invention of the system of semaphore telegraphy is usually attributed to Richard Lovell Edgeworth in 1967, although the idea had occurred to several other inventors in other countries...The credit for the invention is given in France to the brothers Chappe, who in their younger days were sent to different schools a mile and a half apart. As they were not allowed to communicate with one another, they ingeniously set to work and devised a means of signalling by means of pieces of wood exhibited at their respective back windows. In after years they improved upon their simple device, but the ignorance and superstition of the French prevented it being put to any real use."

More details about the coding (it was a rectangular board with shutters rather than arms waving up and down)are given in an short monograph on the subject also printed by the THS. It was actually a very efficient system and is clearly the inspiration behind the clacks in Terry Pratchett.

James Higham said...

Well yes, that's an amazing bit of info. So - who would have thought Brockley?

gilly said...

Check out if u are a boy u could join Brockleys very own secret society...okay so the meetings are held in freemasons hall central london but used to be held in the Brockley Jack as a quite a few founder members lived in brockley...I found some original freemason books in my loft...funny my dad, grandad and great grandad were masons.....

Anonymous said...

So Telegraph Hill was of strategic national importance during the Napoleonic wars. Conveying messages from the Admiralty to the navy at the coast.

Pity nothing remains but the name. It sounds an aspect of our heritage with a clear educational value. The first data network, given our lives are increasing dominated by the latest data network - the Internet.

When young children ask 'what websites did you use as a child' I shall tell a tall story about operating the semaphore and having to keep horses ready if case it was foggy so Dick Turpin could gallop to the next telegraph station passing on messages from the Navy to Nelson.

Anonymous said...

Brockley is surrounded by Telegraph stations. The line up from Southampton came via One Tree Hill.

The Telegraph Hill one can be pin-pointed very accurately with old maps and it just under the site of the Tennis Courts in the Upper Park. We tried doing a dig a few years back as part of Time Teams "Big Dig" and warned the contractors to look out when the tennis courts were relaid in the park restoration but all trace had been lost in the victorian park landscaping.

Anonymous said...

Here you go Tamsin, same Murray mentioned here:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that. I will add it to the repository.

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