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

Byland Abbey: Location

Byland Abbey: History
Later Middle Ages

Byland Abbey: Buildings
Chapter House
Warming House
Day Room
Lay Brothers' Range

Byland Abbey: Lands

Cistercian Life







Contact Us

The later Middle Ages: the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

The landscape around Byland
© Cistercians in Yorkshire project
<click to enlarge>
The landscape around Byland

Litigation arising from the administration of the abbey and its lands increased throughout the later Middle Ages, and there were many allegations of trespassing and destruction, and demands for compensation. In 1333 Walter de Kelstern, a citizen and merchant of York, claimed that Abbot John owed him the sum of £40. In 1342 the abbot demanded £10 compensation from William of Wintringham and other armed men, who had forcibly broken down the banks of the Derwent at Rillington, for this had caused the flooding of his pastures and the loss of profits.(57)

Byland had also to contend with growing demands from the Church, the State and the Order. Furthermore, the Black Death which swept through Europe and ravaged England from 1348 to1349 had a devastating affect on numbers, hastening the demise of the lay-brethren. This loss of manpower altered the economic organisation of the abbey and led to the leasing out of the abbey lands. Whereas there had been about 80 monks and 160 lay-brothers c. 1230, by the end of the fourteenth century (1381) the community comprised of only eleven choir monks and three lay-brothers at Byland.(58)

Bad tenants
In the later Middle Ages the leasing out of abbey lands generated considerable litigation. Byland clearly had its share of bad tenants and in 1369 the abbot accused William of Atton of making waste in the houses, woods and gardens that the community had demised to him for ten years at Kirkby Malzeard.
[Notes on the Religious and Secular Houses of Yorkshire, I, p. 32, no. 22.]

The fourteenth century was also witness to a disputed abbacy. In 1361/2 it was alleged that William of Helmsley’s appointment to the abbacy had been implemented by untoward means, namely through bribery by a powerful magnate. William was indicted for extortion and his successor, John of Difford, was referred to as the true abbot.(59)

<back> <next>