In 1870 John Marius Wilson’s “Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales” described Byards Leap like this – “an extra-parochial tract in Sleaford, Lincoln; 5 miles NW of Sleaford. Pop. 18. Houses 3.” It currently has approximately 11 homes with about 27 residents. It is interesting to note that despite being so small it is part of two separate District Councils. One side of the road is NKDC while the other is South Kesteven D.C. It lies on the old Roman road of Ermine Street.
Byard's Leap is not an ancient parish of Lincolnshire, but its history goes back centuries. It was formed as a separate civil parish between 1851 and 1871 under an act of Queen Victoria. It contained a farm of 250 acres, belonging in 1871 to Colonel John Reeve and occupied by Richard Bestall, and a couple of cottages. In 1913, the farm was still in the Reeve family, but occupied by Thomas Mayfield. The parish has since been amalgamated with Cranwell parish.
The hamlet is associated with various legends.
Byard's Leap is associated with the activities of the Knights Templar who perhaps held tornaments and jousts on the site. It lay at the southern end of their Temple Bruer military training ground.
The main story states there was a witch called Old Meg, an evil crone who plagued the local villagers from her cave or hut in a spinney near the turning to Sleaford on Ermine Street, here called High Dike. She was a bane of the countryside and caused the crops to whither. A local champion, a retired soldier, came forward in response to the villagers' requests, and he asserted that he could kill her by driving a sword through her heart. To select a horse suitable for this task, he went to a pond where horses drank and dropped a stone in the pond, selecting the horse that reacted quickest, and this horse was known locally as 'Blind Byard', as he was blind.
The champion went to the witch’s cave and called her out, but the witch refused, saying she was eating and he would have to wait. However, she crept up behind him and sank her long nails into the horse who ran, leaping over 60 feet (18 m). The champion regained control of the horse when they reached the pond, pursued by the witch, where he turned and thrust his sword into her heart, and she fell into the pond and drowned.
The spot where Blind Byard landed is marked by four posts in the ground with horseshoes on, and a commemorative stone. The sharply-cut small valley in the limestone, which is now smoothed over by ploughing, is as likely a site as any for the dramatic events, assuming they happened. An aerial photograph shows the High Dike running north and south in the centre, R.A.F Cranwell is to the east and the valley lies between them. Byard's Leap is at the south centre.
The magical horse Bayard appears in several continental medieval romances.
A slightly different telling of the story can be found in Christopher Marlowe's book, Legends of the Fenland people (1926).
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Latin: Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici), also known as the Order of Solomon's Temple, the Knights Templar or simply the Templars, were a Catholic medieval chivalric military order founded in 1119, headquartered on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem through 1128 when they went to the Vatican and were recognised in 1139 by the papal bull Omne datum optimum. The order was active until 1312 when it was perpetually suppressed by Pope Clement V by the bull Vox in excelsio.
The Templars became a favoured charity throughout Christendom and grew rapidly in membership and power. They were prominent in Christian finance. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. Non-combatant members of the order, who made up as much as 90% of their members, managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, developing innovative financial techniques that were an early form of banking building its own network of nearly 1,000 commanderies and fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land, and arguably forming the world's first multinational corporation.
The Templars were closely tied to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the order faded. Rumours about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created distrust, and King Philip IV of France – deeply in debt to the order – took advantage of this distrust to destroy them and erase his debt. In 1307, he had many of the order's members in France arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and burned at the stake. Pope Clement V disbanded the order in 1312 under pressure from King Philip. The abrupt reduction in power of a significant group in European society gave rise to speculation, legend, and legacy through the ages.
The Military Order of Christ consider itself the successors of the former Knights Templar as it was reconstituted in Portugal after the Templars were abolished on 22 March 1312. The Order of Christ was founded in 1319, with the protection of the Portuguese king, Denis, who refused to pursue and persecute the former knights as had occurred in most of the other sovereign states under the political influence of the Catholic Church. Denis of Portugal revived the Templars of Tomar as the Order of Christ, largely for their aid during the Reconquista and in the reconstruction of Portugal after the wars. Denis negotiated with Clement's successor, John XXII, for recognition of the new order and its right to inherit the Templar assets and property. This was granted in a papal bull on 14 March 1319.