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Edward Kirkby, abbot of Rievaulx 1530-33

Edward was a monk of Rievaulx and reputedly led a rather dissolute life when he was studying at the Cistercian college of St Bernard’s, Oxford, now St John’s. He received the degree of Bachelor of Divinity in 1525, following eleven years of study. Five years later, in 1530, Edward was elected to the abbacy of Rievaulx but in 1533 his behaviour was questioned when Rievaulx’s patron, the earl of Rutland, made a formal complaint of his conduct to the king’s advisor, Thomas Cromwell. A royal commission was sent to investigate these allegations and a Dr Legh arrived at Rievaulx to force Kirkby to confess and resign from office. Although most of the community remained loyal to its abbot and refused to accept his deposition, the monks were eventually forced to back down and accept the appointment of a new abbot, Roland Blyton, who had presided over Rufford, Nottinghamshire. Kirkby retired to Jervaulx where he was caught up in the popular uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace and sentenced to death for his participation. However, he was later reprieved and appointed vicar of Newport, Essex (1539-46). In 1543 Kirkby also acquired the benefice of Kirkby Misperton and in 1546 he resigned from Newport to become rector of St Nicholas Olave in London. Kirkby, it seems, had died by 1557.