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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The nunneries

Cistercian nunneries in Britain and Ireland (1)
Ballymore Ireland *      
Basedale England, Yorkshire c. 1162
Begins c. 1162 as Hutton Rudby, then becomes Nunthorpe and c. 1189 known as Basedale.(2)
Private In the early fourteenth century nuns of Basedale were reprimanded for breaking rules of enclosure and gadding around the countryside.
Catesby England, Northamptonshire c. 1175   The prioress of Catesby in 1442 was evidently a rather feisty character and was accused, amongst other things, of hurling abuse at the nuns, pulling their hair and pawning the priory’s jewels.(3)
Cookhill Robert Smith
(alias Stainthorpe)
England, Worcestershire   Mismanagement of the nunnery’s finances meant that in 1285 the archbishop of York recommended that Cookhill’s chaplain, Thomas, should have full control over temporal affairs.(4)
Coldstream Scotland **     In 1296 Edward I and his army of c. 8000 men encamped here and were provided for to the cost of c. £118; the community
received 700 sheep in return.(5)
Derry Ireland *      
Ellerton (in Swaledale) England, Yorkshire 1154x1189; founder unidentified.(6) Fifteenth-century tower and fragments of church; private land, but visible from the road. At the dissolution of the priory in 1536 there were six nuns. Two transferred to Nun Appleton and another, who had given birth, to Swine Priory. The prioress, Joan, withdrew to Richmond where she seemingly led a rather impoverished life.(7)
[‘The priory under the hill.’]
England, Yorkshire Twelfth century
founder unidentified (8)
Fragments in Esholt Hall; private. 1445 was a devastating year for Esholt – the river flooded and the priory’s bell-tower had fallen into a ruinous state. In response to the nuns’ plight, the archbishop of York granted 200 days’ indulgence to anyone who would either contribute to the relief of the nuns or help with the repair work.(9)
Fosse England, Lincolnshire Pre 1184   In the mid-fifteenth century Fosse was in financial difficulties and the priory’s buildings were in need of repair.(10)
Gokewell England, Lincolnshire Pre 1148   In 1440 Bishop Alnwick instructed the nuns of Gokewell that no boys under the age of eight or girls under the age of ten should be allowed to board at their house.(11)
Greenfield England, Lincolnshire Pre 1153   Although the nuns of Greenfield were not officially recognised as part of the Cistercian Order, they wore the distinctive Cistercian habit of undyed wool.
Hampole England, Yorkshire Pre 1156; founded William de Clarefai and his wife, Avice de Tany.(12) A few stone fragments in the vicinity; private. The mystic and hermit, Richard Rolle, was the nuns’ spiritual advisor in the fourteenth century and was buried at the priory following his death in 1349.
Handale England, Yorkshire 1133, by William de Percy of Dunstey (13) Farmhouse in vicinity; may incorporate one wall of the priory; private. Religious observances were seemingly followed by the nuns of Handale, for relatively few injunctions were issued following visitation of the priory in 1315.
Heynings England, Lincolnshire Post 1135   The nuns of Heynings allegedly enjoyed late night drinking sessions in the priory’s guestchamber, especially with visitors.(14)
Keldholme England, Yorkshire Pre 1142; Burton – 1154x66; founded Robert de Stuteville III. (15) Private The appointment of a new prioress, Joan Pickering, in 1314, sparked off a rebellion at Keldholme. The ringleaders were sent to cool off at other the nearby priories of Handale, Nun Appleton, Swine and Wallingwells.
Kirklees England, Yorkshire c. 1135 x 1140 or 1160 x 1190, depending on whether it was Reiner the Fleming I or II who founded the community.(16) Private house on site; gatehouse mostly post-suppression.
Also outer buildings now a farm
The prioress of Kirklees and her five nuns surrendered their priory to the royal commissioners in November 1539; the priory was valued at £19 8s 2d.(17)
Legbourne England, Lincolns. Post 1150   In 1440 there were complaints that a secular woman, Margaret Ingoldesby, not only slept in the nuns’ dormitory but brought her birds along, which kept the nuns awake at night.(18)
[proud Llanllugan’]
Wales*** Late twelfth century
Under the auspices of the abbot of Strata Marcella.
Stained glass window; parish church ‘the chalk-white ones’.
