The site of the Knights Templars preceptory at Temple Bruer is rare among examples of the monument class in including standing remains; the south tower of the preceptory church stands to a height of over 16m, most of which is original stonework. Archaeological excavation over a large area of the monument has both demonstrated the survival of below-ground remains of the church and provided an increased understanding of the site, while leaving intact buried architectural remains and valuable underlying deposits. A high level of archaeological, as well as historical, documentation is thus available for this monument. With the provision of public access the monument also serves as an important educational and recreational resource.
The monument includes the remains of the church of the Knights Templars' preceptory founded at Temple Bruer in the mid-12th century. Following its suppression in 1312 the preceptory passed to the Knights Hospitallers and was re-etablished as a commandery of that order before its final dissolution in 1540-1. The church, with round nave, chancel and pair of flanking towers, fell into disrepair in the 16th century. The last standing remains of the nave finally disappeared in the 18th century, and the only part of the church now surviving above ground is the late 12th/early 13th century tower which stood on the south side of the chancel. The monument therefore includes the standing remains of the tower which are Listed Grade I and the buried remains of the nave and other parts of the church.
The surviving tower stands in an area of domestic garden behind the Grade II Listed Temple Farmhouse. It is a rectangular, stone-built structure of three storeys resting on a large chamfered plinth and reaches a height of over 16m. The plinth, of limestone ashlar, is of original construction on all sides except the north where it is of modern rubble. On this side the tower was formerly joined to the chancel at ground-floor level with a crypt beneath. The bottom storey of the tower is also of limestone ashlar; the floor is approximately 1m above ground level and the original round-headed doorway, which formerly led from the chancel into the tower, is now reached by a flight of modern stone steps. On the east side of the doorway is a double piscina which once served the high altar. At the western end of the same wall is a triple-shafted respond for an arch over the chancel, at the point where an earlier build met a later extension. Springing from the respond are the remains of three chamfered ribs, and three further ribs rise from a stone corbel above the doorway. These indicate the position of the chancel's ribvault. The full length of this wall, from the piscina to the respond, is marked by joist holes cut into the stonework for an agricultural building which was added to the outside of tower in the post-medieval period. The jambs of the tower doorway are bowed where the stonework has been cut away to allow equipment to pass through.
The north doorway gives access to the interior of the tower via a modern wooden door. The bottom storey is occupied by a single ribvaulted chamber with a window in each of the east, south and west walls. Those in the east and west are single-light lancets in the Transitional style of the late 12th/ early 13th centuries. A similar opening in the south wall has been cut by a later, 14th century, window of two lights which contains the remains of Perpendicular tracery. This window is both taller and wider than the original, a fragment of which survives in the stonework above. Immediately below the window, and destroying the bottom of it, is a post-medieval doorway cut through the medieval fabric and subsequently blocked by rubble. The jambs of the doorway survive, as does the worn stone below it which served as a sill. The insertion of the doorway also destroyed part of the elaborately carved blind arcading which runs along the south and west walls of the interior of the ground-floor chamber. Beneath the arcading is a stone bench which originally stepped up three bays from the east end to form a double sedilia and piscina; the cutting of the doorway has removed part of the sedilia. In the east wall of the chamber is a shallow altar recess, now partly broken away and rebuilt with architectural fragments discovered during the early 20th century excavations of the church. Sections of a round pillar, now resting on the modern concrete floor, were found in 1908 built into the former brick floor. Further fragments removed to this chamber include a damaged stone effigy of a knight. The chamber clearly served as a side-chapel to the main body of the church, with seating for the chaplains and other members of the order. The north western corner of the tower is occupied by a newel staircase rising through three storeys.
The east, south and west walls of the tower's first-floor chamber are constructed of ashlar, each with a single-light lancet and round hood. The north wall, which formerly overlooked the steeply pitched chancel roof and was thus largely invisible from the ground, is built of rubble and has no openings. On the interior of each wall is a pair of arched ribs, and in each of three corners a stone corbel from which the fragments of further ribs spring. These represent the remains of a ribvault, now destroyed. This chamber is thus open through the second storey to the roof, a wooden structure of the early 20th century, hipped and tiled with deeply overhanging eaves. The second storey, which is much shorter than the lower two, has been largely rebuilt. It is constructed of rubble with a small rectangular opening in each of the east, south and west faces. The present roof is both wider and lower than the original, which was constructed within stone battlements of which only the south-western corner survives.
The external south western and south eastern corners of the tower are each ornamented with a pair of flat buttresses which extend though the full height of the building. On the north eastern corner, where the tower adjoined the chancel, there is a flat buttress on the east wall, marked with the roof-line of the chancel; on the north wall is a shortened projecting buttress which begins at first-floor level with a decorative moulded bracket. At the north end of the west wall is a similar projecting buttress, immediately above an area of rough stonework where the chancel bonded into the tower. Here the roof-line of the chancel is again evident. Two further scars in the west wall represent the roof-lines of a south chapel added between the tower and nave in the 14th century. The exterior of the tower is additionally decorated with four horizontal chamfered bands, running along the top of the medieval plinth and below most of the ground-, first- and second-floor windows.
To the north and west of the tower is an area of flat ground, now occupied by a lawn, farmbuildings, a paved yard and a gravelled car park. This is the site of the nave, chancel and north tower of the preceptory church, the foundations of which were archaeologically excavated in 1833 and 1908. The north wall of the existing tower was found to overlie the foundations of an earlier, mid-12th century apsidal chancel with a vaulted crypt beneath, and a slightly later, square-ended extension. To the north were the foundations of a second tower, added at the same time as the chancel extension.
To the west, in the area of the present car park, were identified the remains of a mid-12th century circular aisled nave with steps leading down to the crypt. Yet further west were the foundations of a later porch. To the north of both the nave and porch, stone-lined graves have been discovered, indicating the location of part of the preceptory cemetery. The area between the nave, chancel and south tower is the site of the large south chapel added in the 14th century. In the north western corner of the site is a buried petrol tank sunk in the 1940s, at which time the effigy slab now in the tower was discovered.
The Knights Templars' preceptory at Temple Bruer was founded around 1150 with grants of land from William of Ashby, an adjacent parish out of which the estate was first established. The preceptory became the chief of five Templar houses in Lincolnshire, functioning as an agricultural estate centre from which a large number of Templar properties in the county were managed. In 1308 it was the second wealthiest preceptory in England, with a weekly market and a substantial secular settlement outside the precinct walls. After the Dissolution the estate was sold to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and survived as a unit until 1935 when it was divided by Lord Londesborough. The area of the preceptory precinct has continued in use to the present day as a working farm.
The present tower was partially restored in the early 20th century and again in 1961. Since 1962 it has been the subject of a guardianship agreement with the County Council through which public access is freely permitted. (Scheduling Report)