Jervaulx Cistercian Abbey, site of post-Dissolution grand house and gardens and World War II storage structures


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Richmondshire (District Authority)
East Witton
National Grid Reference:
SE 17247 85603

Reasons for Designation

From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597 to the reign of Henry VIII, monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in the British Isles. Settlements of religious communities, including monasteries, were built to house communities of monks, canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers, living a common life of religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. It is estimated from documentary evidence that over 700 monasteries were founded in England. These ranged in size from major communities with several hundred members to tiny establishments with a handful of brethren. They belonged to a wide variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy. As a result, they vary considerably in the detail of their appearance and layout, although all possess the basic elements of church, domestic accommodation for the community, and work buildings. Monasteries were inextricably woven into the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship, learning and charity, but also, because of the vast landholdings of some orders, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. They were established in all parts of England, some in towns and others in the remotest of areas. Many monasteries acted as the foci of wide networks including parish churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages. Some 75 of these religious houses belonged to the Cistercian order founded by St Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century. The Cistercians - or `white monks', on account of their undyed habits - led a harsher life than earlier monastic orders, believing in the virtue of a life of austerity, prayer and manual labour. Seeking seclusion, they founded their houses in wild and remote areas where they undertook major land improvement projects. Their communities were often very large and included many lay brethren who acted as ploughmen, dairymen, shepherds, carpenters and masons. The Cistercians' skills as farmers eventually made the order one of the richest and most influential. They were especially successful in the rural north of England where they concentrated on sheep farming. The Cistercians made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life and all of their monasteries which exhibit significant surviving archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Following the Dissolution of the monasteries it was common for surviving remains to be partly reused by their new owners. High status houses built in the post-Dissolution period comprise a distinctive group of buildings which differ in form, function, design and architectural style from country houses of both earlier and later date. They are the products of a particular historical period in which a newly-emerged Protestant elite of lawyers, courtiers, diplomats and other officials, mostly with close contacts at court, competed with each other to demonstrate wealth, taste and loyalty to the sovereign, often overstretching themselves financially. Many designs and stylistic details were copied from Continental pattern-books, particularly those published in the 1560s on French, Italian and Flemish models. Symmetry in both plan and elevation was an overriding principle, often carried to extremes in the Elizabethan architectural `devices' in which geometric forms were employed to express religious and philosophical ideas. This complex network of influences resulted in liberal and idiosyncratic combinations of architectural styles which contrasted with the adoption of the architecture of the Italian Renaissance, later in the 17th century. The grand house also had a grand garden, the most characteristic feature being a core of regular or geometric layout, typically located and orientated in relation to the major residences of which they formed the settings. Garden designs are numerous and varied and include a number of recognisable components such as flat-topped banks or terraces, walkways, waterways, ponds and multi-walled enclosures. Other features fashionable across the period include: mounds used as vantage points for views and vistas, walled closes of stone or brick, fountains, statuary and garden buildings such as summerhouses and pavilions. In addition to formal geometric planting arrangements some areas were set aside as romantic wildernesses. Formal gardens were created throughout the period as a routine accompaniment of the country seats of the landed elite. The grand house and gardens have a particular importance reflecting the social expectations and aspirations of the period. They represent a significant and illuminating aspect of the architectural and artistic tastes of the time and provide an insight into politics, patronage and economics in the early post-medieval period. All examples with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance. By the 19th century fashion had changed and the regular formality of gardens had given way to the more natural approach of the Picturesque Movement. Although design changed some themes remained consistent such as the careful positioning of garden structures to afford specific views and vistas. Similar to earlier grand houses the country house and associated landscape of the 19th century also reflected the status and position of their owners. Icehouses were underground structures designed specifically to store ice, usually removed in winter from ponds and used in the summer for preserving food and cooling drinks. They were initially built only by the upper level of society, but by the end of the 18th century they were commonplace and can be regarded as a significant component of local distinctiveness and character. Icehouses only became obsolete after the introduction of domestic refrigerators in the early 20th century. During World War II munitions and stores were held throughout the country and remains of these are extremely rare given their temporary nature, thus the features at Jervaulx offer important insight into the development of munitions storage during this period. Taken together the surviving remains at Jervaulx demonstrate the changing use of the land over at least 1000 years. The monastic remains, both ruined buildings and buried features within the wider precinct survive particularly well. As well as the monastic remains the monument preserves important evidence of earlier agricultural activities and demonstrates the changes in taste, fashion and social attitudes of the provincial elites from the post-medieval period to the present day.


