Tag Archives: Fountains Abbey

Layton and Legh again – letters from the North.

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01Time slips on, two weeks into February and I haven’t had my accustomed snoop around Thomas Cromwell’s letters. I’d have to say the pattern is very familiar in terms of the letters’ contents. This month it is very clear that the repercussions of closing the monasteries were beginning to be felt in the wider community; that Layton and Legh may have been colleagues but they didn’t trust one another further than they could see one another and vied in a long distance game of one-up-manship to be Cromwell’s best buddy. And finally it is also clear from these letters that Cromwell took the opportunity that death and forced surrender provided to seize the moment and place men of his own choosing in post – in order to line his own pockets – quel surprise.

Lord William Howard sent a missive at the beginning of February to Cromwell pointing out that the monks of St Oswald’s in York were second to none for “good hospitality and good order,” or they had been until Cromwell’s visitors had arrived bandying their strictures left right and centre. Howard suggests that Cromwell relax them pronto as he needed somewhere to stay. This does, of course, raise the interesting question of where did folk stay after the dissolution of the monasteries – inn keepers must have been dancing jigs in the street upon the news that their competitors had been put out of business.

 

Meanwhile the Bishop of Norwich had popped his clogs and Cromwell’s agent Sir Thomas Rushe wrote on the 3rd to say that he was ‘active in searching and guarding the plate’ of which there was a great deal or in other words the bishop’s belongings had just become Crown property. There was also a flurry of letters on the 3rd from Whitby. Clearly the abbot and his visitors hadn’t got on particularly well as we’ve already seen, not least because the abbot insisted on declaring his innocence in regard to anything unabbottish in no uncertain terms.He’s now complaining that the strictures set upon the care of monastic scholars at the abbey will only result in trouble.  He probably wished that he was involved in piracy by that point in proceedings.

It goes quiet in the north until February 7th when Layton provides Cromwell with an update as to his travels:

This day I had been at Fountains to make the election, but that I tarry in York to induce a lewd canon and his flock, if possible, to surrender his house of 140l. good lands and only 40 marks of it in spiritual tithes. I had contrived this matter long before now, if a little false knave in York had not been a “doggarell” of the law and a “pursevant” of Westminster Hall. Dr. Leigh keeps the visitation whilst I go forward with these matters. The prior of Gisborowe, a house of 1,000 marks, has resigned into our hands privily. If you make no promise of that house to no man till we come up to London, we shall by the way spy one for it meet and apt, both for the King’s honor and discharge of your conscience and also profitable. If the treasurer of York knew of it, he would make hot suit for a young man of that house, a very boy for such an office. On the 8th we pass to Carlisle. We have done all in Northumberland, and at Shrovetide trust to see you. York, 7 Feb.

You have to admire their speed and efficiency!

On February 9th Marton Priory, an Augustine establishment, in North Yorkshire surrendered. Marton Priory has an interesting history and its fair share of real mischievous monks if the visitation of 1314 is any indicator.  Amongst their number was  Brother Roger who seems to have seen rather more than his fair share of the ladies: Ellen de Westmorland living at Brandsby, with Beatrix del Calgarth wife of John de Ferlington, Eda Genne of Marton, Maud Scot of Menersley, and Beatrix Baa, relict of Robert le Bakester of Stillington are identified as having been a little bit too friendly. His penance was to fast and eat vegetables on a Wednesday. Just in case diet had no impact on his private habits he was also forbidden from speaking to women…though I get the impression that speaking was the least of the problem. In 1536 Thomas Godson, the prior, seems to have recognised that changes were afoot and handed over the keys and the seal of the priory without any coercion or indeed evidence of naughtiness.  Perhaps his appointment as rector of Sheriff Hutton Church, the living of which was in the hands of the priory, has something to do with it. (As an aside this is the church where Richard III’s son Edward of Middleham is buried.)

Thomas Barton, one of Cromwell’s agents and a man local to the area acquired the property of Marton Priory.

 

The following day, the 10th,  Cromwell received a letter from the borders from William Barlow who complained that althought there were monks and priests in the area that the ordinary people were sadly lacking in their understanding of the Gospel. Presumably they were all far too busy reiving one another’s sheep and cattle or at deadly feud with one another.

