For many Christians a pilgrimage to the Holy Land was an important part of their lives. Even before the fall of Jerusalem they travelled from all over Europe to reach the Holy City. Many pilgrims were attacked and killed as they made their way across the Middle East, but those who reached Jerusalem were often starving, weak and poor. A group of monks led by Gerard, a knight from Provence, set up a hospital to attend to the needy pilgrims. This hospital was named after St. John the Compassionate, a Patriarch of Alexandria. The monks who worked in the hospital lived under a strict rule and accepted no luxuries. The order of monks became known as the Knights Hospitaller. The Hospitallers were able to run their affairs from donations given to them by travellers or other who just wanted to support their work. After Jerusalem was captured the new rulers recognised the good work that the monks did and granted them land so that they could have a steady income.
A Papal Bull (a formal proclamation issued by the pope) recognised and named the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem as an independent religious order in 1113.
The Hospitaller order inspired the foundation of another group of knights called the Knights Templar, based in and around Jerusalem, whose purpose was to protect the pilgrims as they travelled towards the Holy City.
ressing Temple is situated in Essex three miles north of Witham. The site was given to the Knights Templars in 1137 by Matilda, wife of King Stephen, who they helped to the throne. The estate could have been quite large, incorporating several mills, markets and a annual fair. The only remains from that time are two barns and a stone well.
In 1312 after the suppression of the Templars, the site was handed over to the Knights Hospitallers. During the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 on 10th June, Cressing was stormed by the rebels which at the time was owned by Sir Robert Hales, the Master of the Hospitallers and also Treasurer of England. The valuables of Cressing were removed and the buildings destroyed, apart from the barns. Hales was executed several days later after being removed from the Tower of London.