Tunnel System Excavations Part 2
|Discoveries of Dr. Oliver, Rev of Scopwick .
Of the beginnings of the preceptory at Temple Bruer so little is known that the new Victoria county history can only state in general terms that “It was founded late in the reign of Henry II by William of Ashby, who was admitted soon afterwards into the fraternity of the house, and increased the original endowment before his death.
“Nothing is recorded about the buildings, but the issue in 1306 of a licence that the master and brethren of the militia of the temple in England….” May make and crenellate a certain great and strong gate at their manor of the Heath (de la bruer) in Lincolnshire” points to their enclosure by a walled precinct.”
Temple Bruer is situated on the high ridge, once a baron heath, which extends from Sleaford and Ancaster on the south to Lincoln on the north, from which city it is distant ,about 12 miles .The preceptory was visited in 1538 by John Leland, who notes that :
‘ There be great and vaste buildings.’
Lelands reference to the church is not very clear, as an engraving of its remains published by Samuel Buck in 1726 shows that it had a round nave, the south wall of which was then standing, and not merely an apsidal east end.
In 1837 the Rev.G Oliver, D.D, Vicar of Scopwick, published in his history of the Holy Trinity Guild, at Sleaford…..an interesting account of certain investigations made by him at Temple Bruer, from which I must quote freely.
Temple Bruer, Dr, Oliver says (p.25)
‘…Is situated in a retired valley on the heath, surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills not far distant from Ermine Street, and was connected to that road by a private way winding through a ravine which communicated with the fortified entrance to the temple, and was visible from the warders tower, which rose out of the centre of the buildings .Westward of the tower stood the church which was accessible by cloistered passages connected by the principal buildings which by which it was surrounded.’
In the years 1832 and 1833, Charles Chaplin Esq. of Blankney, placed some workmen under my direction for the purpose of excavating the foundations which had been undisturbed on the north and west of the tower. The first excavation was made at the tower, as I confidently expected to find a vault in that situation, because the floor of the lower story is elevated five feet above the ancient surface of the ground.
Whatever space might formerly have existed here, it had been filled in, but we came to a narrow subterranean passage, which appeared to take it’s rise in this vault, and issuing under the north door by a winding passage eastward, passed on to the buildings in that quarter, the very foundations of which have disappeared. The walls of this passage are coated with plaister.
In our researches on the site of the church, we discovered in a perfect state the ancient circular plinth and four feet of wall, but buried under a vast accumulation of rough and squared stones , a large number of them handsomely carved and polished. Norman columns and capitals , zig zag and other mouldings, earth and cement, and the tangled roots of large trees which grew amongst the foundations.
The circular church is fifty two feet in diameter within, and appears to have been supported by a peristyle of eight cylindrical columns, with massive bases and capitals, from which sprang a series of circular arches profusely ornamented with bold zig zags and other Norman enrichments, occupying together with the aisle or space thus formed, exactly one half of a diameter. The outer face of the plinth which supports these columns is the segment of a circle, and measures four feet six inches, while the inner face is only three feet and a half inches in diameter, and the column itself three feet two inches. A potion of the aisle on the north side had been used as a private chapel, in which were a tomb, an altar and a stone bench for the officiating priest. On the west was the principal door of the entrance, with an ascent of stone steps, a magnificent porch, the foundations of which remain perfect. In the floor are two coffin shaped stones, one plain, and the other charged with a cross botony fitchee in relief. No interments, however were found beneath them. A communication was formed between the church and the lower story of the tower by means of cloisters, and this apartment which could have admitted but few persons , as it is only seventeen feet square, was fitted up for performance of high mass, and was probably used as a choir or chancel.’
The rest of Dr, Olivers description of the tower, since it still exists, need not be quoted. He continues:
‘On the floor to the east end of the church was an encaustic pavement, and several glazed tiles have been thrown out, of DIVERSIFIED SHAPES AND COLOURS, SOME ARE TRIANGULAR, SQUARE AND OTHERS OBLONG, AND THEY WERE DOUBTLESS LAID IN SUCH A MANNER AS TO COMPOSE SOME HARMONIUS PATTERN.’
TM- Sacred Geometry ?
‘Beneath the church the tower was a perfect labyrinth of vaults and dungeons, and intricate passage ways, arched over with stone, branches of which run under the doors of the church and tower, and below the pavement of the cloisters.’
