Situated within a stone’s throw of the Grand Priory Church of Order of St John, this forlorn Court lies in a near state of dejection, abandoned by the Order which many years ago raised it to the status of recognition. This site was once occupied by the house of one of the top-ranking officials of the Order of St John – the Bailiff of Egle.
In the year 1312, the Pope issued a decree that the Order of the Knights Templars were to be abolished and that all their assets, buildings and furnishings, were to be given over to their opponents, the Knights Hospitallers, or the Order of St John of Jerusalem. It turns out that only a very small portion of the Templars’ great wealth reached the clutches of the Hospitallers; the lion’s share being retained by Edward II and Philip le Bel, King of France and ali of Pope Clement. Protests by the Hospitallers were at first overruled, merely inspiring loud proclamations from Edward that they were forbidden from meddling with the fabric of the Templars. Part of the land, namely that lying to the west of the Temple, was granted by the King to the Bishop of Exeter and from him it passed through the hands of Lord Paget and the Duke of Norfolk, who sold it to the Earl of Leicester. In later years the inheritance became the property of Leicester’s stepson, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who built his house on the site – now Devereux Court
Meanwhile, the portion of the Templars land which lay inside the City boundary had passed through successive hands and upon the accession of Edward III was granted to William de Langford, Clerk to the King, at an annual rental of ,24. In 1337 the Hospitallers protested concerning the allocation of consecrated ground into the hands of a layman which resulted in a debate leading to a division between the consecrated and the unconsecrated parts of the Temple, paving the way for the two societies of Inner and Middle Temple
. About the year 1340 the Hospitallers accepted an offer from the King of the entire consecrated ground of the Temple in exchange for a donation of ,100 to the Crown. In addition, upon the expiry of Langford’s lease, in 1343, the whole of the Temple grounds would be transferred to the Hospitallers.
About this time the Order of the Knights of St John created and installed the first bailiff to look after their rightful inheritance. Eagle Court, where his house once stood is now very plain and totally devoid of outstanding character. Over the St John’s Lane entrance is a recently constructed building of red brick, and filling almost the entire north side of the Court is the London Institute.