Griff medieval settlement and Cistercian monastic grange, 400m west of Griff Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019344

Date first listed: 16-Jan-1959

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Jul-2000


Ordnance survey map of Griff medieval settlement and Cistercian monastic grange, 400m west of Griff Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Ryedale (District Authority)

Parish: Rievaulx


National Grid Reference: SE 58402 83776


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the East Yorkshire sub-Province of the Central Province, an area characterised by marked local terrain variations: from the North York Moors, to the Tabular Hills and Howardian Hills, to the Vale of Pickering and the chalk Wolds, to the Hull Valley and the silt lands of the Humber and Holderness. The sub-Province has the relatively low density of dispersed settlements which marks the Central Province, but this uniformity masks strong settlement contrasts. Some regions were typified by low density dispersed settlement in the Middle Ages, whereas others have achieved a similar pattern through extensive depopulation of medieval villages. The Tabular Hills local region is a limestone plateau on the southern fringe of the North York Moors. Where it dips beneath the younger, softer deposits of the Vale of Pickering, varied soils and assured water supplies have encouraged a distinctive chain of villages and hamlets along the break of slope. Nevertheless nucleations are also found high on the plateau and in the deep valleys between the moors and the limestone.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, generally sited at the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow and woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but where they survive as earthworks, their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and paddocks. In the Central Province of England, villages were one of the most distinctive aspects of medieval life, and their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community, independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution. This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercians but was soon imitated by other orders. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular farms, although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of its buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to be much better documented than their secular counterparts. Many granges retained small areas of peasant settlement which provided some of the agricultural labour on the farm. The earthworks at Griff represents such an area of settlement including the earthworks of a number of buildings and other structures together with additional buried remains such as rubbish pits, yard surfaces, and spreads of deposits such as smithing wastes which will all add to the understanding of medieval village life, but will not necessarily show as upstanding earthworks. The small quarry included within the monument is also considered to be medieval in date. It is important in its own right as its earthworks preserve a typical working layout of a medieval quarry complete with a dressing floor. This provides a sample of the medieval technology which also resulted in the more extensive quarries in Quarry Bank Wood and further up Rye Dale.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of a medieval settlement that formed part of a grange (or farm), which was under the direct control of the Cistercian Abbey of Rievaulx. It is located on the north side of the steeply cut valley of the River Rye, 600m south east of Rievaulx Abbey. Griff is briefly mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was divided equally between the king and Count Mortain, his half brother. The king's land was let to Grimr who had arable land for one plough team. The settlement was granted along with other lands by Walter d'Espec at the foundation of Rievaulx Abbey in 1131. It is not known if the original peasant settlement had already been abandoned by this time, or was displaced by the abbey, or absorbed with its inhabitants working the land for the abbey. There is a tradition that Griff was occupied by lay brothers employed during the construction of the abbey buildings. By the time of Abbot Ailred (1147-1167), Griff was operated as a grange. Further confirmation of its status comes from the 1301 Lay Subsidy, a tax levied to support Edward I's military campaigns, where Griff was listed as one of Rievaulx's granges and assessed at 61 shillings and 4 pence. Although thought to have originally been predominantly an arable grange, Griff is also thought to have acted as a bercarie (a sheep farm), as it was linked via a bridge over the River Rye to the abbey's important sheep house at Sproxton to the south east. By the Dissolution in 1539, the grange was still farmed directly by the abbey rather than being leased to a tenant. The farm covered 490 acres divided between 24 closes and open fields of which 96 acres were arable, 244 acres pasture, and 50 acres meadow all valued at 10 pounds, 11 shillings and 10 pence, which included the 12 pence estimated value of the `edifices and barns' at the grange. Griff was then granted to Thomas Manners, Earl of Rutland along with the site of the abbey and many other Rievaulx landholdings. The earthworks at Griff are complex and only a small proportion are shown on the 1:10,000 map. These are thought to represent the remains of the original settlement along with later remains of buildings forming part of the monastic grange. The administrative core of the grange is traditionally thought to have been to the east and