To this last statement Dr. Oliver appends the following footnote :
‘Some of these vaults were appropriated to uses that it is to revolting to allude to. In one of them a niche or cell was discovered, which had been carefully walled up, and within it the skeleton of a man, who appears to have died in a sitting posture, for his head and arms were found hanging between the legs, and back bowed forward. Immuring was not an uncommon punishment in these places. An instance of it was discovered a century back in one of the walls in Thornton Abbey, in this county.
Another skeleton of an aged man was found in these dungeons, with only one tooth in his head. His body seems to have been thrown down without order or decency, for he lay doubled up, and in the fore part of his skull were two holes, which had evidently been produced by violence. In a corner of one of these vaults, many plain indications of burning exists. The stone wall have assumed the colour of brick, and great quantities of cinders mixed with human skulls and bones, all of which had been to the operation of fire, and some perfectly calcined. This horrible cavern had also been closed up with masonry. Underneath the cloisters, between the church and tower, many human bones were discovered, which appear to have been thrown together in the utmost confusion, and lying in different strata, some deep and others very near the surface, amongst which were the skeleton of a very young child, and the skull of an adult, with a round hole in the upper part, into which the end of a finger may be inserted, and was probably the cause of death. Near these internments was a vast mass of burnt matter of various descriptions, the fire had been so fierce, that the external surface of a massive cylindrical column, which was discovered near, is completely cinerated.
Several large square stones were taken up with iron rings attached ….and altogether, the ruins exhibit woeful symptoms of crime and unfair dealing. We can scarcely forbear entertaining the opinion that these are the crumbling remains of unhappy persons, who had been confined in the dungeons of the preceptory, for the templars and their successors were always in feud with their neighbours, and would not likely remit, what they might conceive to be the merited punishment of delinquency.’
In 1841 Dr. Oliver communicated to the now defunct Lincolnshire topographical society a paper on ‘Temple Bruer and it’s knights’….which was published in it’s transactions in 1843.
This paper is accompanied by a plan ‘plan of the ruins of the church at temple bruer, showing the results of the excavations and indicating by a lighter tint , the vaults and passages beneath the church. The lurid descriptions of the discoveries of 1833 – 4 are duly incorporated in the paper, and made somewhat clearer by the lettered references to the plan, which is reproduced here’ :
TM - See templar tunnel diagrams off Temple bruer tab.
‘At the point marked A was the reputed cell or niche that contained the skeleton of the immured man, while B indicates the place where many human bones were found thrown together, the remaining letters are explained in the following passage :
Now it will be observed that in the space between the circular the church and the tower, where the knights assembled for solemn purposes, there was a small room, which was probably used as a vestry on ordinary occasions, but on the admission of a knight it was converted into a room for the preparation and examination of the candidate, and a communication was formed between the church, this ante room and the lower story of the tower, by means of cloisters, which constituted also an avenue leading to other buildings which extended towards the north. From this ante room was probably a communication, by means of a trap door and staircase, to a vault underneath the tower, for at the time it was excavated I opened the subterranean entrance to that vault, which was in some measure connected with the initiations, because in that situation – beneath the altar- it would not certainly be used for the ordinary purposes of the establishment.’
Ever since reading, many years ago Dr Oliver’s account of Temple Bruer and of the discoveries there, I have wished to test by excavations the truth (or otherwise) of his remarkable story. The dreadful vaults , the mysterious arched passages, the burnt skeletons and other weird finds, were an attraction that could not be withstood, let alone the interest attaching to so rare a feature as a round church with the singular adjuncts shown on the plan.
Only a few months ago chance brought about what had long seemed beyond reach. Happening to mention to Captain Reeve of Leadenham, who called to see me about a barrow in his park, my long standing interest in Temple Bruer, I found him so sympathetic an ally that he not only got the necessary permission to excavate, as well as a subscription from the owner, the Earl of Londesborough, but himself raised a fund, to which likewise he contributed for carrying out the work.
Part 3 will consist of the discoveries of this the second excavation.
TM- I find it interesting that the characters involved in the 2nd excavation not only hold great influence at the time but are also from areas intricately involved in the geometry.
Earl of Londesborough – Blankney- Pentacle shoulder line.
Captain Reeve of Leadenham ( former church of rector occultist John Dee) – Main pentacle line.
Mr. W.V.R Fane of fulbeck…high sheriff of Lincoln – Main pentacle line.
For these characters to dismiss the original excavations of a REV/DR Oliver from Scopwick surprises me………What motive would he have to lie?...and rev/dr’s at the time were people of high moral standing in the community.
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