Friday, May 26, 2017

Byland Abbey

Yesterday we went off to Byland Abbey, not quite sure as to where it was and we called in at The Temples and Rievaulx Abbey on the way.  We were actually heading for Old Byland village, which had had the abbey there for a short time in the 12th century.  In this quiet village we asked the postman, and he gave us explicit directions as to where to go.  So we travelled along the tiny lanes, only to have him chasing after us because he thought we might have meant Rievaulx, kind person that he was.

Old Byland

The countryside at its radiant best, the steep wooded hills enclosing small valleys and old cottages. Very different to where we live in Yorkshire, both abbeys are only a few miles from each other, and yet are defensively hidden below these hills.   Of course not from King Henry and his need for money and divorce in 1538 at the Suppression of the monastic houses.

Byland is a large abbey, but its early beginning was as a Savigniac foundation and it only later changed to the great Cistercian order that it became and became one of the largest Northern abbeys up here.
Imagine a small town, for this is what these abbeys became, self reliant, bringing its food in from the surrounding granges, there would be a bakery, brewery and infirmary for all the pilgrims that arrived, divided between the proper monks and the lay monks who did all the work.
Looking now at what remains and the size and sheer effort of work strikes you, the stone was carted off to build cottages and houses for the rich, the times were not so different to now, the 'fat cats' moved in, took over the wealth, whilst the monks were disbanded with small pensions, if they were lucky enough and escaped the hangsman rope.
The ruins were once roofed, the monks moving silently amongst the rooms,  walking round the great covered cloister, warming their hands in the warming room, perhaps after working in cold conditions scribing books.  A peaceful life, the life of the farms chugging steadily along.  We excavated a priory once in Norfolk, returning each summer to excavate, the area down by a canal that had been dug to bring the boats up with their goods to the barns.  A round brewery with kilns was excavated, just scars on the surface of the soil, the spill of stone from old walls.  And if you have ever drawn a metre thick  medieval wall accurately you will know that a straight line was not necessarily aimed for.

the half moon of the great rose window

capitals lovingly carved so long ago

The warming room

The sacristy

We also saw the only white horse in Yorkshire, very disappointing. Can you make it out on that steep slope, think the original must have been painted on hanging from ropes.


  1. Replies
    1. Very special place. Living in Yorkshire and you don't need a holiday anywhere else ;).

  2. I love Byland. Along with Jervaulx, near to where I live, it is one of my favourites - I especially love the remains of that rose window - and the peace and tranquility of the surrounding countryside.

    1. It is a beautiful place, and a restaurant opposite comes in well for tea and beer.

  3. What a lovely abbey, and a beautiful area. Byland Abbey must have been enormous and very important back in its day. We have so much to blame that sociopath for!

    1. Yes, it is funny that every TV drama always concentrates on either the 'rumpy pumpy' of the time with his wives but never the great crime he did against his people and the beautiful monasteries.
      Silly me forgot that is called politics!

  4. What a lovely trip. I love the old stone architecture and try not to think about the sweat and harsh part of building it. We had small complete towns here but in the West they were called Forts and had a less religious mission.

  5. When I was a child I read all my cousin's 'cowboy books'. Knew how to stakeout a white man, cover him in honey and let the ants do the rest. So I loved those forts and Davey Crockett ;)

  6. I just read a fiction (can't remember the name right now) that had these horses in them, and now I know what the author was describing! What wonderful evidence of history you have all around you.

  7. I just read a fiction (can't remember the name right now) that had these horses in them, and now I know what the author was describing! What wonderful evidence of history you have all around you.