VIDEO: The Knights Templar and their link to Keele's medieval past
UNIVERSITY staff and students will attempt to uncover the links between a North Staffordshire village and a famous order of medieval knights.
A team from Keele University are aiming to find the remains of the local headquarters of the Knights Templar, which was founded at Keele in the 12th century.
The Templars have been portrayed in legend as the keepers of secret knowledge and the defenders of the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant.
While the team is unlikely to discover such important relics at Keele, the project could help highlight an often overlooked period of North Staffordshire history.
They are hoping to find the location of the Templars' preceptory, which was established in the 1160s.
Landowners have given permission to carry out the search in the area where the preceptory is thought to be located, near St John's Church.
The group also plans to use metal detectors along the old medieval road which runs from the back of the church and cuts through the adjoining field.
Keele History Society is working on the project with Teresa Gilmore, of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Staffordshire county archaeologist Stephen Dean and the university's geoscience team.
Society president Chris Mannion says the preceptory would have been the only Templar base in Staffordshire.
The 32-year-old, from Tunstall, said: "A local lord may have donated the land to the Templars, or the Templars could have requested it. The preceptory was built on top of a hill, like many Templar headquarters in England.
"I suspect the Templars would have built a hall next to the church. The fact that there's a farm nearby called Old Hall Farm would appear to support this theory.
"This is the first time anyone has tried to find the location, so if we find anything connected with it at all, such as coins, we'll be very happy."
The university team will be supported by around 30 metal detector enthusiasts from the Three Spires Search Society, based in Lichfield, who will be providing their equipment and expertise.
Group chairman Mark Rhodes said: "Chris asked us if we would like to take part in the search and we had a great response from our members. It's great to be able to search a new location, and as there has never been a legal search there before, it could be very interesting."
The search will take place on Thursday, March 28, from 10am. Anyone interested in taking part can meet the group at St John's Church in Keele village. Equipment will be provided.