Monthly Archives: February 2021

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 8.

(The second source of evidence on Meaux Abbey) – surviving cartularies from the 14th and 15th centuries in the national archives (cartularies were recordings of land holdings at the time).
Meaux Cistercian Abbey was founded in the 12th century (s.p.b.) by William Le Gros a second generation Norman baron and Earl of York, but only by default. Abbot Burton tells the story of how William had allocated the area as a hunting park having purchased the land from John of Melsa for that purpose (Melsa seems to have been a depopulated hamlet by the mid 12th century as it was listed in the Domesday Survey,1086). However, it seems that William laboured under a feeling of guilt at having not visited the Holy Land, and maybe taken part in the Second Crusade (1140s), as he had promised to do and so he was persuaded to endow a Cistercian abbey on the land instead as a tangible sign to God of his contrition.
Meaux Abbey would not have been stone-built initially and at first would have comprised a wood-built communal hall and chapel only. The area was wet carr-land so the monks prioritised plans to tame the environment before concern for grand buildings. William donated further land to the Abbey as did other lords of manors. By this means the Abbey acquired stone quarries in Brough and Brantingham and were thus eventually able to start building in stone transported down the Humber Estuary and up the River Hull (June Sheppard detailed the construction of drainage/transport channels leading to and from the River Hull in her E.Y.L.H.S. booklet The Draining of the Hull Valley, 1958, reprinted 1976).
Whereas the history of Meaux Abbey is more evidenced by documentary sources rather than standing ruins that is not the case at Swine, the site of its sister Cistercian nunnery. The picture above is relevant to this and will be repeated for the next blog.

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 8.

Only by virtue of the Abbey site at Meaux and the connected nunnery at Swine did the Cistercian Order impact on life in medieval East Riding, although these were both very significant sites.
The East Riding does not have an equivalent of the standing ruins sites of Cistercian abbeys in North, West and South Yorkshire – Fountains, Rievaulx (see above), Byland, Kirkstall, Roche and Jervaulx, the site at Meaux being evidenced by surface undulations alone. That said, the Cistercian nunnery site at Swine does retain part of the conventual church.
The Cistercian monastic order was founded in France in the late 11th century (most reformist monastic orders originated in France and migrated to England) on the principals of study, worship, the virtue of manual agricultural labour and of agricultural enterprise in remote areas previously considered hostile to farming. As priories were donated larger areas of land Cistercians built ‘granges’ (farmsteads) from which the land around was farmed by monks deployed to the site and by lay brothers, men who accepted religious life but not adherence to all the rituals of the monks day and who were housed in the monastic complex in a separate building to the monks.
Cistercians were known as ‘white monks’ from their unbleached habits. One aspect of Cistercian organisation was that each year the abbot (leader) of each priory would travel to the site of the Order’s mother church at Citeaux in France to report on their experiences and to receive guidance for the coming year.
Meaux abbey was founded in the 1150s by a small group of monks deployed to do so from the already established Fountains Abbey. Much is known about Meaux Abbey from two surviving sources of primary evidence; The Chronica Monasterii de Melsa compiled by the retired Abbot Burton at the very end of the 14th century and translated from the latin in the 19th century (copy available in the search room of Hull History Centre), and secondly …
(to be continued)

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 7.

The Order of Augustinian Canons proved to have the most numerous monastic sites in the East Riding. A decade after the establishment of the priory at Kirkham, s.p.b., another was established at Warter (1132), now a small estate village resulting from its ownership by the Lords Muncaster up to 1878 and Lord Nunburnholme thereafter, Lord Nunburnholme was the titled name of Charles Wilson the Victorian Hull shipping magnate who lived at Tranby Croft (now Hull Collegiate School), west Hull outer suburbs. The site of the priory is only clear from earthworks, no standing ruins, these beside the churchyard of St. James’ church, built 1860s. Warter is sited near the head of a valley penetrating the scarp slope of the Yorkshire Wolds a few miles east of Pocklington beside the Driffield road. The village church remains in reasonable condition and has some important Edwardian Arts and Crafts monuments inside, it is a redundant church.
North Ferriby Augustinian priory was always small-scale and comparatively poor. It exact site is uncertain but it was in existence by 1160. It is known that it was an annex of the abbey of the Temple of the Lord at Jerusalem in Jerusalem, the mother-church also manned by Augustinian canons. From the evidence of its part-surviving cartulary it is clear that it was endowed with lands in this part of the north bank of the Estuary – John of Hessle, for example, granted it pasture for 200 sheep and a sheepfold (see Burton, J. The Religious Orders in the East Riding of Yorkshire in the Twelfth Century (E.Y.L.H.S., 1989, 21).
Finally for the Augustinian canons, and much later was the founding of the small priory on the spring-line between south of Cottingham which came to be known as Haltemprice Priory. The site just west of Priory Road between Hull and Cottingham hay have some surviving stonework in a derelict farm building.
(to be continued – Cistercians)

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 6.

