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Mills, fisheries, turbaries, ponds, mineral rights, rights of passage

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A distant view of Kirkstall Abbey from the south west. Oil painting by Joseph Rhodes (1782-1855). The scene in the foreground may represent the Bramley Fall quarries
© Abbey House Museum
<click to enlarge>

A distant view of Kirkstall Abbey from the south west. Oil painting by Joseph Rhodes (1782-1855). The scene in the foreground may represent the Bramley Fall quarries© Abbey House Museum<click to enlarge>

Mills, fisheries, turbaries, ponds, mineral rights, rights of passage
Cistercian monks fully exploited their environment, and required a variety of holdings to support a self-sufficient community. These included mills, fisheries, mining rights, and turbaries – the right to cut turf. The monks of Kirkstall shared the right to cut turf at Bessacar with Peter of Bessacar. To ensure that there was sufficient peat for both parties, an agreement was drawn up in 1187 which stipulated that neither Peter nor the monks should give away or sell any of the peat there, but simply remove what they required for themselves. (26)

The Cistercian Order prohibited its abbeys from receiving revenues from mills, since this undermined the ideal that monks should live by the sweat of their own brows and not that of others. Communities could, however, have mills for their own use, but were not to profit from these by collecting ‘multure’, the tax demanded from those who were obliged to grind their corn at the mill. This prohibition was not always observed and it was sometimes difficult to uphold if the benefactor granted land with a mill included. Indeed, Kirkstall acquired a mill at Mickley in the twelfth century from Robert le Peitevin. The Bramhope family gave the community the village mill at Bramhope, which the monks leased to St Leonard’s Hospital, York, in 1274, for 40s p.a.(27)

In 1288 one of Kirkstall’s mills was used to crush oak bar, to tan leather.
[Bond, ‘Water management’, p. 114.]

Most monastic mills were powered by water and used to grind grain; others were driven by horsepower. There are remains of a mill within Kirkstall’s precinct. (28)

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