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Jervaulx Abbey

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Jervaulx Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery and scheduled monument to the south of the River Ure, about one and a half miles (2.4 km) east of East Witton in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire.

An abbey was originally founded at Fors near the River Ure not far from Aysgarth further up the valley in 1145, but the community moved to a new site, Joreval, in 1156 after the site at Fors had proved to be unsustainable.

Jervaulx was suppressed in 1537, and its buildings were demolished in 1539. The ruined remains include part of the church, claustral buildings[a]Of, or pertaining to, a cloister.[1] and a watermill. The pulpitum screen was moved to Aysgarth Church. The monks at Jervaulx were the first producers of Wensleydale cheese.


Jervaulx Abbey originated from the Savigniac monastery founded at Fors near the River Ure in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire in 1145. Monks led by Peter de Quinciacus built a wooden monastery after they were given land at Fors by the Lord of Ravensworth, Akarius fitz Bardolf. By 1149 the monks had joined the Cistercian order and the monastery was placed in the care of Byland Abbey, from where nine more monks joined in 1150. Fors was abandoned in 1154 because the site was unable to support the community. Fors became Dale Grange, one of the abbey’s farming grangesMonastic granges were outlying landholdings held by monasteries independent of the manorial system. They could be of six known types: agrarian, bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle farms), horse studs, fisheries or industrial complexes. .[2][3]

East Witton

The community was re-established 12.5 miles (20.1 km) down the valley to the east, after the Earl of Richmond granted the monks a better site in 1156. The new site was on the south bank of the River Ure/Jore, from which the monks named their monastery, Joreval.[2][3] The abbey was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.[4]

By the second half of the 13th century the abbey had at least 16 cattle ranches in Wensleydale and the Forest of Richmond, possibly as many as 10,000 head of sheep and the rights to free warrening of rabbits in East Witton. The abbey also had industrial interests in iron-ore mining and smelting and the production of salt. In 1535 the abbey had a fulling mill at East Witton.[3] Jervaulx had 16 monks in 1380 and at the Dissolution in 1537 there were 25 or 26. Jervaulx was suppressed in 1537 after Abbot Sedbergh was arrested for involvement in the Pilgrimage of Grace, an attempt to reverse the religious and political changes of the Reformation.[3]

The abbey buildings were then stripped of anything of value and the church blown up with dynamite in 1537. Lancelot Harrison leased the estate for 21 years but in 1544 it was granted to the Earl of Lennox who held it until 1577. Surveys have indicated that the Lennoxes built a grand house using some of the standing abbey ruins, but the house was no longer in existence by 1627.[3] The crown held the estate from 1577 until 1603, when it was granted to the Bruce family; by 1627 it had been subdivided and rented out. In 1804 the old hall at Jervaulx was converted into an occasional residence and administrative centre for the Ailesbury Estates. Between 1805 and 1807 the abbey ruins were cleared and exposed and became a feature of a designed landscape laid out over the former abbey grounds and beyond.[3]


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Ground plan of the Abbey
Wikimedia Commons

The standing ruins of the abbey buildings are Grade I listedStructure of particular architectural and/or historic interest deserving of special protection. and the site is a scheduled ancient monument. Jervaulx had the usual layout of a Cistercian monastery. The church, orientated east to west, formed the the north range of the cloisterCovered walkway usually set out in the form of a square., the west side contained accommodation for lay brothers and domestic and administrative offices, cellars and stores. The east side contained the chapter house and parlour, the south range kitchens and monks’ refectory and the monks’ dormitory was south of the chapter house.
Surrounding the cloister, in the inner court, other buildings included the infirmary, abbot’s lodgings, a meat kitchen and guest lodgings.[5]

The abbey church was destroyed in 1537, but the south western corner of the naveCentral part of a church, used by the laiety. survives. The plan of the church is marked by low walls of reused decorated stonework from the early 19th century, when the site was cleared. A wall of the monks’ dormitory, the meat kitchen and parts of the infirmary stand to their full height, and details of the windows and internal features such as fireplaces, roof and floor supports are still visible.[5]


a Of, or pertaining to, a cloister.[1]