 

Also, on the 10th a letter arrived from Legh repeating much of the information in Layton’s letter and taking credit for Guisborough. It can only be described as toadying. He acknowledges that there are other of Cromwell’s men who are more learned than he but he suggests that if Cromwell were to make Legh his chancellor he would be the most profitable appointment.Interestingly ‘profitable’ is the word that Layton uses.  Clearly Cromwell never managed to leave his old persona as a man of business too far behind him. Legh concludes by saying that he keeps three things in his mind – God, the king and gratitude to Cromwell. I shall be taking note of that particular letter in the event of any job applications I may need to complete. It’s short but covers a mountain of ground between bribery and crawling -you may wish to apply other phrases but I couldn’t possibly comment. In between times Legh tells Cromwell that Sherbourne has surrendered and “I have been at Mountgrace and Hull, and find them there and in all other places ready to fulfil the King’s pleasure. Layton is now at the monastery of Fountaines to perform your mind.”

Clearly there were no noteworthy misdeeds to record at either Mountgrace or Hull.

 

‘Henry VIII: February 1536, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 108-126. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol10/pp108-126 [accessed 13 February 2017].

‘Houses of Austin canons: Priory of Marton’, in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, ed. William Page (London, 1974), pp. 223-226. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/vol3/pp223-226 [accessed 3 February 2017].

 

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The Dissolution of the Monasteries – a timeline

adamlandscape

1526-1529

Cardinal Wolsey suppressed 29 monasteries with the permission of the Pope to fund Ipswich College and Cardinal College in Oxford which became King Henry VIII college and then Christchurch College. It was founded in the grounds of one of the suppressed monasteries (St Frideswide’s). The monastic foundations Wolsey suppressed totaled an income of £1800 and were generally very small.

1529

October 9: Cardinal Wolsey falls from power due to his failure to secure a divorce for his master from Katherine of Aragon. He is arrested on a charge of praemunire.  Praemunire involves taking orders from foreign powers rather than the king.  Being a cardinal means that it was inevitable that Wolsey could face this charge.

1530

January: Wolsey falls ill and is attended by Henry’s doctor.  Wolsey does not give up hope of being reinstated to Henry’s favour.

November 4: Wolsey is arrested.  He cannot help dabbling in politics and has sent some injudicious letters to Rome.  Thomas Cromwell speaks on Wolsey’s behalf in Parliament.

November 29: Cardinal Wolsey dies in Leicester on his way back to London from York. Edward Hall hints at suicide in his account of Wolsey’s last days but it was most likely a bowel infection. He was certainly on his way back to the Tower and execution.

1532

January 15: Commons Supplication Against the Ordinaries also known as the Submission of the Clergy.

What this means is that the king and his ministers are now able to review all Church, or canon, law. They could prevent the enforcement of any canon law they wished and they could veto the passage of any new Church law if they were so disposed.   Sir Thomas More resigns from the Chancellorship as a consequence of the passage of this act.

 

Act Restraining Payments of Annates – An annate was a tax levied on newly appointed clergy and payable to the pope (usually half or a whole year’s income – annates are also known as first fruits).  Parliament withholds the payments of annates from Rome but gives Henry the option of allowing them to continue.  This is effectively a form of blackmail in an attempt to get Henry his divorce from Katherine of Aragon.  The act also states that the Pope cannot delay consecration of bishops or excommunicate Englishmen in retaliation for the withholding of the annates.

 

Augustinan Canons of Holy Trinity, Christchurch in London surrender to the king because they are overwhelmed by debt. An Act of Parliament recognises the Crown as Holy Trinity’s founder which means that no one else has any claim to the land or property that has been surrendered to the king.

1533

March: Act in Restraint of Appeals 1532. This act was somewhat confusingly passed in 1533.It means that the highest authority legally speaking in England is the King because Parliament doesn’t recognise any higher authority. “This realm of England is an Empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one Supreme Head and King having the dignity and royal estate of the imperial Crown of the same.” Katherine of Aragon can no longer make an appeal to Rome against an English court’s decision.

1534

This year is a busy year for Parliament.

