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Thurstan, archbishop of York-- a friend of St. Bernard—who, in 1132, founded the great abbey of Fountains.
“ Pro reorum venia Kirkham domus bona
It is a remarkable circumstance that in the charters by which these abbeys were founded, Espec, though he states particularly in that of Rivaulx that the donation was made for the souls of kings. William and Henry, for the souls of his parents, his wife's parents, and their ancestors, and for that of Hugh de Wildecher, never alludes in any shape whatever to the loss of his only child. There is a parallel case, however, in the charters of the foundress of Bolton Priory.
The tradition of the neighbourhood has kept, as usual, its irregular pace with the more authentic record; and I have been told by one born near Kirkham, and much more able to have addressed you on the subject than myself, that when peasants—
“In winter's tedious nights sit by the fire
With good old folks”
and tell their tales, it is their legend that the Lady Adeline had such a strange prevision of coming sorrow, as led her vehemently to dissuade her son from hunting on the fatal day-that, after he had slighted her admonition, he was observed about evening, by a wayfaring man, riding at full gallop towards Firby, and had scarcely ascended to a place where a spring of water gushed from the hill side, when a wild boar, darting across the road, startled the horse, which dashed its master's head against a stone that now forms part of the cross before the Gatehouse, and then dragged him by the stirrups to a place where he was found, and therefore chosen as the site of the high altar of the Priory.
Like many other traditions, this, evidently, is but an adumbration of the truth ; yet in the present state of society, when so much of our folk-lore is passing away from us, it must not be left unrecorded.
Of the personal history of the founder, who must ever occupy a prominent position among the worthies of the kingdom, all who are but imperfectly acquainted with the history of their country will—amongst other services which he rendered during a long and earnestly-purposed life-remember that wherein his eloquence and his valour contributed in a triumphant degree to the victory gained by the English over the Scots at the memo
rable “ Battle of the Standard.” Yet, I cannot refrain from portraying him to you when, in his harangue to the army, he swore, grasping the hand of the Earl of Albermarle,' on that field to be victorious or to die, and roused the religious enthusiasm of the hearers by the assurance that "angels and the saints of the churches which the enemy had profaned, would fight with them from the clouds and avenge the innocent." "He was now”— says his illustrious friend Aelred, abbot of Rivaulx, the historian of the battle-"an old man, and full of days, quick witted, prudent in council, moderate in peace, circumspect in war, a true friend and a loyal subject. His stature was passing tall, his limbs all of such size as not to exceed their just proportions, and yet to be well matched with his great height. His hair was still black, his beard long, and flowing, his forehead wide and noble, his eyes large and bright, his face broad but well featured, his voice like the sound of a trumpet, setting off his natural eloquence of speech with a certain majesty of sound.”
Such was our founder, fourteen years after arrows sharper than those he braved on that day had pierced his breast. So magnificent a soul has seldom been as fitly lodged in its tenement of clay!
After a similar revolution of time, he retired from the strife and contention of the world, and, singularly enough, chose his home, not at Kirkham, but at Rivaulx : drawn thither, it may have been, by a desire for more intimate and daily communion with the abbot Aelred; of whom it is now enough to say that he was “neither in piety or genius unworthy of his master, St. Bernard.”
After passing about two years in monastic seclusion, Espec died in the year 1153--bis wife surviving him—and was buried on the 9th of March, at Rivaulx, far away from him whose loss had embittered his soul. Yet, let us humbly hope that they who were thus sadly severed, both in life and in death, have not parted at the gates of heaven.
Amid the ruin of that beautiful and noble pile, which “ once was holy and is holy still," there is, now, left no memorial to guide even a sympathizing pilgrim to his grave—nothing to protect his once venerated form from the intrusion of the meanest hind.
(1) In 1139, on the feast of St. Hilary, the Earl of Albermarle, who has been styled " præclarus comes et eximius monasteriorum fundator," founded the Priory of Thornton in Lincolnshire ; and in the following year, and on the same feast, “Waltheof-his kinsman, and Prior of Kirkham--went to Thornton, taking with him twelve canons of Kirkham, whom he V a n
now year on the same reast, Walthen ns kinsman, and established in the new monastery, constituting one of them, named Richard, the first Prior.
It would avail little, for a purpose like the present, to investigate the topography of Kirkham before the foundation of the Priory. Yet, it may be useful to remark that when the Domesday survey was taken it was a large and important manor, consisting of eight carucates or upwards of eight hundred acres of land, which in the Saxon times had belonged to the powerful Waltheof, but then to the Earl of Moreton. That it had suffered its share in the military ravages that had depreciated the value of all the adjoining property. That a mill had been advantageously worked by the river Derwent; and that woodlands, a mile long by ten perches broad, fringed the banks of that lovely stream that must have sighed in the ears of the Conqueror's surveyors with the same fitful melancholy cadence as might have solaced our hearts to-day. It had also, at that early period, a church, and even an endowed minister. Judging, therefore, as much from its Saxon name, “Chircham,” or the Church-stead, as from its immediate proximity to a great river and an influential nucleus of civilization at Malton, we may not err much in believing that it had been one of those early missionary stations where the site of the mother church had marked the scene of some such extraordinary baptismal regenerations as are recorded by the Saxon historians in honor of Paulinus or Augustine.
