A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 1


Richard de Argentein and the Crusades in 1229

In 1229, Richard de Argentein, Lord of Halesworth Manor, departed from England to venture forth 'on a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands'. This was still the time of the Crusades, and a year earlier in 1228, Frederick II of Germany was gathering troops and supplies to commence a new Crusade to free Jerusalem once again from the Turkish domination.

The Crusades were started over 150 years earlier to clear the way for Christian pilgrims to visit the holy places in Jerusalem. Pope Urban preached 'Christ himself shall be your leader, wear his cross as your badge'. So the knights had large crosses sewn onto their surcoats. The various crusades won and then lost lands frequently. In England, when Henry II died, his son Richard was about to leave for the Holy Land when he was crowned, and was given the popular title 'Coeur de Lion' or the lion-heart. Of his ten years reign only six months were spent in England, with the rest being undergone in battle or imprisonment.

Two great military orders were created, the Knights of St John, known as the Knights Hospitallers, and the Knights of the Temple, called the Knights Templar. They created hospitals, built churches and were a kind of mediaeval British Legion. There are 4 round churches built in England by the Knights Templar which are in the shape of the church in Jerusalem. One is in Little Maplestead in Essex, while another is in Cambridge. The pilgrims who travelled to the Holy Land often returned wearing a badge in the form of a scallop shell as a memento, they were themselves known as Palmers as the palm branch was another badge used. At several churches, such as at Wissett and at Holton, the palmer's scallop shell can be seen carved in the mouldings of the Norman doorway.

It is possible that Richard de Argentein sailed from Suffolk from the harbour at Dunwich, as many pilgrims travelled that way in the Middle Ages, although when travelling abroad, the ships also left from Southwold and Ipswich.

The Crusade of Frederick of Germany was successful, and both Jerusalem and places in the south of Palestine were captured. Richard de Argentein returned home safely, and died peacefully in 1246. Not all crusaders were as fortunate, for Hugh Bigod, owner of Bungay Castle, died in 1178 while on the Crusades in Syria, fighting against the might of the Great Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria.


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