Those Knights Templar that everyone rabbits on about - what did they ever do for us anyway? Apart from fuel a controversial trash novel and inspire a million visits to Temple Church by Da Vinci Code tourists? Now the Knights of St John - the Hospitallers - there's a useful order. With history reaching back as far as the Knights Templar but with a tangible, helpful and enduring legacy today - those knights of a thousand rock concerts, village fetes and cups of revitalising tea - St John Ambulance.
Yes, the lesser known holy Order of St John have been caring for the sick, poor and moshpit crushed for nigh on 900 years. In 1309 when the more warrior like Knights Templar were disbanded, the Pope gave the Hospitallers their property - wahey! - enabling them to build a bloody great priory as their healing HQ in Clerkenwell.
Only the Gatehouse to this vast estate still remains in tact, with part of its Norman Church next door. Located unsurprisingly on St John's Lane, Clerkenwell it has had a varied past, surviving the reformation and withstanding use as a pub. It now houses a museum all about the Order and its Ambulance but this was put together in the 70s and is clearly due for a 21st century facelift. News that the Heritage Lottery Fund have pledged £1.4 million towards the creation of the Open Gate leading directly out of the Gatehouse and better equipped to tell the story of the Order is fab - but, as always, they need match funding to complete the project and secure the Order's history in Clerkenwell to its last remaining icon.
Support the redevelopment of the The Museum and Library of the Order of St John here.
Image of St John's Gate plaque courtesy of the Museum website.