  • The Act of Dispensations –  All payments to Rome are now stopped. Licenses and dispensations previously attainable through the Church are now being administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • An act is passed which Monks forbidden to travel outside the country on official business
  • Act for the Submission of the Clergy, 1534
  • Act in Absolute Restraint of Annates. Payment of all annates to Rome are now forbidden and Engishmen are forbidden to obtain papal bulls for the consecration of bishops. Instead, the King nominates and Archbishop consecrates bishops. In some respects England has always been an anomaly in this regard. The Crowns right to nominate archbishops was one of the reasons Henry II fell out with Thomas Becket.
  • The Act of First Fruits and Tenths. First fruits is another name for the first year’s income from a benefice.  Every year thereafter the tax was a tenth of the incumbent’s income.  This is still collected but now it makes its way into the King’s coffers rather than to Rome.
  • The First Succession Act – Succession is vested in heirs of Henry and Anne (Princess Elizabeth and hopefully a male heir).  This is the act which bastardises Princess Mary.
  • Act of Supremacy King Henry VIII is declared to be Supreme Head of the English Church.
  • Treason Act
  • Act Extinguishing the Authority of the Bishop of Rome – which deals with a loop hole that the other acts haven’t covered.

1535

January: Cromwell is made Viceregerant.  He orders a national visitation of all monastic houses.  This leads to the Comperta or ‘Black Book’ which lists all monastic transgressions.  Monastic transgressions are also enumerated in the letters that Cromwell’s visitors sent to him and in the various acts of parliament that followed.  The other text, the Valor Ecclesiasticus  identifies the worth of the monastic houses– 80% of monastic houses are registered in the Valor. Half the monasteries had less than £200 p.a. The net annual income of the Church is valued at £320,000. The king only receives £40,000.

 

September 18: In Yorkshire in 1534 and 1535 Archbishop Lee of York, who signed the Act of Supremacy and who is keen on the Bible in English begins to make a visitation of the monasteries in his diocese. His visitation is eventually halted on this day on the orders of Cromwell. He visited 8 Yorkshire foundations of which 5 were nunneries.

1536

March: Act of Suppression of the Smaller Monasteries – All monastic houses with fewer than 12 monks or nuns or less than £200 p.a. are suppressed on the grounds that these establishments were centres of “manifest sin, vicious, carnal and abominable living.”

Many abbeys had already been coerced into surrendering during the visitation of 1535 but now the smaller abbeys of England were forced to close. Their number includes:

Abbey Dore- Hereford and Worcester;  Beeliegh, St Botolph (Colchester), Little Dunmow, Prittlewell and Tilty in Essex; Birkenhead, Jarrow and Monkwearmouth; Bisham and Hurley in Berkshire; Blyth and Rufford in Nottinghamshire; Bourne and Tupholme in Lincolnshire; Boxgrove, Easebourne, Michelham and Shulbred in Sussex; Brinkburn in Northumberland; Broomholm, Horsham, Ingham and Langley in Norfolk; Bungay and Sibton in Suffolk; Bushmead in Bedford, Canons Ashby in Northampton; Cartmel in modern Cumbria but I think Tudor Lancashire; Chirbury in Shropshire; Coverham and Nun Monkton in Yorkshire; Dorchester in Oxfordshire; St Radegund’s in Dover, Minster-in-Sheppey and Monks Horton in Kent; Upholland in Lancashire; Exeter St Nicholas and Frithelstock in Devon; St Oswald’s in Gloucester; Maxstoke, Pinley and Stoneleigh in Warwick; Mottisfont in Hampshire; Norton in Cheshire; Owston in Leicestershire; Quarr on the Isle of Wight; Waverley in Surrey.

In Wales the following abbeys were suppressed:  Cwmhir,Beddgelert, Caldy, Chepstow,Haverfordwest,Llantarnam,Margam,Penmon, Pill, Talley and Usk.

 

The Court of Augmentations is set up to take control of the confiscated property and monastic loot. This covers the sale of everything from the lead on the roof to the floor tiles as well as the collection of holy relics and sale of all the plate and any other valuables.

October 3: Pilgrimage of Grace begins in Lincolnshire. It is led by Robert Aske. The Pilgrims march under the banner of the five wounds of Christ.  They wish for a return of the monasteries and of Catholicism.  They’re not terribly impressed by the rent hikes made by some of the new landowners who have taken over the suppressed monasteries.  Cromwell and other ‘bad advisors’ are blamed for Henry’s policies.

October 9: The Pilgrimage spreads to the East Riding of Yorkshire and by the end of the week it has crossed the Pennines. Unrest sprouts in Westmorland and Cumberland.

October 12: Sawley Abbey  which was suppressed in the spring of 1536 is restored.

December: Duke of Norfolk partially accepted the demands of the rebels including the promise of a parliament in York – pardon given providing there was no more rebellion.

1537

January 16 Sir Francis Bigod leads new uprising which effectively nullifies the terms of Norfolk’s December agreement. In total about 200 men executed including Robert Aske who has taken no part in the 1537 uprising.

