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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







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Mills, mining and fishing

To exploit their environment to the maximum, Cistercian communities required a variety of holdings and rights including mills and fisheries, the right to mine and to dig turf. Another important resource was salt. This was vital for preserving food, but was also needed to manufacture cheese, tan leather, cure shoes and solder pipes. Byland had a coastal salt-pan on the NE coast at Coatham, on the Tees Estuary.(58) The community acquired a salt-house here, together with a toft, croft, yard and five acres of land from William de Kilton, in the late twelfth / early thirteenth century.(59)


Carving of post mill, miller and mule from Rievaulx Abbey
© English Heritage
<click to enlarge>
Carving of post mill, miller and mule from Rievaulx Abbey© English Heritage

The Cistercian Order prohibited its abbeys from receiving revenues from mills, since this undermined the ideal that monks should live by the sweat of their own brows and not that of others. Communities could, however, have mills for their own use, but were not to profit from these by collecting ‘multure’, the tax demanded from those who were obliged to grind their corn at the mill. This prohibition was not always observed and was especially difficult to uphold if a benefactor granted land with a mill included.

[Read about the corn mill and fulling mill at Fountains]

Most monastic mills were powered by water and used to grind grain; others were driven by horsepower. Byland had a cornmill within its monastic precinct, and it seems that a barkmill was nearby.(60) A fulling mill stood just outside the precinct, some 700m downstream, and is mentioned in the surveys taken at the time of the Dissolution in 1538.(61) A mill at Bentley served Byland’s industrial centres at its granges of Bentley and Denby, and also the West Bretton township.(62) There were mills at the monks’ granges Wildon and Old Byland, and perhaps also at Scackleton and Airyholme.(63)