Safeguarding Scotland's Medieval Templar Heritage

by Mark Huitson in Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway, United Kingdom

Total raised £20

£200,000 target 37 days left
0% 2 supporters
Keep what you raise – this project will receive all pledges made by 1st August 2024 at 8:00am

This appeal is part of a larger campaign to have heritage recognised by Scottish authorities, so that artefacts and site can be safeguarded.

by Mark Huitson in Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway, United Kingdom

Background

At the end of 2019, two people used all their capital to buy a dilapidated church, to turn into a dream home for themselves and their two young children. They hoped to lessen the risks of buying a derelict ancient church, by seeking a property that had already undergone the rigours of planning approval, building survey, archaeological inspection, and architectural consideration.

The family rented a small one-bedroom cottage in the nearby village, with mother and children, at that time aged eight and five years, taking temporary refuge while they worked to turn the church into a home. A history of vandalism and theft from the church meant the father remained camped outside the property to deter any criminal intent while they completed the work. It was thought eighteen months would see them occupy at least a part-completed property, so the family thought the inconvenience of their compromised temporary shelter worth the sacrifice.

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Discovery

Despite previous surveys and inspections, it was clear the church had long-standing inherent problems that would prevent the building from ever becoming a home. Instead, the family were presented with a property of enormous historical significance, due to the archaeology that lay under the church floors and provenance of the two church bells than hung in the belfry and their association with already discovered decorative stonework.

Deep buried, ground-heated water filled voids, left over from an effaced ancient abbey presented catastrophic humidity problems throughout the church, and the bells were misunderstood as 16th century by the ill-informed superficial opinion of two historical audits. The bells were in fact, by the evidence presented on the bronze, 12th century, sponsored by a knight, a secular canon, master of a religious community, head of a religious convent—commonly termed Knights Templar. Under the floors, above the remnants of a long-demolished abbey, lay buried decorative stone from the demolition of a 12th century Templar-built church, including a masons’ plaque and a memorial to afterlife everlasting.

What was a dream of a home, turned into a three-year dedicated and time-consuming investigation—a collaboration with palaeographic experts, bell conservationists, the College of Arms, and ecclesiastical historians. The study effectively dismantled out-dated and unproven Victorian superficially derived theory, and with evidence, and the elimination of every scenario, only one deduction could be made, and one conclusion reached. The research resulted in two-hundred thousand carefully crafted words, illustration, and scholarly reference. Copious fact, evidence and incontestable circumstance were presented in a journey and investigation so compelling many readers declared, ‘without doubt the evidence spoke for itself’.

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Report

The owners, one a trained and qualified forensic archaeologist, the other a former professional building surveyor, experienced in historical research, submitted their report to Scotland’s historical agencies, the local authority, academia, and leading Templar experts for the purpose of review, validation, and the protection of the site. In turn, allowing the owners to transition priceless artefacts and a site of immense archaeological interest to new owners better suited for their keeping.

Frustratingly, the owners were denied proper and prudent consideration. There was no critical scholarly review, assistance, or recognition given. In amongst significant avoidance, where professional academic opinion was offered, it was purely in the cause of maintaining the existing discredited Victorian hypotheses, and repudiation of the report’s authors. The professional academics offered their reviews, ignoring the study’s research, instead replacing critique with insupportable opinion, and in some cases deliberate artifice. It was the consensus of historians, antiquities experts and professionals in agreement with the enormous merit within the study, that outside the ignorance and apathy of some officers, the professional academic historians within academia and the government’s historical agencies, had discounted the authors as ‘amateur’, and would not consider their evidence or discovery, regardless of merit, thus employing a dismissive attitude, commonly termed, academic snobbery. Therefore, the owners were left, without support, guarding priceless medieval heritage, with the knowledge a wilfully incorrect historic record remained in the public domain.

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Disillusion

It was clear by 2021, the family would never be able to call the church, ‘home’. After two years of searching, mother and children moved into the only available property for a growing family, regrettably that property was many miles away from the church. Father was left behind to keep the church safe.

Security

From first discovery in 2020, and with the issue of the first version of the report in 2021, secrecy had been employed to keep the site safe, but with a growing number of people involved, even with confidentiality requested, fear rose of criminal attention.

