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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The leasing of lands


Detail of plan of Derbyshire lands of Roche abbey, showing Over Haddon grange
© Public Record Office
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Detail of plan of Derbyshire lands of Roche
                    abbey, showing Over Haddon grange

The thirteenth century marked a change in the system of land-holding in Cistercian abbeys. Whereas the Order had, from the outset, insisted upon the direct exploitation of abbey lands, economic and social changes meant that from the late thirteenth century this was not necessarily viable. Rievaulx embarked upon the large-scale leasing and renting of its lands, although the home grange of Griff was always farmed as demesne. This change in policy would have increased the value of the abbey’s lands and, indeed, it was the only real solution to the community’s debts at this time. It was also influenced by the shortage of manpower, for with the demise of the lay-brothers and the loss of numbers as a consequence of the Black Death - by 1381 there were only sixteen monks and six lay-brothers - it was not always possible to work the lands directly.

The grange at Skiplam had evidently been leased out for in 1536 it was agreed that a couple living at the grange at Skiplam could, if they so wished, move into the abbey precinct; they were also to receive the weekly allowances of six gallons of convent ale, two gallons of abbot’s ale, four gallons of ‘greenhorn’ (the weakest beer), ten wheaten and ten rye loaves.(1)

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