The Lost Treasure of Dinsley

by MJ Wayland

According to folklore and historic records, a lost treasure chest is buried somewhere in Preston, a small village about 3 miles south of Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Does Temple Dinsley literally hold the key?

Preston, like most attractive Hertfordshire villages, is surrounded by countryside and currently enjoying the property boom, although this means that many of the original families can no longer afford to buy a home in the area. Nearby is The Princess Helena College, an independent boarding school for girls who in the 1800s took over a former Knights Templar Preceptory  (and name of the village) Temple Dinsley

templar disley knights treasure
Temple Dinsley circa 1910

One of the best-known legends of medieval treasure in Hertfordshire are those associated with the Templars whose alleged wickedness caused Edward II to suppress the order in 1312 and take possession of their lands. Stories of their lost treasures are still told especially around places where the Templars were once tenants such as at Temple Dinsley.

In 1309 by Royal order the six Knights Templar at the Temple Dinsley Perceptory were arrested: two were sent to the Tower of London and the remaining four to Hertford Castle. If the Templars were tortured in an attempt to discover their treasure, their captors were thwarted. Neither the King nor the money lending Jew, Geoffrey de la Lee, to whom the Templar’s lands were assigned in Hertfordshire, was to lay hands upon the great hoard of gold, silver and precious jewels in the casket said to be buried at Temple Dinsley. The King’s action to arrest the Templars must have been influenced by France’s dissolution of the Templars. What is even stranger is that according to contemporary records dating from 1216 state that Temple Dinsley was “a small and poor foundation”, but the King continued his pursuit of the treasure.

A Royal Commission, set up in 1309, “to inquire touching concealed goods of the Templars in the County of Hertfordshire”, found nothing, nor did the two men granted a patent to dig for treasure at Temple Dinsley by Edward III on condition that the Crown took half the spoil.

The Templar Treasure at Temple Dinsley

Centuries have passed since the Perceptory was demolished, but the lost treasure of the Templars has never been recovered. It is still believed in the neighbourhood that an ancient oak to the east side of a pool, long ago filled in, is a clue to the resting place of a fabulous treasure.

Eighteen miles north east of Preston in the Cambridgeshire village of Shepreth stands the ancient church of All Saints. Allegedly, the church, dating from pre-Norman times was at one point utilised by the Knights Templar. During research in to the area, we noticed a very interesting point in “Kelly’s Directory 1929” it states “there is also an ancient font…and an old oak treasure chest which was unearthed 1895. Did the chest hold the treasure from Temple Dinsley? If it did, what happened to the treasure? Unfortunately this is as far as our research has taken us into the treasure chest of Shepreth.

Back at Temple Dinsley, even though the name no longer appears on modern-day maps it still remains in the minds of local people and historians with regular excavation occurring on site.

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