In 2022, following growing after dark incursions onto the closed church site, and an arson attack at a nearby historic convent, the bells and the stones were removed from the church and placed into secure storage, away from the site; both at considerable expense, and against legal statute enforced by the planning authority.

With academic prejudice and obduracy within the Establishment refusing to acknowledge the find, or even counter the study’s conclusions with any supportable argument, several international academics, sympathetic with the problem of recognition, recommended only public reveal and debate would circumvent professional academic bias and pressure a prejudiced historical establishment to consider the discovery, as opposed to rejecting it out-of-hand for no other reason than the authors were not tenured academics.

But with public reveal came the increased risk to the site and its owners from those intent on harm, theft, intrusion, and inquisition, so appropriate security for the church site and attending legal provision was procured, but with it, great cost the owners could not possibly maintain without support.

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Appeal

In the wake of negligent authorities, who have a duty to protect heritage and foster historical enquiry, safeguarding the historic environment for the community, the nation, and heritage of those around the world, with intrinsic commercial and educational benefit, the owners are left frustrated and anxious. In the fifth year of owning the church, and despite the presentation of unassailable evidence of the bells and the site’s astounding provenance, the family are now pleading for help from those who have a care for our shared historical legacy and medieval history. Go to www.hiddenheritage.info and read the research, understand the road the owners have taken to come to their incontestable conclusion and plea for aid. Help them keep precious heritage safe whilst they campaign to have the site officially recognised for the evidence it presents, so it can be protected for the benefit of future generations.

Interim Financial Support

In many ways this is a unique landmark event. Since the birth of the professional academic historian in the late 19th century, academic discrimination has all but sidelined the non-professional historian, who professional academics denigrate with the term ‘amateur’, not because of a lack of tenure, but because they deem ‘the amateur’ to lack their critical discipline. However, it is purely professional arrogance, as it is often other disciplines that provide skill set to conduct thorough historical enquiry, free from opinion and critical theory. There have only been a few cases with a profile significant enough to illustrate academic snobbery to the public, for example, the discovery of English king Richard III’s remains under a carpark, and even then, despite the tireless efforts of an ‘amateur’ historian obstructed by academic prejudice, it was only the validation of academia that secured the discovery’s acceptance.

There will never be the opportunity for the Templar bells of Scotland to be housed within a public institution, or the site developed for the benefit of visitors to the site, while academic or government acceptance is avoided. As such, it is not only money that is urgently needed to maintain the interim security of the site and bells, but a large crowd of advocates who have considered the evidence for themselves and are prepared to shout it out amongst their own networks of friends, family, media and news contacts—build a crowd with a louder voice than those with a prejudiced mindset, and so coerce proper and prudent action to safeguard history.

Despite the bells great antiquity and significance, and the church’s secure future firmly in the hands of the Templar archaeology it contains, it is only the will of the public that will ensure acceptance, so the church, stone, and its bells can be transferred to those who can properly safeguard the discovery for future generations. At this time, once the discovery is in the public domain, we have not the resources to keep them safe, with security costs alone at twenty thousand GBP per month. Thus, we are relying on supporters to maintain the campaign while it runs. Hopefully interim funding will ensure we meet our absolute minimum to sustain security and legal support for at least six months.

In the quest to safeguard these precious finds, we are seeking innovative and inclusive ways to involve supporters within the greater benefit the accepted discovery will realise. Therefore, we would ask funders to visit www.hiddenheritage.info and sign up to receive reports and updates, so we can include funders into any future initiative which demonstrably recognises their involvement and contribution to the campaign. As a start, we are proposing all those who wish to be recorded for their participation in this momentous rescue of history, that their names will be published in a roll of honour in current and future publications, in appreciation for their contribution to this unique and significant campaign to save medieval heritage.

Rewards

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Recognition

We are seeking innovative ways to recognise supporters, in what is a landmark event, attracting world-wide publicity and interest. This will include future inclusion into any tangible benefit, acceptance of the find will bring. As a start, we want to include funders’ names in a roll of honour within any current and future publications, so their contribution to the protection of an important piece of history is recognised by a world-readership.

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