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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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The acquisition of lands and rights [contd.]


... they obtain from a rich man a valueless and despised plot in the heart of a great wood, by much feigning of innocence and long importunity, putting in God at every other word. The wood is cut down, stubbed up and levelled into a plain, bushes give place to barley, willows to wheat, withies to vines; and it may be that to give them full time for these operations, their prayers have to be somewhat shortened.
[Walter Map, De Nugis Curialium] (12)

Ruthless predators
The Cistercians were portrayed by their critics as ruthless predators, who would drive out peasant settlements to make way for their cultivation of the land. Whilst this certainly did occur in places – indeed Fountains depopulated vills at Cayton, Herleshow and Thorpe Underwood to establish granges -this was not carried out on the scale suggested by their critics. Moreover, the natives might actually benefit from such an occurrence if the relocation was favourable, or if they either received employment from the abbey or admission as a lay-brother of the house.
[Coppack, Fountains Abbey, p. 105; Williams, The Cistercians in the Early Middle Ages, p. 278.]

During the twelfth century the Cistercians earned a reputation for greediness, with complaints that in their pursuit of land they would beg, bargain, deceive and, if need be, use force. The damning accounts by their critics, chiefly the satirists Walter Map and Gerald of Wales, undoubtedly exaggerate the truth, but, as complaints from the Cistercians’ supporters and indeed rulings from the General Chapter suggest, their remarks were not wholly unfounded. The Cistercians in England – and the monks of Fountains – were clearly eager to pursue their interests, but their acquisitiveness should perhaps be attributed as much to shrewdness as much to greediness.

Many of the grants made to Fountains were by laymen and women wishing to make provision for their souls. They included great magnates, such as Roger de Mowbray and William de Stuteville, and those of more humble means, for example, Robert, who was the local glazier of Ingerthorpe.(13) The majority of benefactors, however, came from knightly families, for example, the Mohauts and Plumptons.(14)

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