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Jervaulx Abbey in East Witton near the city of Ripon, was one of the great Cistercian abbeys of Yorkshire, England, dedicated to St. Mary in 1156. It is a Grade I listed building.[2]

Jervaulx Abbey, geograph.jpg
Jervaulx Abbey ruins
Jervaulx Abbey is located in North Yorkshire
Jervaulx Abbey
Location within North Yorkshire
Monastery information
OrderSavigniac, Cistercian
Mother houseByland Abbey
Dedicated toSt Mary
Controlled churchesAysgarth, Ainderby Steeple, East Witton, West Witton[1]
Founder(s)Akarius fitz Bardolph
LocationEast Witton, North Yorkshire, England
Coordinates54°16′1″N 1°44′17″W / 54.26694°N 1.73806°W / 54.26694; -1.73806Coordinates: 54°16′1″N 1°44′17″W / 54.26694°N 1.73806°W / 54.26694; -1.73806
Grid referenceSE173855
Visible remainsSubstantial
Public accessYes. Privately owned.

The place-name Jervaulx is first attested in 1145, where it appears as Jorvalle. The name means 'the Ure valley', in French, and is perhaps a translation of the English 'Ure-dale',[3] aka Yoredale. The valley is now called Wensleydale.



Initially a Savigniac foundation out of Normandy, the abbey was later taken over by the Cistercian order from Burgundy and responsibility for it was taken by Byland Abbey. Founded in 1145 at Fors near Aysgarth, it was moved ten years later to a site a few miles away on the banks of the River Ure. In 1145, in the reign of King Stephen, Akarius Fitz Bardolph who was Lord of Ravensworth, gave Peter de Quinciano, a monk from Savigny, land at Fors and Worton, in Wensleydale to build a monastery of their order. The monastery there was successively called the Abbey of Fors, Jervaulx, and Charity. Grange, 5 miles (8 km) west-north-west of Aysgarth, a hamlet in the township of Low Abbotside, in the parish of Aysgarth is the original site of Fors Abbey. After it was abandoned it was known by the name of Dale Grange and now by that of the Grange alone.[4]

Serlo, then Abbot of Savigny, disapproved of the foundation, as it had been made without his knowledge and consent. He refused to supply it with monks from his abbey because of the great difficulties experienced by those he had previously sent into England. He therefore, in a general chapter, proposed that it should be transferred to the Abbey of Belland (Byland) which was closer and would be able to lend the necessary assistance required by the new foundation. Monks were sent from Byland and after undergoing great hardships because of the meagreness of their endowment and sterility of their lands, Conan, son to Alan, 1st Earl of Richmond, greatly increased their revenues and, in 1156, removed their monastery to a better location in East Witton, the present situation.[5] Here the monks erected a new church and monastery, which, like most of the Cistercian order, was dedicated to St Mary. At the height of its prosperity the abbey owned half of the valley and was renowned for breeding horses, a tradition that remains in Middleham to the present day. It was also the original home of Wensleydale cheese.[6] In 1279 Abbot Philip of Jervaulx was murdered by one of his monks.[7] His successor, Abbot Thomas, was initially accused of the crime, but a jury later determined that he was not to blame, and another monk fled under outlawry.[8]

According to John Speed, at the dissolution it was valued at £455 10s. 5d. The last abbot, Adam Sedbergh, joined the Pilgrimage of Grace, and suffered death by hanging at Tyburn in June 1537, when the monastic property was forfeited to the king.[9]

Post ReformationEdit

The pulpitum screen with part of the stalls can now be seen at St Andrew's Church, Aysgarth, while a window was reused at St. Gregory's parish church in Bedale.[10]

As the monasteries kept people employed and from starving, the regional disturbances were occasioned by desperation, and since the monastic system was not diocesan or provincial to make a swift transition within the nationalized episcopal system, there was no immediate resolution to tenant sufferings. Jervaulx, Byland, and other Cistercian houses were as much attached to Savigny and Citeaux Abbey in the Duchy of Burgundy, as Richmondshire and the Honour of Richmond generally were to the Duchy of Brittany, both establishments based in France but cut off due to the Hundred Years' War and especially after the loss of the Pale of Calais.

The standing remains of the abbey include part of the church and claustral buildings, as well as a watermill. The lordship of East Witton, with the site of the abbey, was granted by Henry VIII to Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox, and Margaret, his wife, the king's niece, and after passing through various hands, the property came into the possession of the Bruce family, one of whom was created Earl of Ailesbury in 1805. The estate was purchased from the trustees of Ernest Brudenell-Bruce, 3rd Marquess of Ailesbury, in 1887, by S. Cunliffe Lister, Esq. of Swinton Park, for £310,000.[11] It was purchased by Major and Mrs W V Burdon in 1971. Their youngest son, Ian, now runs the abbey, the ruins of which are open to the public.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "GENUKI: East Witton Parish information from Bulmers' 1890". Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  2. ^ Historic England. "Abbey Ruins (1130961)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  3. ^ Eilert Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names, p.268.
  4. ^ "The Dales :: Fors Abbey-Askrigg". Archived from the original on 10 November 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  5. ^ "GENUKI: Jervaulx Abbey History". Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  6. ^ "A brief history of the rise and fall of Jervaulx Abbey". Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  7. ^ "Cistercian Abbeys: Jervaulx". Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  8. ^ "Isle of Albion: Jervaulx Abbey Picture Gallery". Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  9. ^ "Houses of Cistercian monks - Jervaulx". British History Online. Retrieved 23 June 2009.
  10. ^ Walker, Andy (31 July 2008). "Old church windows smashed by vandals". The Northern Echo. p. 31. ISSN 2043-0442.
  11. ^ "Yorkshire history Abbeys". Retrieved 23 June 2009.

External linksEdit