The mill here has been modified to form a house. (19)
[‘holy Llanll_r’]
Wales*** Late twelfth century
Under the auspices of the abbot of Strata Marcella.
  ‘the white maidens’
*Marham (offical abbey) England, Norfolk 1249
One of the two fully-incorporated Cistercian nunneries
Considerable earthworks and also standing masonry from the church and outer parlour.  
Nun Appleton England, Yorkshire c. 1150 by Alice of St Quentin.(20) House on site; private. The nuns were reminded to observe silence at all times and to provide appropriate care for their sick.
Nun Cotham England, Lincolnshire 1147x1153   The nuns were reminded to observe silence at all times and to provide appropriate care for their sick.
Perth (Elcho) ** Scotland   St Leonard’s Hospital Elcho was one of several communities burned when the English invaded Scotland in 1543-8.
Pinley England, Warwickshire Pre 1135    
Rosedale England, Yorkshire Pre 1160; founded William, son of Turgis de Rosedale.(21) Remains include the turret In the early fourteenth century the nuns of Rosedale were warned that they should not bring their lap-dogs into the church when celebrating the Canonical Hours, for these were a distraction.
Sewardsley England, Northamptonshire 1154x89   In 1434 the bishop of Lincoln reacted to reports that the nuns had ‘given their minds to debauchery’, committing in public acts of adultery, incest, sacrilege and fornification, ‘to the death of their own souls, the shame of religion and the mischievous example of others.’ He sent a commissioner to investigate matters and correct these abuses.(22)
Sinningthwaite England, Yorkshire Pre 1155; founded Bertram Haget.(23) E/w ranges now a farmhouse; private. In 1520, the widow, Margaret Dodsworth, whose daughter was a nun of Sinningthwaite, left a handkerchief and an ivory coffer to Isobel Stapleton, who was also a nun of the priory.(24)
Stixwould England, Lincolnshire c.1135   In the late thirteenth century Stixwould was one of five nunneries exporting at least fifteen sacks of wool.(25)
Swine England, Yorkshire Pre 1153 1143x53; founded Robert de Verli.(26) St Mary’s parish church, now; part of east end the former nunnery; also monuments to Hilton family and original choir stalls. Significant remains and open to public. Financial difficulties meant that in 1268 the nuns of Swine were forced to disband, temporarily. Their predicament had been caused by the chaplains and lay-brothers misappropriating funds.(27)
Tarrant- Kaines (official – abbey) England, Dorset One of the two fully-incorporated Cistercian nunneries in England.
Founded pre 1228.
A hermitage that became a nunnery.(28)
Only a barn now survives. In 1343 the abbess of Tarrant was granted permission to cut down 200 acres of underwood, on account of the great devastation her community had suffered following the invasion of the king’s enemies in those parts.(29)
Whistones England, Worcestershire 1237-40   Alice de la Flagge, who was unanimously elected prioress of Whistones, was described as ‘a
woman of discreet life and morals, of lawful age, professed in the nunnery, born of lawful matrimony and prudent in spiritual and temporal matters’.(30)
Wintney England, Hampshire Pre 1200    
Wykeham England, Yorkshire Pre 1153; founded Pain FitzOsbert.(31) Parts of the church survive (north wall); private. Katherine Nandyke, the former prioress of Wykeham, remembered her nuns in her will of 1542 and left each of them 6s 8d; to Mary Percy she also left her branded cow.(32)

* Ireland. Other nunneries in Ireland that have sometimes been named as Cistercian are: Downpatrick (co. Down), Inshlounaght, Tipperary, Mellifont, Louth (Co. Armagh), Jerpoint, (Co. Kilkenny); see A. Gwynn and N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses: Ireland (1970), pp. 307-326.

** Scotland. Other nunneries in Scotland that have been named as Cistercian are: Berwick (South = Berwick-upon-Tweed); Eccles (Co. Berwick), Haddington (E. Lothian), Manuel (W. Lothian); Berwick (E. Lothian); St Bothan ’s (North Berwick); St Evoca (Kirkcudbright); see the lists in Medieval Religious Houses Scotland, ed. I. Cowan and D. Easson (1957, 76), pp. 144-150.

*** Wales. Reference is made to a third Cistercian nunnery in Wales, Llansantffraid, which was said to have been founded by Abbot Enoch of Strata Marcella. For discussion of this abbey and the problems in identifying it, see Williams, ‘Cistercian nunneries in medieval Wales’, pp. 156-7.