The abbey of St Mary at Jervaulx was a Cistercian foundation which had a reputation for its horse breeding and cheese making – it also got itself tangled up with the Pilgrimage of Grace during the Dissolution of the monasteries. Abbot Sedbergh was required to join the pilgrims having hidden for four days on Witten Fell before threats to his abbey and his brethren forced him into the pilgrimage. The fact that he was coerced was quietly ignored and he was hanged at Tyburn for treason in June 1537 – the monastery being forfeit under the rules of treason which Cromwell bent to suit his purposes for the occasion.
Jervaulx was not without its moments in former times as in 1279 the abbot was murdered by one of his monks. His successor Abbot Thomas was accused but was acquitted of the crime.
By the beginning of the thirteenth century the abbey was experiencing some financial difficulty and by 1535 Cromwell’s Valor Ecclesiasticus revealed that its income came to just over £234. Part of the Jervaulx’s glass was allegedly transferred to Bedale, the choir stalls made their way to Aysgarth parish church and the lead which was melted down buried and forgotten about was used to repair the York Minster after the disastrous fire of 1984. The building was surveyed as part of the dissolution process at the beginning of July 1537. The Duke of Norfolk who had assisted with the suppression following the Pilgrimage of Grace corresponded with Cromwell about the matter:
As James Rokebye and William Blytheman should be present with Mr. Pollerd at the survey of Jervaulx (three weeks hence) to instruct him in divers things, I beg you will see them despatched with speed. Sheriffhutton, 19 June. (‘Henry VIII: June 1537, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 12 Part 2, June-December 1537, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1891), pp. 25-42. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol12/no2/pp25-42 [accessed 23 April 2022].)
An earlier correspondence sent by Norfolk to Cromwell on the 2 June revealed that not only was it part of the government’s strategy to remove the lead from the abbeys to prevent the monks moving back in but that Jervaulx was in debt – the commissioners needed to clear those debts:
The house of Jervaulx was much in debt, but the moveables will discharge that, and likewise at Bridlington, especially if plumbers be sent down to take the lead off the houses and cast it in sows. Sheriff Hutton, 2 June. (‘Henry VIII: June 1537, 1-5’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 12 Part 2, June-December 1537, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1891), pp. 1-13. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol12/no2/pp1-13 [accessed 23 April 2022].)
What they had not calculated was that the price of lead took a tumble because there was so much monastic lead and plumbing being sold on.