The monument includes standing ruins, earthwork and buried remains of the Cistercian Abbey of Jervaulx. These include the core abbey buildings and the majority of the outer precinct in which remains of fishponds, water management features and further monastic structures survive. Also included in the monument are remains of pre-monastic agricultural activity, the site of a 16th century grand house with associated gardens, a 19th century icehouse and designed landscape features, and World War II ammunition stores. The monument is located on the southern side of Wensleydale 5km south east of Middleham some 200m south of the River Ure. It is situated on raised, level ground between the southern slope of the dale and the floodplain of the Ure. To the north of the abbey ruins there is a natural hill known as Mark Hill and to the east heavily undulating land formed by glacial action and known as Wind Hills. Jervaulx Abbey was originally founded at Fors, 20km further west in Wensleydale by a community of Savigniac monks who by 1149 had become members of the Cistercian order. The site at Fors proved unsuitable and was abandoned in 1154 and two years later the community was re-established at the current site on land donated by Conan son of Alan Earl of Brittany and Richmond. Few of the abbey's own records survive but it is known that by the second half of the 13th century the abbey had substantial economic interests in the region. These included at least 16 cattle ranches in Wensleydale and the Forest of Richmond, large flocks of sheep (possibly as many as 10,000 head) and the rights to free warrening of rabbits in East Witton. The abbey also had interests in the mining and smelting of iron ore and in the production of salt. In 1307 it was granted the right to hold a weekly market and a twice-yearly fair at East Witton and in 1535 had a fulling mill at East Witton. In 1380 there were 16 monks at Jervaulx and at the Dissolution in 1537 there were 25 or 26. Jervaulx Abbey was suppressed in 1537 after the then Abbot, Sedbergh, was arrested for involvement in the ill-fated Pilgrimage of Grace, which had attempted to reverse the religious and political changes of the Reformation. Following the Dissolution the buildings were stripped of anything of value and the church blown up. The estate was then leased to Lancelot Harrison for 21 years and in 1544 was granted to the Earl of Lennox who held it until the death of his wife in 1577. Recent survey work has indicated that during the tenure of the Lennoxes a grand house and ornate gardens were built partly into some of the standing abbey ruins. However this house had a short life span and was no longer in existence by 1627. After 1577 the crown held the estate until 1603. The estate was then granted to the Bruce family, who later received the title of the Earldom of Ailesbury. Jervaulx seems to have been one of the Bruce family's lesser estates and a map dated 1627 shows that it was subdivided into a number of separate parcels of land and rented out. This seems to have remained the case until the early 19th century. In 1804 the old hall at Jervaulx was converted to be an occasional residence and administrative centre for the Ailesbury estates in west Yorkshire. In the years between 1805 and 1807 the abbey ruins were systematically cleared and exposed and, following the fashion of the time, became a central feature of a designed landscape laid out over the former abbey precinct and beyond. The earliest remains currently identified in the monument are of pre-monastic agricultural activities. Earthwork remains of field boundaries and cultivation terraces have been identified in the western area of the monument and on Mark Hill. Two tracks pre-dating the abbey survive as terraces extending east to west across the south eastern part of the monument adjacent to the monastic precinct boundary. These are thought to be the remains of the early route from Masham to Middleham. Remains of a building, possibly a dwelling, have been identified 30m south east of the monastic reservoir. The monument is dominated by the standing ruins of the main abbey buildings some of which survive to their original height. The ruins are Listed Grade I. The remains demonstrate that Jervaulx followed the usual layout of a monastic house, with an east to west orientated church forming the north range of a four-sided complex known as the cloister, the remaining sides containing accommodation for lay and monastic brethren, and domestic and administrative functions. The east cloister range contained the chapter house and parlour, the south range kitchens and refectory and the west side cellars and stores. On the first floor of the east and west sides of the cloister, and projecting to the south, were the dormitories for the monks and lay brothers respectively. Surrounding the cloister, in an area known as the inner court, was a further range of