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Fountains Abbey: Location

Fountains Abbey: History
Trials and Tribulations
Strength and Stability
End of Monastic Life

Fountains Abbey: Buildings
Chapter House
Warming House
Day Room
Lay Brothers' Range
Abbots House
Outer Court

Fountains Abbey: Lands

Fountains Abbey: People

Cistercian Life






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Woods are wild places, waste and desolate, that many trees grow
in without fruit, and also few having fruit. In these woods there are
often wild beasts and fowl; herbs, grass, leas and pastures grow here
and medicinal herbs are found in woods. … But woods are also
places of deceit and hunting, for wild beasts are hunted here, and watches
and deceits are ordained and set of hounds and hunters.

[Read more of this thirteenth-century account]

Gifts of timber
Large timber for building work was often granted to the monastic community from the royal forest. In 1227 Henry III gave Fountains eight oaks from his forest of Knaresborough to help repair their bridge.

[Bond, Monastic Landscapes, p. 94.]

Woodland, and all that it afforded, provided many valuable resources including dead wood for building and repair work, and also for charcoal, which was burnt in the forges. In 1194, the Fountains community was granted the right to take dead wood (estover) to drive their forge at Bradley, near Huddersfield.(92) In 1195 it was agreed that for an annual payment of 10 shillings and sixty horeshoes, the master smith of Fountains might collect from Knaresborough Forest as much dead wood as he wished, whether it be lying or standing, to make charcoal.(93) Forests were also important grazing sites for pasturing livestock, particularly pigs, who could graze on acorns and beech nuts here. Thatch and ferns could be gathered from the woods for roofing, honey might be taken and minerals extracted. Roger de Mowbray conceded Fountains the right to take any copper, lead, iron or other metals and stones that they found in the forest of Nidderdale.(94) This grant was in part to compensate the community for their loss of corn that was seized by his men; it was also to raise ready cash to finance Roger’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land.(95)

Clerks hunting with dogs
© British Library
<click to enlarge>
Clerks hunting with dogs

Keepers of the forest
In 1181 Roger de Mowbray made the Fountains community custodians of the forest of Nidderdale, with its birds and beasts.
[Wardrop, Fountains Abbey and its Benefactors, p. 109.]

Fountains acquired considerable lands and rights in the forest of Nidderdale (Upper Nidderdale). An early grant by Roger de Mowbray and his wife, Alice de Gant, gave land in the wood of Littley and adjoining this, as well as a spring to water the monks’ cattle.(96) In the 1170s the community expanded its holdings in Nidderdale, by purchasing lands and rights here from Roger, who was in need of cash to finance his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. By the end of the twelfth century Fountains’s rights extended over the whole forest of Nidderdale and even included rights of chase. In c. 1181 it was agreed that Roger’s hunters would each year take six stags from the forest of Nidderdale, and send the flesh and hides to Fountains’ infirmary, for the monks who resided there. Interestingly, the charter states that the dogs might eat whatever they were accustomed to take, but the flesh and hides should otherwise pass to the abbey.(97)

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