A small hamlet called Saddlescombe that was once a Knights Templar estate in southern England has opened to the public. You can read more here.
By one of those curious quirks of fate, the farm in Saddlescombe seems to have escaped much by way of modernisation over the last four centuries and includes a very charming donkey wheel. This was a way of drawing water out of a well for passing travellers and pilgrims to drink from.
Nearly all the extant farm that you’ll see post-dates the Templars but you’ll get an idea of the landscape in which they toiled. Farms like Saddlescombe were very important in creating the agricultural wealth that paid for the crusades.
Basically, armour was paid for by sheep wool and cow’s milk. It’s often forgotten that the thousand preceptories with their estates spreading from Aragon in modern Spain to Scotland to eastern Europe were the real foundation of Templar wealth. This was a landed society where most people made a living in the fields, not the cities. And many peasants owed their livelihood to the Templars and farms like Saddlescombe.
The village is based in the English “Downs” – chalky grasslands that in places have not changed since neolithic times. Lime Trees and beech trees and “bluebells galore” as the National Trust website describes it. To get to Saddlescombe, you will have to take a bus to somewhere called the Devil’s Dyke. Then you walk across the valley to the village and farm.
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