go to home page go to byland abbey pages go to fountains abbey pages go to kirkstall abbey pages go to rievaulx abbey pages go to roche abbey pages
The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

Text only version

About the Project






Contact Us

Cistercian Abbeys: Sawley (Sawlay / Sallay)

Remains of Night Stair in the South Transept of the Abbey Church at Sawley
© Stuart Harrison
<click to enlarge>
Remains of Night Stair in the South Transept of the Abbey Church at Sawley

Sawley was founded on the banks of the R. Ribble, Craven, in 1147. Like Roche, it was a daughter-house of Newminster, Northumberland, and thus affiliated to Fountains and joined to the Clairvaux line. Sawley had a rather unconventional beginning, for William de Percy, a leading figure in the North, built a church at Craven before he had negotiated with Newminster to send a colony of monks there. From the outset the monks battled with dampness, floods, famine, and crop failure; after forty years of hardship they were ready to disband and sought dissolution. The founding family intervened and thwarted their efforts, but were at least moved to increase the endowment of the house to help the monks better survive.
The community faced particular problems in 1296 with the relocation of the monks of Stanlaw, Cheshire, to Whalley some five or ten kilometres away. The Sawley monks complained of competition for resources, and blamed the escalation of prices on the new arrivals. Whilst the community struggled economically and financially throughout its history, the monks were leading activists at the Dissolution, and received considerable support from the locals; this suggests that they were valued and esteemed by their neighbours. An eminent member of Sawley was Prior William Rymington, who served as chancellor of the Cistercian college of Rewley, Oxford in the late fourteenth century. Another notable monk of the house was the spiritual writer, Stephen of Sawley (d. 1252).