Crusades

Between 1099, when Jerusalem was captured by Christian warriors on the First Crusade, and 1270, there were seven major Crusades, and many others, mounted against the Islamic Empire in the Middle East. An event of the Third Crusade directly affected Wootton’s lords. The fourth Earl of Stafford, Robert, died in about 1192 on that disastrous failure to re-capture Jerusalem from Saladin. His sister, the Lady Millicent, inherited the title and vast lands. Her husband, Hervey, for a payment of £200 was granted the right to take the name and title of Earl of Stafford (he was a Bagot) by the regent King John (Richard I was on the Crusade). And so the Stafford dynasty was saved. Hervey later left one of the most informative charters on Wootton.

Fifty years later, with interest in the Crusades declining, the Bishop of Worcester, Giffard, mounted a campaign to whip up support by sending preaching friars around the diocese. There is little doubt that they would have come here, although there is no evidence of the result. No Crusader knight reclines on a Wootton tomb, his legs crossed to show how many Crusades he had fought in. Would villagers, perhaps a blacksmith or bowman have been tempted to seek fortune and salvation? One hopes not. The later Crusades were miserable failures. And there were men, locally, who would have known the realities only too well. The manor of Preston Bagot and its church belonged, for a while, to the Knights Templar, the fighting order of monks, whose mission was to service the crusaders. Their local HQ was at Temple Balsall, where the church and priory-hall have partly survived. When the pope suppressed the Order in 1312, the Knights of St John of Malta took their place - and their lands and churches.