The bounty of the founder, as might hare been expected, was dealt out with no niggard or parsimonious hand. He bestowed not in high sounding legal words, like many that might be quoted, lands by the mile, that still furnish only sustenance to wild birds and amusement to the sportsman ; but, heedling, as it would seem, the admonition of St. Augustine—“ With what face canst thou expect an inheritance from Christ in heaven, that defraudest Christ in thy inheritance, here on earth?”—he bestowed upon his Priory these most munificent gifts—two parts of the tithes of Bolton in Northumberland—the town and church of Carham-uponTweed—the church of Garton, with more than a hundred acres of land in a place called St. Michael's Flat-the church of Helmsley Blackmore, with a like quantity of land, and pannage in the great oak woods there for their swine and pasturage of cattle—the church of Hilton-two parts of the tithes of the mill of Helton in Northumberland—the tithes of all the farms at Howsham--the church of Kirkby Grendale—the tithes of his demesne lands at Linton—the churches of Linton and of Rosseight hundred acres of land in Sixtendale-the manor of Titelington—the entire towns of Whitwell and Westow, together with an extensive and valuable right of fishing in the Derwent, and the tithe of Howsham mill. He was, in fact, the first and last great benefactor to the Priory- for all the other charters to the house that I have seen, and I believe I have nearly seen them all, represent nothing more than dearly bought “confirmations” from the Crown, the Pope, or the Lords Paramount of Fees; or donations of mere scattered oxgangs, that it is useless to recapitulate.
After Espec's death his estates—still of immense value and extent-were divided among his sisters, Hawise, Albreda, and Adeline. The eldest had married William de Bussy, a member of a very influential Yorkshire family at that time; the second, Nicholas de Traily, of whom little or nothing is known ; and the youngest, Peter de Roos, who, subsequently and wisely, left his paternal estate of Roos, in Holderness, and became the founder of the great baronial family that built the castle of Helmsley, produced men that joined in wresting Magna Charter from King John, fought valiantly at the battle of Lincoln—in the wars of Gascony-against the Scots and the Welsh-at the battle of Evesham-shared in the glory of Cressy and Poictiers; and, at length, in the reign of Henry VII, 1508, (after having provided their country with such a succession of warriors as few families can display), left-through an alliance of the daughter of Lord Thomas de Roos, who shared so bitterly in the disaster of Towton field-their vast estates in the possession of Sir Robert Manners, ancestor to the present Duke of Rutland.
To Adeline, his youngest sister, Walter Espec especially committed and gave, as he had given also to his wife, the advowson or right of patronage to his monasteries of Kirkham and Rivaulx : and within their now bare and roofless walls many of her descendants are now sleeping their last and dreamless sleep, unconscious that the coveted requiem that was to have been sung—for ever-above their gentle dust, is to be, fancifully, heard only in the murmuring of the passing stream, and the diapason of the winds that are toned through the ruins that mark
ine, hise as he had his monasteriofless walls was sleep,
Amost earthly dwelling are toned through the stream, and
Among the burial places of the family that are particularly recorded, we learn from a Chronicle or pedigree entered in the chartulary of Rivaulx abbey, which I have previously quoted, that William de Ross, who, even in his father's lifetime, was an active supporter of the baronial and popular cause against King Henry the Third, was buried in the church of Kirkham, before the high altar : that his son, Lord Robert de Ross, the redoubtable warrior, once rested there beneath a marble tomb, on the
south side of the choir : that his son, Lord William, the sworn foe of Scotland, and a great benefactor to the house, had his grave and a marble tomb on the other side of the choir : and (so affectionately did they cling to the place, when feudal ties might have withdrawn them, in death, elsewhere) his son William, the third baron, another noted soldier, chose also his grave and had a marble tomb here, by the side of his grandfather.
Though the monks might have read that “Monuments at last memorials need”—they hardly would have believed that this little volume, which they must have often used familiarly, would ever become the sole record of honoured objects, whose site should one day be trodden in open air, by the beasts of the field.
Although the lot of the canons of Kirkham had been cast in a beautiful and pleasant place, so that--unlike the first poor brethren of Bolton, Sawley, Kirkstall, Jervaux and Bylandthey had no occasion to importune their patron to be delivered from an exile condition on barren or inclement moorlands-places, as chronicles say, of “horror and vast solitude,” where, to use a modern phrase, “a provisional” convent might be cheaply gratified in their intended exercise of asceticism-it would appear that, about a century after the period of the foundation, they meditated a surrender of their house and property to the monks of Rivaulx, and intended to establish themselves in the parish of Weaverthorpe, twelve miles east of Malton. The motive is no more apparent to us than that which induced the monks of Rivaulx to meditate a translation of their house in 1158-five years after the death of the founder-to “ Stainton near the sea,” midway between Whitby and Scarborough-a fact not generally known. The intentions of our canons, however, is indisputable ; since the indenture or agreement between the monks of Rivaulx and the canons of Kirkham is entered, at length, in the Coucher book of the former house.
After a preamble which states that the concession was made “ for the love of God, the health of their souls--for the sake of establishing a common feeling between the houses,—for the peace and honor of the prior, and at the wish and desire of their patron”-motives in which the last recited was doubtless the most operative and predominant--the record goes on to say, that the canons had, in consequence, granted to the house of Rivaulx the estate of Kirkham, with its priory and other edifices, their gardens, orchards, mills, and all other things there except one barn (of course of wood) which they wished to remove ; likewise Whitwell and Westow, and upwards of four hundred acres
Rivao, apparent twelva
sea," my knowlince the the canons forne