March: Abbot Paslew and two of his monks are executed at the gates of Wally Abbey for their part in the Pilgrimage of Grace following trial at Lancaster.  The remaining 13 monks are kicked out of their home with no pension as Walley is forcibly suppressed.

April 9: Furness Abbey surrenders.

Easby Abbey near Richmond is suppressed.  It had 18 monks including the abbot. Jervaulx is also suppressed.  Their abbot, having been involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace, is hauled off to London where he is executed at Tyburn.  In Cumberland, Lanercost Priory surrenders.

1538

Jan-Sept: 38 large monasteries voluntarily surrender.

Visitation of the friaries now begins but it is discovered that many friars have already taken themselves abroad.

November 21: Monk Bretton Priory  in South Yorkshire surrenders. Some of the monks band together, buy 148 books from the library and continue to live a communal life at Worsborough.  They were still a community in 1558.

November 30: Byland Abbey surrenders.

1539

An act of Parliament hands all the monastic land already surrendered or suppressed into the hands of the Crown.

November 22: Kirkstall Abbey near Leeds surrenders. There are 31 monks.

December 14: Whitby Abbey surrenders.

December 24: Guisborough Priory signs the deed of surrender. Hailes Abbey in Gloucestershire surrenders on the same day.

Fountains Abbey also surrenders in 1539.  It is pictured at the start of this post. Double click on it for an outline history of Fountains Abbey.

1540

January 5: Egglestone Abbey near Barnard Castle is dissolved.

January 6: Henry marries Anne of Cleves

January 9: Carlisle Priory surrenders.  The cathedral will be reconstituted in May 1541 along with Chester Cathedral.

January 29: Bolton Abbey surrenders.  In addition to the prior there are 14 canons.  The church becomes the parish church.

March 23: Waltham Abbey surrenders.  It is the last monastery in England.

April 3: Guisborough Priory is formally dissolved.

June 10: Thomas Cromwell arrested at a council meeting.

July 28: Cromwell executed.

 

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The Abbot’s Lodging

IMG_1614Abbots of larger monasteries were on a similar social status to a temporal lord – indeed there was every chance that they were the younger sons of the nobility. Their role within local and national society required that they should have quarters fit for entertaining their peers and if Cromwell’s list of misdeeds recorded by his commissioners during their Visitation of 1536 are anything to go by sufficient privacy to entertain numerous ladies of ill-repute.

Sometimes the abbot’s quarters were built into the west range above the cellarium (an undercroft where provisions were stored – think very large pantry). The abbot would have his own chapel, a hall for entertaining and two or three other rooms.

DSC_0044Elsewhere, and as time progressed, the abbot might expect to have his own separate dwelling – sometimes with a private necessarium as at Netley Abbey near Southampton (abbot’s lodging shown at the start of this paragraph). There is no particular rule as to where the lodgings might be. Cistercians tend to put their lodgings to the south of the cloister, though strictly speaking Cistercian abbots had no business being anywhere other than the dormitory with the rest of the monks. As well as a garderobe an abbot’s lodging might reasonably be expected to include a fireplace to warm distinguished guests, in some cases they had their own kitchen and stables. The fireplace shown at the opening at the post can be found at Monk Bretton Priory – the remnants of a Cluniac foundation.  In Kirkstall a rather grand staircase led to the abbot’s lodging and at Fountains there was a monastic prison in the basement complete with three cells and means of restraining prisoners.  At Fountains the abbot’s ‘modest dwelling’ underwent considerable expansion at the beginning of the sixteenth century on the orders of Abbot Huby who added an office and bay windows.

In Carlisle, which had a bishop so the abbot was technically a prior there was a pele tower where the prior and his officers could flee in the event of marauding Scots.DSCF1133

The abbot’s lodging often survived the dissolution of the monasteries in the guise of a manor house.  In York the abbot’s lodging of St Mary’s Abbey was retained by Henry VIII and used during his visit north.  It played host to King Charles I and is now part of the University of York.DSC_0107-6

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St Mary’s Abbey York

kylebday 192When the Benedictines arrived in York in 1088 they had a fight on their hands. Their patronage came from Alan Rufus of Richmond. The monks of York Minster and Archbishop Thomas of Bayeux were not amused. There was in effect a nasty bout of monastic fisty-cuffs which was only resolved when William Rufus gave the Archbishop the church of St Stephen’s while the Abbot of St Mary’s handed over land in Clifton. In return the monks of St Mary’s gained the church of St Olaf’s. Ultimately St Mary’s would have possession of seven churches in York as well as many others across the country, meaning that they selected the vicar and claimed the various fees and taxes that were levied within the parish for the Church. By the time of the Dissolution the abbey was worth £2,085 1s. 5¾d per annum.

