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Arable and pastoral land

(11/15)

Kirkstall Abbey Granges, in the vicinity of Leeds
[after B. Sitch, Kirkstall Abbey (Leeds, 2000), p. 19]
© Cistercians in Yorkshire
<click to enlarge>
[after B. Sitch, Kirkstall Abbey (Leeds, 2000), p. 19]

At the heart of the Cistercians’ land-economy was the creation of granges. These were agricultural centres managed by the lay-brothers, from which the land was cultivated and harvested, and livestock reared. Like most of the other Northern houses, Kirkstall’s establishment of granges was begun within twenty years of the abbey’s foundation.(15) By 1288 the community had twenty-five granges, although not all of these would have been active at the same time.(16) Granges were frequently the centre of trouble Kirkstall’s granges were no exception. When Abbot Lambert dispossessed the locals of Accrington in the late twelfth century, the men retaliated by killing three of the lay-brothers and destroying the monks’ grange there. At Barnoldswick, Peter, the granger cut off the ear of one of the serving boys who had stolen two loaves of bread; Adam, the granger of Micklethwaite, and others were accused of murder.

Most of Kirkstall’s granges lay in the Craven depression. The soil here was rather thin and sandy, and not best suited to cultivation, but the surrounding limestone uplands were ideal for grazing.(17) The Yorkshire Cistercians were renowned for their sheep farming and the Kirkstall community required extensive pastoral lands. It was not only sheep that were kept, and surviving charters also mention cows, goats, horses, oxen for ploughing, pigs and deer.(18) The community reared horses at Riston, in the trough of Bowland.(19) Donors might grant the monks lands or grazing rights, and their charters often stipulated precisely how many animals they could pasture, to prevent over-grazing. For example, in Riddleston and Morton the community was granted grazing rights for two hundred sheep.(20) The monks had common pasture for six hundred sheep around Harewood. Two hundred of these were to be drawn from the sheep house at Wike and the rest from Bardsey, some two miles away. The three hundred sheep folded at Cookridge grazed at Bramhope, and those at Micklethwaite grange were sometimes folded at Clifford, which lay about ten miles away.(21) It is grants such as these that shed light on the size and movement of the monks’ flocks.

 
Henry de Lacy’s original grant to the abbey included a vaccary called Brackenley, in Roundhay.
[Coucher Book, p. xi.]

[Read more about sheep-farming]

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