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Much of Strood was a royal manor until Henry II gave it to the
Knights Templar around 1159. This was an order of monastic soldiers
that had been established to protect Christian pilgrims journeying
to the Holy Land. The order became extremely wealthy and, after the
Pope made it independent of the authority of his bishops in 1128,
extremely powerful too. Its fall in 1307/8 was correspondingly
spectacular and violent, as the order was suppressed throughout
Europe and its leaders imprisoned and executed.
The Templars had assembled a range of buildings in Strood by
1185, which included a timber hall, barns, kitchens and stables.
The stone building, which has survived to the present day, was
added around 1240. It consists of a vaulted undercroft supporting a
large, undivided first-floor hall, approached by an external staircase. This was
probably a part of the range of facilities designed for the
temporary accommodation of travelling Templar dignitaries.
Over the years this hall was altered and enlarged as it passed
through the hands of a number of owners. Many additions have been
lost but two fine, 17th century brick extensions can still be seen
today. These and the massive internal chimney were built by the
Blake family, perhaps the richest in Strood at that time.
The estate was inevitably sold off bit by bit until the City of
Rochester acquired what was left in the 1930s and decided to use
the site for industrial development. The debate over the future of
the house was interrupted by the war and it was not until 1951 that
work began to save the building and preserve it in the condition in
which it can be seen today.