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Rievaulx Abbey: Location

Rievaulx Abbey: History
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Rievaulx Abbey: Lands

Rievaulx Abbey: People

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

(13/15)

Economic assets
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
<click to enlarge>
Economic assets

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) such as those at Flotmanby and Mulethorpe.
Another important resource was salt. This was vital for preserving food, but was also needed for the manufacture of cheese, to tan leather, cure shoes and even to solder pipes.(40) The monks did not, however, mine salt but collected it through evaporation at salt pans.

Mills

Detail of plan of Derbyshire lands of Roche abbey, showing a water mill
© Public Record Office
<click to enlarge>
Detail of plan of Derbyshire lands of Roche
                    abbey, showing a water mill

The Cistercian Order prohibited its abbeys to receive revenues from mills, since this ran counter to its ideal that the monks should live by the sweat of their own brows and not that of others. Whilst communities could have mills for their own use, they were not to profit from these by collecting ‘multure’, the tax paid by those who were compelled to use the mill to grind their corn. Rievaulx certainly owned mills – an early record is the bishop of Durham’s grant of a mill in Crosby in 1152; a later example is a mill in Fryton, called ‘Poketo’, which was given to the community in 1222 by Hugh de Flammeville and was later leased to the nearby canons of Newburgh for the yearly rent of two marks.(41) Although it is nowhere explicit, it is likely that in some cases these mills did not simply serve the monks but provided the Rievaulx community with income.(42) The monks of Roche, near Maltby, had a windmill in Todwick, where locals had to pay a sum of money (multure) to grind their corn. This was clearly the cause of considerable resentment and in 1329, in a show of hostility, a group of embittered locals broke the abbey’s windmill here.

Fishing rights

Fish ponds (stews) within the abbey precinct were generally used for storage rather than for breeding.
[Williams, Cistercians, p. 365]

Fish was an important part of the monastic diet, especially on feast days and festive periods such as Advent and Lent, when the use of animal fat, eggs, milk and milk products was either prohibited or restricted.

Detail of plan of Derbyshire lands of Roche abbey, showing the river
© Public Record Office
<click to enlarge>
Detail of plan of Derbyshire lands of Roche
                    abbey, showing the river

Fisheries were therefore an extremely valuable possession. In the late twelfth century Rievaulx acquired a number of these along the River Tees at places such as Newsham, Girsby and Normanby, and also at Scarborough, on the Yorkshire coast.(43) A grant of fishing rights might include permission to fish in the area, free movement of passage for the community’s boats, the right to build a fishpond or to take stones and turf for the upkeep and repair of the fisheries – such was the case at Newsham, near Yarm. It might also include a house where the lay-brothers could stay, and where fish could be stored, dried and salted.(44) The abbey’s fishery at Girsby was at the centre of a dispute in 1302, when the abbot of Rievaulx accused John Conyers and other of breaking his weir here and taking his nets.(45)

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