buildings essential for the economic and social functions of the abbey. These included an infirmary, abbots lodgings and a meat kitchen, all located to the south east of the cloister and guest lodgings and lay brothers infirmary which lay to the west of the cloister. The abbey church was comprehensibly destroyed in 1537 and only the south western corner of the nave survives to any height. The remainder of the plan of the church is however clearly demonstrated by low walls made up of reused decorated stonework which was piled up in the early 19th century as part of the clearance work. The south western wall of the monks dormitory, the meat kitchen and parts of the infirmary complex still stand to their full medieval height. In these structures the scale and detail of the windows and internal features such as fireplaces and roof and floor supports can be clearly seen. The remainder of the abbey ruins generally only survive to ground floor level. Throughout the ruins there is evidence of alterations and rebuilding that took place over the four centuries that the abbey was in use and of the modifications that took place as part of the 19th century landscaping. Beyond the inner court lay the outer precinct which contained structures necessary for the wider economic functions of the abbey such as gardens, a bake house, workshops, smithies, stables and stores. The precinct was defined by a boundary which is identifiable along almost its entire course save the north western corner. On the western and southern sides its line is followed by the modern A168 road, it then crosses the field south of Abbey Hill House and then extends northwards across Jervaulx Park to rise up over the northern side of Mark Hill. From here the precinct boundary extends west along the top of slope which extends down to the river flood plain to the north. In the north western corner of the precinct the line of the boundary has been disturbed by the construction of Jervaulx Hall and its survival is currently unknown. For most of its length the precinct boundary survives as an earthen bank which in places measures up to 10m in width and 1m in height. Along the northern stretch on Mark Hill and in the south eastern corner, south of Abbey Hill House, there are stone footings for a precinct wall visible in the ground surface. Although the original form of the boundary is currently unknown, in common with similar monastic houses elsewhere it is likely to have been a substantial wall or fence. This served to secure the monastic precinct but also clearly demonstrated the size and prestige of the abbey. Remains of at least nine monastic buildings have been identified within the outer precinct. These include three building platforms located on terraces cut into the rising ground in the western half of the precinct to the south of the building known as The Old Gatehouse but shown as `The Monastery' on the Ordnance Survey Map. There are medieval ruins incorporated into The Old Gatehouse, but it is thought that the bulk of the medieval stonework was added to an existing ruin in the 19th century to create a landscape feature. The building is unlikely to have been a medieval gatehouse as it is in an inappropriate position although its original nature and function is currently unclear. The Old Gatehouse is a Listed Building Grade I and parts of it are in domestic occupation. Although no evidence of gatehouses has yet been identified, the monastic road pattern suggests that the main entrance and gatehouse were located near the current entrance to Jervaulx Hall. There were likely to have been other entrances in the south east corner of the precinct south of Abbey Hill House and in the north east corner near the icehouse. In common with other monastic houses the abbey was served by a complex water management system. The water supply to the abbey complex was provided from a reservoir located in the south west corner of the precinct. This was created by building a dam across a small natural valley. The dam still survives as a substantial earthwork 80m long, 18m wide and 3m in height. Water was fed to the inner court where it ran through a stone lined conduit which passed the kitchens and ran below both the lay brothers and monks dormitories where it flushed the latrines. Water from the reservoir also supplied a set of at least three fishponds which were located to the south of the main claustral ranges. To the north of the abbey there is the site of a mill which was fed by water from the reservoir and also from channels from the River Ure to the north west, although no trace of these now survive. At the mill site there is a ruined structure of medieval appearance however it is thought that the bulk of the standing fabric was added to existing foundations of a medieval water mill as part of the 19th century landscaping. The outflow from the mill ran through a leat extending eastward along the