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X.- OBSERVATIONS ON THE HISTORY AND STRUCTURE OF THE
BLESSED MARY OF BYLAND. A Paper read on an excursion made there by the Yorkshire Architectural Society, June 22nd, 1864. By JOHN RICHARD WALBRAN.
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As the time placed at my disposal is but short, I must refrain from entering at length into the early history of Byland Abbey, and will refer only to those circumstances which originated the institution, and occasioned three separate sites to be occupied by its monks, before they settled on the spot where we are assembled": a fuller introduction will, however, be the more readily dispensed with, since the Chronicle of the House, written by the third abbot, in the time of King Richard the First, may be read in the first volume of the Monastican Anglicanum.
In the year 1134 twelve monks left the Abbey of Furness in Lancashire, under the patronage of Ralph Meschin, and settled at Calder, about four miles from Egremont in Cumberland. After they had continued there for the space of four years, and were beginning to erect a monastary, their dwelling place was destroyed in an invasion of the country by David, King of Scotland. The convent then fled to the parent house of Furness, but, on arriving at the gate, were met by the abbot and his brethren, who peremptorily denied them admission. The outcasts, upon this repulse, determined at once both to leave Furness and to desert entirely the site they had occupied at Calder, though they had little more personal property than their vestments and a few books, which were carried in a waggon drawn by eight oxen. After a sorrowful consultation during the rest of the day, they set out in the morning towards York, in order to ask the advice of Archbishop Turstin. They had heard that, six years before, he had provided a home at Fountains for some monks who had seceded from St. Mary's Abbey at York, and believed that they might therefore rely on his friendly offices and protection.
During their journey, and when they came into the town of Thirsk, they were accidentally met by the steward of the Lady Gundreda, widow of Nigel de Albini, and mother of Roger de Mowbray, a youth then in ward to King Stephen, but soon to come in to possession of his princely estates. Being much struck with the unusual appearance of the company, he enquired into their history and condition, and invited them to dine at the table of his lady at the castle of Thirsk, he going before to announce their approach. When, says the chronicler, Abbot Gerald and his monks arrived thither with their waggon following them, and the lady, from the window of an upper chamber privately beheld their pitiable condition, she was affected by compassion to tears. During the interview, having been much edified by their conversation and bearing, she desired them to remain in her house, caused their necessities to be liberally supplied, and promised in a short time more substantial aid, both in the shape of a place of abode and permanent means of subsistence. But since the monks could not travel with her from manor to manor, she sent them to her uncle, Robert de Alney, a Norman, who had been a monk at Whitby, and was then living as a 'hermit at Hood, a solitary place among the woods, seven miles east of Thirsk, at the foot of the Hameldon hills, and about four miles in a northwest direction from this place. The hermit was so delighted with the holy conversation of his guests that he received the habit of the Order, made profession of obedience to the abbot, and placed his establishment at their disposal. By and bye, Roger de Mowbray, at the solicitation of his mother and of Archbishop Turstin, granted the brethren the tithes of the victuals provided for his household ; but their collection and transmission being found inconvenient, he gave them, instead, his cowpasture of Cambe, the high ground above us to the north,—all his land at Wildon, a mile and a half hence, to the west,-Shackledon in the parish of Hovingham, afterwards converted into a grange, and the town of Ergham.
After the monks had spent four years at Hood, and had been joined by several persons of wealth and station, whose example had great influence in the country, the abbot besought the Lady Gundreda to acquaint her son that its situation was too confined for the erection of an abbev, and that he should provide a more convenient site. The result was that the lady bestowed upon them out of her own dower, the vill of Byland on the Moor, upwards of four miles north of this place,-and in the year 1143 Roger de Mowbray conveyed the fee in frank almoigne. At the time when Domesday survey was taken the manor consisted of six carucates, or about seven hundred acres of land ; and it is noticed also that there was a church built of wood, the only instance of the kind mentioned in that invaluable record.
The monks now removed from Hood to a certain place within their newly acquired territory on the banks of the river Rie, a short distance north of the Cistercian abbey of Rievaux, which had been founded in the year 1131, by Walter le Spec, lord of Helmsley. Here they built a small cell which they occupied five
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years, but it was probably constructed only of temporary materials; for experience soon shewed that the place was not suitable for their permanent establishment.
It had been the original intention and purpose of Roger de Mowbray that, if possible, the projected abbey should be built on the south bank of the river Rie, “in order”—as the chronicler says-“ that we might receive, in all respects, the same advantages and esements from the water, which the monks of Rievaux enjoyed on the north bank. But the situation of the place rendered this impossible. Moreover, the houses were so near to each other that, every hour of the day and night, the one convent could hear the bells of the other, a thing unseemly and not long in any wise to be endured.” While they were resident here, the abbot, at the request of Roger de Mowbray and Sampson de Albini, gave the place where he had first settled at Hood to certain canons who had come from Bridlington Priory, and had been established at Newborough (about two miles hence) under the patronage of Roger de Mowbray, who founded that house in the year 1145. The church of St. Mary of Hood subsequently became a priory or cell subject to Newborough, and many interesting remains of the structure are still apparent. A large portion of the lands of Hood was however retained by the monks of Byland, and enjoyed by them until the dissolution of the abbey.
