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Abbeys and Priories

Bolton Abbey (12th century)
Bradford, North Yorkshire
The Bolton Abbey Estate covers 30,000 acres of beautiful countryside in the Yorkshire Dales.There are medieval buildings to explore and 80 miles of moorland, woodland and riverside footpaths. It still remains a working Estate as it was hundreds of years ago. 'Bolton' means 'an enclosure with a house.' This may have been the manor house of Edwin, a Saxon earl. The name Bolton Abbey came into use in recent times, though the religious house established here was a Priory. Some of the history of Bolton Abbey can easily be seen by visitors. Historic buildings include a 12th century priory, a tithing barn, Bolton Bridge, Barden Tower (a ruined 15th-century hunting lodge), a steam railway and more.

Bolton Priory (12th century)
Bradford, North Yorkshire
The history of Bolton Priory stems back to the 12th century. The Black Canons of the Order of St. Augustine sheltered here at Bolton, where the pursued a life of service and worship. Today, the Priory Church still serves the local community as a place of worship. Located on the Bolton Abbey estate.

Byland Abbey (12th century)
Helmsley, North Yorkshire
Byland was founded as a Savigniac house in 1134, but with the absorption of the Savigniac Congregation in 1147, it was brought within the Cistercian family, and together with Fountains and Rievaulx, described as one of the 'three shining lights of the North'. Today, the abbey remains include one of the largest cloisters in England, which was glazed in the 15th century to keep out the cold. Excavation has recovered 13th-century floor tiles in the church (right), as well as the only stone lectern base in England.

Easby Abbey (St. Agatha's) (12th century)
Richmond, North Yorkshire
This was a house of the Pre-monstratensians founded around 1152. The Order took its name from the Abbey of Premontre in the diocese of Laon, it having been inaugurated there by St. Norbert in 1120. The Premonstratensians wore a white habit and became known as the White Canons. Eventually the abbey suffered looting and destruction with the dissolution of the monasteries and was finally abandoned. At the time of dissolution, a bell was taken and installed in the belfry of the parish church of St. Mary along with the stalls and miserere seats.
Easby Abbey

Photo by Moira Allen
Fountains Abbey (12th century)
Ripon, North Yorkshire
The Abbey, Britain's largest monastic ruin, was founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks seeking a simpler life. They later became Cistercian monks. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII, the Abbey buildings and over 500 acres (202ha) of land were sold by the Crown to Sir Richard Gresham, a merchant. The property was passed down through several generations of Sir Richard's family, finally being sold to Stephen Proctor who built Fountains Hall probably between 1598 and 1604. A remarkable Elizabethan mansion, Fountains Hall was built partly with stone from the Abbey ruins. Today there are two rooms open to the public.
On TimeTravel-Britain.com: The Lingering Power of Fountains Abbey

Friary Gardens (12th century)
Richmond, North Yorkshire
From the Market Place Friar's Wynd takes you through one of the two remaining medieval gateways, past the Georgian Theatre to the Friary Gardens where the fine 12th century Franciscan Friary bell tower, built by the Greyfriars of Richmond, still stands -- amidst beautiful, well kept gardens. The house of the Greyfriars was founded by Ralph Fitz Randal, Lord of Middleham in 1258.

Gisborough Priory (12th century)
Guisborough, North Yorkshire
Gisborough Priory is located on the eastern fringes of the medieval market town of Guisborough, which lies to the north of the North Yorkshire Moors in the north-east of England. In 1119 AD, Robert De Brus founded and lavishly endowed a priory for Augustinian canons at Guisborough. This monastery became one of the most powerful in Yorkshire and dominated the life and fortune of both the town of Guisborough and the surrounding area throughout the Middle Ages.

Jervaulx Abbey (12th century)
Ripon, North Yorkshire
Jervaulx Abbey was one of the great Cistercian abbeys of Yorkshire, founded in 1156. It was dissolved in 1537. The Abbey is privately owned (Editor's Note: by a very nice B&B), and visitors can view the ruins during daylight hours. Ruins include several stone coffins and burial sites.
Four Great Abbeys and Priories of Yorkshire, by Dawn Copeman

Kirkstall Abbey (12th century)
Leeds, North Yorkshire
The history of Kirkstall Abbey, Yorkshire, begins with its foundation in 1147, when a group of twelve monks from Fountains Abbey, under the guidance of their prior, Alexander, colonised the site at Barnoldswick. The abbey buildings escaped the wholesale destruction and plunder that occurred elsewhere; most were left standing and used for agricultural purposes; this is perhaps why Kirkstall is now the most complete set of Cistercian ruins in Britain. The ruins of Kirkstall are now situated on the outskirts of Leeds, some three miles from the city centre.