southern edge of the flood plain. This joined with other channels in the area north of the icehouse to carry water away from the abbey. The post-Dissolution grand house was built in the south eastern corner of the inner court and seems to have incorporated some of the standing abbey buildings. The southern part of the house survives as a series of earthworks defining a rectangle measuring 25m by 30m whilst remains of the northern part have been obscured by later landscaping. Detailed survey has identified that the house lay at the centre of a series of at least 14 formal garden compartments, some containing remains of internal features, and separated by terracing and paths. The monastic fishponds were modified and turned into a series of water features still supplied from the reservoir to the south west. Earthwork remains of structures associated with the 16th century gardens such as pavilions and gazebos positioned to afford views over the gardens have also been identified. At the eastern side of the gardens, to the east of the monastic precinct boundary, there was an embankment to divide the formal area from the, presumably, wilder parkland to the east. Remains of further buildings of this period, tentatively interpreted as a coach house, survive as earthworks in the field to the south of Mark Hill. The house was demolished by 1627 and a map of that date shows the area of the precinct outside the core abbey buildings was divided into fields and enclosures, remains of which survive throughout the monument as low earthworks. The 19th century landscaping started in the early part of the century with the clearing of the abbey ruins. Over the following years further works were undertaken including building a stock proof ditch, known as a ha ha, along the southern and western sides of the abbey ruins, and the construction of various grottoes, a gazebo on Mark Hill and a decorative arched gateway leading from the Hall into the abbey ruins. Formal gardens were laid out to the north of the abbey ruins, a wide expanse of open sward replaced the former agricultural units and The Old Gatehouse and the mill were romanticised by the addition of decorated medieval stonework. All of these improvements were in keeping with the fashion of the time. The mid-19th century also saw the building of the icehouse although this was primarily as a functional element of the estate. The icehouse is a brick-lined beehive shaped structure partly covered by an earthen mound and is located just within the eastern boundary of the monument. It is Listed Grade II. In the 1940s a series of military stores for munitions or fuel were built along side the track crossing the parkland, hidden from enemy view by tree cover. These were small ditched enclosures supported by sandbags, which now only survive as earthworks. A brick building associated with these remains stands on the fence line south of Abbey Hill and footings for other structures have also been identified. A number of features are excluded from the monument. These include: the occupied parts of The Old Gatehouse (shown as `The Monastery' on the Ordnance Survey map), the surface of all roads, tracks and paths, modern water supply and drainage equipment, all fences, gates, signs, tree guards, telegraph poles, animal water and feeding equipment, horse jumps, the wooden shed east of Jervaulx Hall, the walls surrounding the gardens on Mark Hill, the walls and adjacent stone sheds surrounding the paddocks and fields to the east of the abbey ruins, the wooden summer house south east of the abbey ruins and the boundary wall along the roadside, the ground beneath these features however, is included. In the south east the grounds of Abbey Hill including the house, stable block, garages, gardens and walled kitchen garden and all surfaces of paths and driveways are totally excluded from the monument as no remains of the monastic period are known to survive here.

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.

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Books and journals
Jecock, M, Jervaulx North Yorkshire Survey Report, (1999), 39
Jecock, M, Jervaulx North Yorkshire Survey Report, (1999)
Jecock, M, Jervaulx North Yorkshire Survey Report, (1999), 9-13
Jecock, M, Jervaulx North Yorkshire Survey Report, (1999), 35-36
Jecock, M, Jervaulx North Yorkshire Survey Report, (1999), 19-20
Jecock, M, Jervaulx North Yorkshire Survey Report, (1999), 31-32
Jecock, M, Jervaulx North Yorkshire Survey Report, (1999), 30-35
Jecock, M, Jervaulx North Yorkshire Survey Report, (1999), 20-25
Jecock, M, Jervaulx North Yorkshire Survey Report, (1999), 25-30
Jecock, M, Jervaulx North Yorkshire Survey Report, (1999), 15
Lancaster Archaeology Unit, , Jervaulx Abbey Building Survey, (2000)
RAF, HHAV/101:3043-5, (1945)
Turnbull, P, (2000)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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