"Roger de Mowbray perceiving”-continues the chronicler" that many had come together to serve God, and that the place where the monks abode in the territory of (old] Byland could not be made convenient for the construction of an abbey, and that the proximity of Rievaux rendered it altogether unfit for such a purpose,” extended their boundaries, and in the year 1147, gave them for the site of a new monastery, two carucates of waste ground in the vicinity of Coxwold, under the hill of Blackhow. Sir Thomas de Colvill, a subinfeudatory of that baron, also gave to the monks other lands within the shire of Coxwold. Yet, three years after, the house of Byland was not entirely deserted, for the chronicler tells us that on the eighth of March, 1150, a convent of monks went out to found the abbey of Jervaux, and that they proceeded from the house of old Byland, “ habitante abbate Rogero cum suis monachis apud Stocking.”
As soon as the monks obtained possesion of their new estate, having chosen a site north-west of Low Kilburn and three miles N.W. from this place, they began vigorously to clear the ground
on the western side, near to Middleburgh, and to erect a small stone church, a cloister, and other houses and offices. At that time the place was called Stocking, and an old farmstead near Kilburn still bears that name. The monks abode there for thirty years; during which time several noblemen, as well from the surrounding country as from Westmorland, devoutly offered large tracts of land to the convent.
At length, after many disputes with their neighbours and their old enemy, the abbot of Furness, who-envying their prosperityrevived the claim of jurisdiction over the house, the abbot and his brethren resolved to migrate once more to another site. Their reasons are not stated definitely by the chronicler, but every one who gazes on the scenery around him must admire and honor the sagacity which saw the capabilities of the place when it was but a wooded waste, pent up between the swamp of Whiteker on the south and the rugged hills on the north. The land had been given to them by Sir Thomas de Colvill before they left Old Byland. Having settled their plans, they set to work with great energy to cut down the wood, to drain the land by long and wide trenches, and at length, fortified by the wealth that had flowed in upon them since they came into the vicinity of Coxwold, to erect that noble church within the ruins of which we are now assembled. We are not informed when the architectural work was commenced, but the chronicler says that the monks “ de Stockyng se illuc transtulerunt,” on the eve of All Saints (31st October) in the year 1177.
The name given to the new monastery was derived from that of the Saxon vill which the monks had once occupied on the banks of the Rie. Whether the intermediate house of Stocking had borne this name or not, can only be decided by a careful examination of the documents entered in the chartulary. It may be remarked, however, that the chronicler, in mentioning a quitclaim made by Robert de Stuteville, says he made it by the delivery of a knife (o super magnum altare de Stockyng ;” and that, when enumerating the acts of the second abbot, he says he presided “ apud Bellamlandam in mora, et Stockyng, et juxta Whiteker.”
Judging alike from the fact that the monks were provided with a residence at Stocking during the erection of the present abbey, the character of the architecture, and the extent of the works, it seems probable that such a portion of the church only as was required for the daily offices was completed in the year 1177. The domestic buildings must, as usual, have been reedified in stone after the church was finished.
The only incident of general interest in the history of the house, is the battle which was fought here on or about the 14th of October, 1322. On the 20th of September, when King Edward the Second was at Newcastle-on-Tyne, the Scottish invaders besieged Norham Castle. He was unable to contend with them, and betook himself southward, first to Durham and then to Barnard Castle, whence he issued writs directing levies to meet him at Blackhow,' the moor to the north of us, where it was proposed to have a muster of his army. Three days after he was at Forcet ;2 on the 8th and 11th of October he was at Yarm ;3 and no doubt, very soon after arrived here. The chronicler of Lanercost“ says that after the King of Scotland had committed extensive ravages on the Borders, he proceeded into England towards “Blakehoumor,” not only because he had previously left that part of the country unvisited on account of the difficulty of approaching it, but also because he was infornied by his spies that the King of England was there. Hearing of his approach, King Edward ordered the Earl of Carlisle and others to send to him levies of horse and foot; and, by the aid of the Earl of Lancaster, thirty thousand men were mustered and marched to him through the west part of the country, so that they might be unperceived by the enemy. Meanwhile, the Scots had burnt many towns and manors 16 in Blakehoumor," had committed all the waste within their power, and taken many prisoners, together with a booty of cattle and other property. The issue was hurried on unexpectedly; for King Edward having sent the Earl of Richmond with a body of men to watch the movements of the enemy from the high ground between the abbies of Byland and Rievaux, commanding most extensive prospects, was surprised by the Scots coming suddenly upon him. Resistance only could be effected by hurling down stones on them as they approached by a narrow and difficult pass in the mountain side. The Scots, however, rushed forward with ferocious intrepidity, took the Earl prisoner with many of his men, and drove the rest before them. When the news of the discomfiture was brought to the king, he was, as the chronicler says, in Rievaux Abbey, and at once fled towards York, leaving behind
the E. to send to him Redward ordered it was there
(1) Rotul. Claus., 16 Edu. II., m. 25 d.
4) ('ott. M.S. Claudius. D. vii.. fol. 2196. In the upper margin is written in a subseqnent hand, “De fugâ Regis apud Byland." The author of the Annales de Melsa, speaking of King Edward II., whose character he draws with a bold and impartial hand, says, “ Fortunâ ac gratiá omni suo tempore carere videbatur. Inimicos suos in campo attendere vix audebat. Ter a Scotis victus: videlicet, apud Bapokbrun juxta Stryvelyn in Scotia, abud Berwyk, et Bylandbank, in Angliâ, ipsis terga vertit." Egerton M.S. in Bibl. Brit. Mus. 1141, tol. 2016