The ruins of Byland Abbey stand beneath the
Hambleton Hills, just over a mile from the village of Coxwold,
in North Yorkshire. This was not the original location and the
monks occupied four sites before settling here in 1177. The community
had to work hard to prepare the site at Byland for habitation.
They cleared woodland, built ditches to drain the marshy land and
embarked on a highly ambitious system of water management. This
involved extensive alterations to the watercourse, and the construction
of fish ponds, dams and lakes. Surviving earthworks from these
ponds and their dams are amongst the most remarkable of their kind
in this region.
Today the site at Byland is dominated by the
remains of the great abbey church. This was an impressive building
in the New
Gothic style of architecture, which was as large as many cathedrals.
Stunning remains of the mosaic tiles in the south transept offer
a glimpse of just how magnificent the church was in the Middle
Ages. Other remarkable remains at Byland include the great rose
window in the west front of the church, the extensive cloister
with the remains of the Collation porch, and the stone seats for
the lay-brothers in the conversi’s lane. Whilst Byland is
now less well-known and visited than the great abbey ruins at Fountains and Rievaulx, it is perhaps a more striking reminder of Cistercian
life in Yorkshire.