My own interest in St Mary’s Abbey comes not just from the lovely Museum Gardens in York with their picturesque ruins and from several visits to the museums itself where this roof boss can be found but from the fact that the abbey sent out monks to form cells in Cumberland. These cells became the priories of Wetheral and St Bees. During the twelfth century thirteen monks left St Mary’s in search of a more devout existence including the prior – Richard. They went on to found Fountains Abbey, a Cistercian monastic house.

As might be expected of a medieval monastery St Mary’s acquired lands through patronage and privileges from kings. The church of St Olaf’s was was founded in 1055 and found some patronage from Wiliam the Conqueror.  St Mary’s was supported by William Rufus and by King Henrys I, II and III. It gained land in and around York including Bootham fair; it sustained fire damage in 1137 and was occasionally visited by the Archbishop of York who wanted to check on the spiritual and financial healthiness of the monastery.  In 1534 the abbot was found sadly lacking – he was spending far too much time with married women.

The abbey also developed a rather unfortunate relationship with the people of York. In 1262 the rivalry and resentments about tolls and unpaid debts resulted in murder and destruction. At that time according to the Victoria County History the abbot was one Simon de Warwick who was clearly so alarmed that he went on prolonged holiday – for two years.

fig07

Image (‘The sites and remains of the religious houses’, in A History of the County of York: the City of York, ed. P M Tillott (London, 1961), pp. 357-365 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/city-of-york/pp357-365 [accessed 20 June 2015].)

Most monasteries follow a similar layout.   The church which was the most important building was usually, but not always, in the shape of a cross.  Churches might also contain additional chapels and chantries (places where prayers could be said for the souls of individual benefactors.)  Cloisters were usually placed to the south of the church not only so that they would trap the sun but so that the shadows from the church would not fall on them.  In this respect St Mary’s fulfils the stereotype.  Each of the four sides of the cloister would be covered – think glorified carport in the first instance.  This allowed the monks to shelter from the rain as well as to sit in the sun.  Many cloisters contained stone benches.  Some cloisters ruins even contain individual study carrels hewn from the masonry.  In addition most cloisters contained a book cupboard.  I would not have liked to have been a Benedictine monk trying to study in the middle of winter with the wind coming off the River Ouse as the waters rose.  Perhaps that’s why later versions of monasteries had more elaborate cloisters which were effectively closed in corridors with a dwarf wall, lots of windows and a central square open to the elements – though it still sounds chilly.

On the east side of the cloister, typically, there is a dorter range.  The dorter was where the monks slept.  It would have been a two storey building with the first floor being where the monks slept. The ground floor was usually divided into several rooms, one of which may have been used as a parlour, with at least one doorway out into the cloisters and another leading in the general direction of the monks’ cemetery.   In many monasteries there would have been access to the night stairs in the transept of the church for ease of singing divine service during the night hours rather than trekking out through the cold – not that it can have been wildly warm in any event.  The other important link with the dorter would be the reredorter – a.k.a. the toilet block.  These are usually rather grand affairs with the ground floor of the block being given over to effective drainage and flushing action.  The first floor provided the location for the toilets themselves which tended to be communal in nature.

The room that was second in importance only to the church was the chapter house.  This was where the monks met to listen to the Rule and to conduct their business affairs.

The frater, again typical of monastery plans, is opposite the church.  This was the monastic canteen. In many cases there would be a passage joining the dorter with the frater – back to cold monastic types catching chills from wondering around in the rain.  The kitchen was usually separate to the frater, away from the cloister and it was usually rectangular – the plan in this post shows such a building.

The first plan does not show the position of the cellar (not that kind of cellar!)  The cellar is the name given to the monastic stores.  These were usually situated to the western range but could just as well be situated in a ground floor room.  One of the reasons that the cellar lays to the west in most monasteries is because this was where the main entrance to the abbey could be found so it meant that goods could be delivered with little disturbance to the rest of the monastery. Indeed, St Mary’s conforms to the model of having its main gateway on the west (ish) wall.

st-marys-abbey-york

http://www.1902encyclopedia.com/A/ABB/abbey-08.html (accessed 24/06/2015 23:33)

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