to have developed into the modern Griff Farm in the years following the Dissolution. The feature shown on the 1:10,000 map on the far east side of the monument is a stoney boundary bank topping a lynchet which is typically over 1m high on the eastern side, but only up to 0.5m high on the western side. At the south end of the lynchet, the bank turns south west, also shown on the 1:10,000 map. Here it forms the north eastern and south eastern footings of a building approximately 23m by 7m with two pairs of opposed entrances through its north west and south east walls. The remains of a second building about 7m by 7m, also incorporating the bank as its south eastern wall lies 5m further along. The bank continues south west, to reach the south east corner of a small quarry, where it can be seen as the footings of a drystone wall. The quarry is about 35m across and over 2m deep in places. It is considered to be medieval in date. Two main working faces can be identified, both on the east side, each with a small spoil heap immediately to the west. Immediately to the west of these, in the base of the quarry there is an open area with a much bigger spoil heap filling the north western part of the quarry. The open area would have been a dressing floor where the large stone blocks freed from the face were reduced to more portable sizes. Passing immediately to the west of the quarry, running north-south, there is a hollow way. This track has a substantial stoney bank to its west which is marked on the 1:10,000 map. Just beyond where this bank turns north west and another lower bank continues northwards, also marked on the map, the hollow way turns north eastwards. Centred 50m to the north of the quarry, on the eastern side of the hollow way there is a open area 25m by 15m interpreted as a former yard with the earthworks of buildings on the north, east and south east sides. On the north side the building is approximately 13m by 5m, split into two rooms with an eastern room 5m by 5m. On the east side there is a building some 10m by 8m to the north of a second building 9m by 5m which appears to partly overlie the remains of another building some 7m by 4m set at an angle on the south east side of the yard. Of these three buildings, the northern one has been cut through at a later date by a re-routing of the hollow way which cuts diagonally across the yard. This continues to the NNE and is shown on the 1:10,000 map as a break of slope following a course shaped like an elongated `S'. Possibly at the same time, the course of the earlier hollow way was blocked with the insertion of two low banks across its route. Behind the northern building there is a triangular area which extends 20m northwards, defined by low banks and the courses of the two hollow ways. On the far side of this there are the slight earthwork remains of a structure 8m by 6m which was probably either a timber outbuilding or a small enclosure. Between the two buildings on the eastern side of the yard there is a narrow passageway leading to another yard which is now a hollowed area 15m by 20m. This is bound to the south by a low bank, beyond which there is a further hollowed area also interpreted as a yard. To the east there are the earthworks of a range of buildings shown on the 1:10,000 map as a NNW to SSE mound just over 60m long. These substantial earthworks stand up to 1m high and are of a continuous range of buildings 6m-8m wide, extending for just over 30m north-south, divided irregularly into four rooms. To the north, on the same line, there is an area of lower earthworks, not considered to be building remains, which extend for another 20m. To their east there are the earthworks of another building 15m by 6m divided into two cells with a larger northern room. To the south of the 30m long range there is an enclosure 13m by 19m defined by a 0.3m high bank which forms the eastern side of the southernmost yard. On the eastern side of this yard, partly obscured by spoil from the quarry to the south, there are the slight earthworks of what is interpreted as a two-roomed timber building 4m wide and at least 8m long. The area between the buildings and the bank-topped lynchet to the east is divided up into six irregular smaller areas by low banks and breaks of slope. These are interpreted as former crofts, yards and gardening areas. The smallest extends eastwards from the north end of the long building range and from the south end of the smaller building to the north. This enclosure, which is up to about 25m east-west and 15m north-south, is defined by a bank up to 0.5m high and includes the earthworks of a structure 5m across interpreted as a kiln or oven. Within the area of the monument, to the north and west of the area of earthworks shown on the 1:10,000 map, there are additional low banks dividing the area up into further enclosures. These banks are generally slighter and the enclosures, interpreted as paddocks, are typically larger. However they also include a number of small structures typically 5m across interpreted as timber outbuildings. The remains of a much more substantial stone building 7m by 11m also lies in this area of larger enclosures, towards the north west corner of the monument. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern fences, stiles, gates, and telegraph poles, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 32673

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Burton, J, 'Citeaux' in Estates and economy of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire, , Vol. 1-2, (1998), 29-93
Pacitto, A, 'History of Helmsley, Rievaulx and District' in Two Monastic Granges, (1963), 438-9

End of official listing