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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The abbots of Rievaulx

There are many uncertainties regarding the precise dates that particular abbots presided over Rievaulx and in some cases there is doubt as to whether some actually held the abbacy. This makes it difficult to compile an exact and agreed chronological list of Rievaulx’s abbots from the foundation of the abbey in 1132 until its dissolution in 1538. The following list is therefore a guide to the abbots of Rievaulx and the dates of their abbacies. It is largely based on The Heads of Religious Houses in England and Wales, volume I, edited by Knowles and Brooke, and volume II, recently revised, by Smith, but draws also on Clay, ‘The early abbots of the Yorkshire Cistercian houses’ and Atkinson’s list in his edition of the Rievaulx cartulary. Where there is doubt, Heads has been followed. Evidence for the sixteenth century is taken from Cross and Vickers, Monks, Friars and Nuns in Sixteenth Century Yorkshire.(1)

Abbots of Rievaulx
Name Dates Comments
William, first abbot of Rievaulx 1132-45 Read more
Maurice 1145-7 Read more
Aelred 1147-67 Read more
Roger - An Abbot Roger is included in some lists of Rievaulx’s abbots, but there is no evidence for such an abbot having presided over the abbey at this time.
Silvan (Sylvanus) 1167-88 (resigned) Read more
Ernald 1189-1199 (resigned) Read more
William (Punchard) 1199-1203 (died) King John appointed Abbot William to notify the other Yorkshire Cistercian abbots that he, the king, intended to found an abbey of the Order; in 1215 he founded Beaulieu, in Hampshire.
Geoffrey 1204-? Geoffrey was sent to arbitrate in a dispute between the Cistercian communities of Fountains and Byland.
Warin 1211-?  
Elias 1211-1215 (resigned) Elias had officiated as cellarer of Rievaulx and was appointed abbot in 1211. He resigned in 1215 and from 1217 presided as abbot of Rievaulx’s daughter-house, Revesby. (2)
Henry 1215-1216 (died) Henry had previously officiated as abbot of Rievaulx’s daughter-house at Warden. He died and was buried at Rufford Abbey in 1216.
William 1216-1223/4 (died) Before succeeding to the abbacy of Rievaulx, William had presided as abbot of Holm Cultrum and also of Melrose.
Roger II 1223/4-39 (resigned) Read more
Leo (Leonus) 1239-40 (died) Leo had been a monk of Melrose and abbot of Dundrennan and presided over the Rievaulx community for a short time before his death c. 1239-40.
Adam de Tillatei occurs 1240, 1265, 1266  
William occurs July 1268 Should perhaps be identified with William (de Ellerbeck), below
William (de Ellerbeck) professed obedience 1275; occurs 1280s Should perhaps be identified with the Abbot William named above
Thomas 1286-7  
Henry ?1301/2  
Robert 1302-1307/8 Possibly died at Margam Abbey, c. 1307/8, when conducting a visitation of the abbey. His grave slab is at Margam
Peter professed obedience 1308  
Henry occurs August 1308  
Thomas occurs 1314/1315  
Richard occurs June 1317  
William ?-1318 Should perhaps be identified with William de Ingleby, below.
William de Ingleby ?-1322 May be the same as Abbot William, above
William de Langton 1335-? In 1335 William served as commissioner to the bishop of Lincoln.
Richard 1349-?  
William ? 1361; occurs 1380  
John occurs 1380  
William ?-1409  
John ?-1417  
William Brymley ?-1419  
Henry Burton 1423-29 Henry had been a monk of Sawley Abbey. He was elected to the abbacy of Rievaulx in 1423 and presided until 1429.
William Spenser 1436-1449 (resigned)  
John Inkeley ?-1449  
William Spenser 1471 (re-elected) – 1487  
John Burton 1489 – 1508/9 Read more
William Helmsley 1513-28  
Edward Kirkby 1530-1533 (deposed) Read more
Roland Blyton 1533 (elected) – 1538 (resigned) Read more