The medieval precinct at Byland covered about
110 acres. It was enclosed by a perimeter wall and although little
of this now survives, its layout can be established from visible
earthworks. The church and claustral area stood at the heart of
the precinct. Here, they were sheltered from the noise and activity
of the outer and inner courts, where industrial and domestic work
was carried out, where guests were accommodated and alms distributed.
This was once a vast and busy hive of industry, yet all that remains
standing of the inner and outer courts are remnants of the inner
gatehouse. The Cistercians were concerned to establish self-sufficient
communities, and the monastic precinct included ponds, pastures
and orchards. A notable feature of the Byland site is the earthworks
of three large ponds to the north of the church, which supplied
the community with water, drainage and power.
The development of
the site at New Byland began in the 1150s, when the community
was still at Stocking. According to the foundation
history of the abbey, the site was drained, woodland was cleared
and building commenced to prepare the site for monastic occupation.
When the community eventually relocated here in 1177, much of
the essential building would have been complete and most of the
structures served the community throughout the Middle Ages. There
were, of course, repairs and renovations, and the infirmary building
was completely reconstructed in the late fourteenth century.