Today’s picture is a scan of the cover of a walk guide round Bridlington’s Old Town, the Old Town area with its fine Georgian and Victorian buildings being inland from the Harbour front and the beach. The drawing shows, like the previous picture, the Priory church’s west end, the differences in the building styles of the two church towers being explained by the building’s architectural history. Two other churches with similar west ends are Ely cathedral and St. Margaret’s church, Kings Lynn.
Soon after the Reformation it was decided that the full church building at Bridlington was too large to maintain so the east end of the church today is the bricked-up chancel arch of the original Priory church, the foundation stones of the original chancel walls, pillars of the arcading and location of the high altar are visible in the grass of the churchyard.
As is usually the case none of the other priory buildings survives intact except the Gatehouse (witness Thornton Abbey site near Goxhill, North Lincolnshire) here known as The Bayle or Bayle Gate which has been in civic ownership since the Reformation, currently a small museum.
Throughout the Middle Ages the Augustinian Priory at Bridlington prospered from endowments, the physical majesty of the church building standing testimony to this.
In 1124 East Yorkshire’s second priory of Augustinian canons was founded at Kirkham (remember we are including this as Claire Cross includes it in her study, s.p.b.s) and only 15 years later some canons were sent away from Kirkham to start another priory at Thornton (see above) which was to become a great priory like Bridlington. Although some standing ruins survive at Kirkham (s.p.b.s) the abbey here, although well endowed, never achieved the status of Bridlington Priory.
The early 12th century was a time of many monastic establishments being founded.
(to be continued – Warter and N. Ferriby).

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 5.

At the end of the blog published on 12th February I promised a quote which summarises Gilyard-Beer’s overview (s.p.b.s) of monastic history, ‘Throughout the whole of its history there has been a tendency for monasticism to fall away from its primitive zeal and austerity, giving rise to one attempt after another within the monastic body to restore observances to their early form’.
In that vein, and returning to our history of East Yorkshire’s monastic sites, the ‘convents’ of Augustinian canons (s.p.b.s) followed close on the heals of the Norman invasion. All Augustinian canons were eligible to be parish priests, rather than just cloistered monks, although they lived in a communal environment. They were often known as ‘black canons’ from the colour of their woollen habit (cloak) – Benedictine and Cluniac monks (none in East Yorkshire) also wore black habits and were known as ‘black monks’.
East Yorkshire’s first Augustinian canon’s priory was started at Bridlington in 1113 and founded by Walter de Gant, a second-generation Norman baron. As with other convents, over the years property was endowed to the priory from which the priory received an income. Monastic ‘cartularies’ often survive and give a description of property, at the time written, endowed to the priory. ‘Property’ could take many forms – land, manors, buildings, churches (from which point on the priory owned the advowson of that church and were thus entitled to receive the ‘great tithes’ but from which they had to maintain the chancel part of the church building), woods, ships etc.
The present Priory church beside The Bolt and Church Green in Bridlington’s Old Town was, up to the Reformation of the late 1530s, the church of the priory of the Augustinian canons. The nave of this building already served as a parish church before the Reformation and indeed a pre-monastic church here was recorded in the Survey of 1086.
The scan above is taken from a pre-war church booklet I have.
(to be continued).

Monastic History Hull and East Riding 4.

The above picture is an aerial photo. of most of Barrow on Humber village as shown on the cover of ‘John Harrison’s Village’, published by Barrow W.E.A. branch, 1999.
All the monastic sites in Hull and the East Riding are products of the post-Norman Conquest waves of monastic revival. This is not to state that there were no Anglo-Saxon monastic sites in the East Riding but that none have been discovered. Anglo-Saxon monastic sites were not like the formally ordered complex of connected buildings associated with medieval monastic sites but were rather a random collection of small (by later standards) buildings following no formal pattern, this, maybe, reflecting the fact that collective bodies of religious persons evolved from the devotions of individual hermits.
That said, there was certainly (almost) a nearby Anglo-Saxon monastic site at Barrow on Humber on the south bank of the Estuary. The site is quite well documented and was the subject of an archaeological excavation in the 1970s. The site of the excavation is just off the top right of the aerial photo. above beside a street called St. Chad where pensioners’ bungalows now stand (built after the excavation). The excavation revealed the foundation of a small 10th century square building, almost certainly a church as it had a narrow apsidal east end. Random inhumations scattered around the site pre-dated the building. Bede, writing in the early eighth century, tells us much about St. Chad and, to a lesser extent, about a site in the Kingdom of Lindsey which he calls ‘ad Barvae’ ( the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Lindsey covered roughly the same area as the later County of Lindsey, a ‘thirding’/riding of Lincolnshire). The story goes that Chad was given land in Lindsey which equates roughly to the modern-day parishes of Barton and Barrow on which to establish his monastery, one of a number across the Kingdom of Mercia, he being Bishop of Mercia and Lindsey, his burial-place was on the site of the later Lichfield cathedral.
(to be continued).