Monk Bretton Priory (12th century)
Barnsley, South Yorkshire
Founded in 1154 as the Priory of St Mary Magdelene of Lund by Adam Fitswane, sited here on the Lund, from Old-Norse 'lundr' meaning a sacred woodland grove. In course of time the Priory took the name of the nearby village of Bretton to be commonly known as Monk Bretton Priory.

Mount Grace Priory (14th century)
Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Situated amongst attractive woodlands, this is the best preserved Carthusian Monastery in Britain. A reconstructed monk's cell and herb garden offer a glimpse of life in the 15th century. Picnic spot of exceptional beauty with nature trail and gardens.
Four Great Abbeys and Priories of Yorkshire, by Dawn Copeman

Rievaulx Abbey (12th century)
Rievaulx, North Yorkshire
The abbey of Rievaulx was founded as the first Cistercian outpost in the North, and was to be a centre for White Monks to reform and colonise the North of England and Scotland. The impressive ruins at Rievaulx include extensive remains of the church, which was one of the finest in the North, and claustral buildings; five arches from the original cloister survive.
Four Great Abbeys and Priories of Yorkshire, by Dawn Copeman

Roche Abbey (12th century)
Doncaster, North Yorkshire
The ruins of Roche Abbey lie in the wooded valley of the Maltby Beck, about 9 miles from Doncaster and 13 miles from Sheffield in South Yorkshire. Now only a small part of the eastern end of the abbey church remains standing to any height. But this was once a splendid 12th-century church, one of the earliest built in the ÔNew Gothic' style in northern England. Roche was founded in 1147 and building began on the stone church in about 1170. Although never a large or wealthy abbey, Roche built up a moderate collection of land-holdings during the 12th and 13th centuries and played a significant part in the history of the region in the later Middle Ages. Like other monastic houses, Roche was suppressed in the reign of Henry VIII, the monks dispersed and the abbey buildings destroyed.

Selby Abbey (12th century)
Selby, North Yorkshire
Selby Abbey was founded in the second half of the 11th century by a monk from the French abbey of Auxerre. This was the first monastery to be established in the north of England after the Norman Conquest. By the beginning of the 12th century, the timber abbey had been replaced by a stone building under the direction of Abbot Hugh. You can still see the nave pillar, with its deep-cut diamond pattern, which is named after him. Selby Abbey took around 130 years to complete and was recognised as the wealthiest and most influential Benedictine monastery in Yorkshire. By the mid-14th century it looked largely as it does today. At the time of the Dissolution in 1539, the monastic buildings were demolished but the abbey church survived to become the parish church.

Photo courtesy of Whitby-UK.com
Whitby Abbey (12th century)
Whitby, North Yorkshire
The abbey was founded in AD 657 on the site of what may previously have been a Roman signal station. The Synod of AD 664 was held here -- the two branches of early English Christianity, the Celtic and Roman churches, debating the matter that divided them most: the dating of Easter. The Synod decided in favour of the Roman tradition -- a turning point that has repercussions into modern times. Whitby Abbey was destroyed during a Viking invasion in AD 867, but one of William the Conqueror's knights revived it in the late 1070s. By 1220, his Norman church proved inadequate for the many pilgrims who visited it and so rebuilding began. After its dissolution in 1538, Whitby Abbey passed to the Cholmley family, who proceeded to build a mansion largely out of materials plundered from the monastery. Parts of this building have been incorporated into the 19th-century Abbey House. A new visitor centre now nestles within the walls of the Cholmley's house as part of a major project encompassing the whole of the headland. It houses archaeological material excavated at Whitby, as well as computer-generated images revealing how the headland has changed over time.
Discovering Whitby Abbey, by John Ravenscroft

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See also: Minsters and Cathedrals · Parish Churches

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