A historian has uncovered graves belonging to members of the Knights Templar at an English village church in one of the ‘most nationally important discoveries’ of its kind.
Researcher Edward Spencer Dyas has been investigating the Da Vinci Code-style discovery after finding the medieval tombs at St Mary’s Church in Enville, Staffs.
He found three 800-year-old forgotten graves belonging to members of the ancient order in the churchyard in 2021 and has now discovered five more.
Dyas believes the medieval building could be one of the most nationally important Templar churches in the country due to its links to William Marshall.
Marshall, 1st Earl of Pembroke, is considered the most famous Templar in history and is often dubbed “England’s greatest knight” of the Middle Ages.
And in scenes that could be from the best-selling Dan Brown book, his team was also permitted entry to the church crypt as part of their research.
In the novel and Tom Hanks film, Professor Robert Langdon delves beneath Rosslyn Chapel, in Scotland, in the hunt for Knights Templar treasure.
But rather than searching for the Holy Grail, Dyas is trying to shed more light on the quaint village church’s links to the mysterious order.
He said they have been unable to find any historic documents which elaborate on their finds so are carrying out research inside the church in their quest for answers.
They studied stained glass windows that depict an array of coats of arms including that of Hugh Mortimer of Chelmarsh who married Agatha de Ferrers, granddaughter of Isabel de Clare and William Marshall.
The discoveries have brought him to the conclusion that “Enville Church is one of the most prominent Templar Churches in England”.
The Knights Templar was a wealthy, powerful and mysterious military organization of devout Christians in the medieval era, formed in 1119 and tasked with providing safety to pilgrims to Jerusalem.
Legend has it that their wealth was coveted by the nobility, however, and they were charged falsely with heresy – and the order eventually disbanded in 1308/9.
It is not known why there are Templar graves at Enville although Templars were believed to attach themselves to churches dedicated to St Mary the Virgin.
The church on the outskirts of the Black Country was built in the early 12th century at a time when the Templars were creating Preceptories around Britain.
Each grave features a Templar cross within double circles in a standard Templar design.
One of the graves also includes a Crusader cross indicating the knight was a Templar and a Crusader of the ancient military order.
At the foot of the same grave there’s also a Templar Cross – a variation of the Jerusalem Cross – revealing the unknown knight had once been part of the Templar Order at Temple Mount, Jerusalem.
Dyas, of Stourbridge, West Mids., has been working with relative Darius Radmanish to unravel the remarkable findings.
He said: “This find has been confirmed to me as being a unique discovery.
“The oldest Templar Society in Britain who keep records of all Templar sites has confirmed it had never previously been recorded.
“I believe these discoveries make Enville one of the most nationally important churches in the country.
“That’s due to its close links with William Marshall who is considered of the greatest warriors England ever produced.
“But there is a mystery of why a European Templar is buried at Enville and why they were secretly so prominent there.”
Enville is recorded in the Domesday Book. The current St Mary’s church has a Norman nave, a 13th-century chancel and a Victorian tower added in 1871.
Dyas added: “Searching historical surveys of Staffordshire and Enville – we were fortunate to come across a series of drawings, dated 1820, of graves inside Enville church, drawn by one of the most renowned architects in England, John Chessell Buckler.”
One of the graves on the church porch appeared to be a Templar grave and Dyas said: “Most church porch burials are of priests or clergymen.
“We are fortunate Buckler came to make these drawings. Without his efforts, these Templar graves found inside Enville church would have been lost to us.”
There was also a drawing of a Templar grave in the church’s chancel.
According to Dyas’s research, the chancel of was built by Roger de Bermingham – a priest at Enville whose family owned all Enville land including Morfe – a medieval royal forest in neighbouring Shropshire.
In a report of his findings, Dyas adds: “We believe Enville church was under the patronage of the Templars.
“Quite clearly the armorial windows at Enville Church explain the presence of Templars buried at Enville.
“Although records are missing it is clear the de Bermingham family built the Norman church at Enville, using Templar financing.
“Henry de Morfe, who held land owned by the de Berminghams, sold part of Morfe Forest to the Templars at this time, and the de Berminghams instated Roger de Bermingham as the first priest of St Mary’s Church, Enville.”
As part of their research, they were recently permitted to peek inside the historic crypt beneath the church for further clues as to its Templar origins.
Dyas said the crypt has never been sketched or photographed before and could be anything between 260 or 900 years old.
He had to obtain permission from the Bishop of Wolverhampton who permitted entry with the vicar of Enville Reverend Richard Clarkson.
However, the inspection did not reveal any further evidence of the Templars so their research continues.
Dyas said: “Too much had been altered. All we could hope for was defining what the earlier Crypt must have looked like.”
They did however find evidence of an earlier structure which could be the top of a Saxon/Norman column “confirming much further depth below the present brick floor”.
Dyas also said in 2009 the Vatican was able to admit the Templars had been falsely accused of heresy and they were exonerated by the Catholic Church.
He added: “We were recently advised that in Vatican archives there is a catalog of all Templar graves.
“So one day someone may even discover who the Templars interned at Enville were and the location of their preceptory.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker