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

Woodland Management at Rievaulx

Illuminated initial, showing hunting with dogs
[From the 'Omne Bonum' of Jacobus Anglicus
© British Library
<click to enlarge>
Illuminated initial, showing hunting with dogs[From the 'Omne Bonum' of Jacobus Anglicu

Charters and court cases shed considerable light on the resources afforded by forests and the activities that went on therein. A particularly interesting example is the dispute, 1231/2, between Abbot Roger of Rievaulx and the abbey's patron, William Ros, regarding land in Griff and Tilleston, common pasture and wood in Hamelak and Pockele. The argument centred on William's assertion that he had a forest in the woods here; accordingly, he had his foresters keep wild beasts in the woods and lands belonging to the abbot, within the bounds of nine carucates. Abbot Roger argued that the presence of William's foresters had hindered him from having common of herbage and mast or his cattle, in the woods of Hamelak and Pockele,(2) as well as common of brushwood and timber; more importantly, William's actions were contrary to the charter of his father, Robert of Ros.

This dispute resulted in lengthy legislative proceedings, but William eventually agreed to deforest these lands and not to demand a forest by right. William made a number of other concessions to the abbot, and his charter reveals further information about daily life in the forest and how the woodland was utilised. William agreed that he should not take birds nesting or put keepers or foresters within the said nine carucates and assart, but that the abbot and his successors should have their own keepers and foresters to keep the woods and lands there; he conceded that the community could take wild beasts and all sorts of game with their dogs and greyhounds, and also their bows and arrows, unhindered by either him or his heirs. Furthermore, William granted the abbot common of herbage, mast, brushwood and timber in all the woods and holdings of Hamelak and Pockele except in the old park east of Hamelak and another to the west, called 'le Haye', and wood called Plocwude; whilst Rievaulx might not have any common there the community might take all the brushwood and timber it required and also for its beasts and flocks, except goats. The monks were also to have right of passage for their men, herds and carts. The abbot, in return, gave William 200m silver.

Illuminated initial, showing birds
© British Library
<click to enlarge>
Illuminated initial, showing birds

The case between the abbot of Rievaulx and Gilbert de Gaunt in 1252, which was decided in the abbot's favour, is equally incisive and provides an unusually vivid insight to the sights and sounds of the medieval forest. The terms of this agreement stipulated that in Gilbert's forest of Swaledale, the abbot should have dogs, horns and all necessities for his house, hedges, hearths, folds and lodges and other easements which he ought and used to have (i.e. by custom - by right).