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Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley » 05 Apr 2016, 04:31


[I copied this text from the leodis/leeds/kirkstall site as it was quicker than going to the library to copy the original from Whitaker’s history of the deanery of Craven. Apologies for this heinous crime. SCG]

Serlo de Percy was one of the original lay brothers who accompanied the monks from Fountains Abbey who were sent to found the abbey at Barnoldswick. He is an interesting man in himself and later became Abbot at Whitby. He recounted the story of the failed venture in Barnoldswick to the Abbot of Kirkstall. Hugh de Kirkstall gives us a much fuller version of events....

“Now there was in those days in the province of York a certain man of great possessions, and among the great folk of the kingdom most notable and most noteworthy, by name Henry de Lacy; and it fell out that he was sick for many days. The man grown penitent under the scourge of God, made a Vow to the Lord that he would build an abbey of the Cistercian order in honour of the glorious Virgin Mary and Mother of God, Mary.
He recovered and not unmindful of his vow straightaway caused the abbot of Fountains to be summoned to him, laid before him his intention described his vow and assigned to him by donation solemnly made a certain vill by name Barnoldswick with its appurtenances for the construction of an abbey, and Confirmed the same by his charter.

Now the said vill belonged to the fee of Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, and the said Henry had held it by rendering to the Earl annually five marks and one hawk a year old, though for many years previous to this time he had ceased payment. The abbot took the gift offered from the hand of the man, not knowing the matter to be the subject of dispute, and sending brethren built humble offices according to the form of the order, and called the place by a new name ‘the Mount of St. Mary.’
So, the offices arranged according to custom, in the year of the Incarnation of our Lord one thousand one hundred and forty-seven, there was ordained abbot of the same place the venerable man the lord Alexander, prior of Fountains, who on that very day, namely, May 19th, was despatched from the abbey of Fountains with twelve monks and too lay brothers to the new abbey, which was called the Mount of Saint Mary.
At that time the Archbishop of York was Henry Murdac, of good memory, once abbot of Fountains, who with episcopal authority granted and confirmed the place itself with its appurtenances and the church of the same place free and quit and delivered of every claim to the monks there serving God.
Moreover there was a church at Barnoldswick , very ancient and founded long before, with four parochial vills, to wit Marton and another Marton, Bracewell and Stock besides the vill of Barnoldswick and two small vills appertaining, Elfwynetrop to wit, and Brogden of which the said monks were by this time in possession, after the removal of the inhabitants. On feast days the parishioners met at the church with the priest and clerks according to custom, and became a nuisance to the monastery and the brethren there residing.
Desiring therefore to provide for the peace and quiet of the monks, the abbot it may be with some want of consideration, pulled the church down to its foundations, in the face of the protests of clerks and parishioners. And so no small controversy arose concerning such an unusual and highhanded proceeding.
For the clerk who was rector and parson of the church, bearing this destruction hardly, brought the abbot and monks into court before the metropolitan ; when at length the parties appeared before the archbishop, thereupon appeal was made thence to the Apostolic See. And there in the presence of the Lord Pope the matter was brought to an issue in favour of the monks, and silence laid upon the opposing party, for the reason that it appeared a pious thing and worthy of favour, that a church should fall provided an abbey be constructed in its stead, so that the less good should yield to the greater, and that the case be gained by that party which would bring forth richer fruits of piety.

So, peace restored and litigation laid to rest, the brethren applied themselves to the profit of the monastery in greater quiet yet even so were they troubled by a double discomfort, for freebooters, it being time of war, would often carry off their effects, and a plague of rains continuing well nigh all the year over whelmed their crops For six years and more they remained there in unbroken poverty and lack of food and clothing.
Perceiving the situation of their settlement to be little fit for building a monastery, the abbot began to turn over in his mind the possibility of a change of site and transference of the monastery elsewhere.”

This text from Whitaker was the place where I got my first clue about Elfwynthrop. [There are various spellings] It is pretty good evidence as far as the chronology and facts go as it came from Serlo who was actually there at the time. However, my opinion is that what Serlo is describing and what Hugh is recounting, was a defeat for the Cistercians who were not used to being rejected. There can be little doubt that there is a possibility that Hugh is putting a gloss on the evidence. He is implying that the retreat from Barnoldswick was a result of natural disadvantages. Whitaker was in little doubt from his researches that the whole episode was badly managed. Hugh himself says that Brogden was in the monk’s possession ‘after removal of the inhabitants’. Then there was the episode of the destruction of the existing church which he describes as ‘very ancient and founded long before’. Further, he talks about the church being ‘pulled down to the foundations’. This suggests to me that it may have been a stone structure. If so, it was very important as stone building dating back centuries before the Conquest [which is what is suggested here] are very rare.

When the monks left for Kirkstall they retained Barnoldswick and its appurtenances as a grange, a detached property managed for the profit of the mother house. This was the status of Barnoldswick until c.1539 when the commissioners sent out by Henry VIII seized the assets of Kirkstall, dissolved the foundation and sold the assets off.

There are lots of good sites on the web that can be trawled for related information. Here are some good keywords for a search; Cistercian. Ingthorpe Grange. Serlo. Kirkstall. I sent an application in to ‘Time Team’ last month asking them to consider coming and finding our church…….

SCG/09 May
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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