Old Byland monastic grange immediately to the west and north-west of Valley View Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Fields to the north-west and west of Valley View Farm, Old Byland, North Yorkshire.


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Fields to the north-west and west of Valley View Farm, Old Byland, North Yorkshire.
North Yorkshire
Ryedale (District Authority)
Old Byland and Scawton
National Park:
National Grid Reference:


Upstanding earthwork and buried remains of medieval buildings and enclosures interpreted as being those of a farm (a grange) owned by Byland Abbey.

Reasons for Designation

Old Byland monastic grange, immediately to the west and north-west of Valley View Farm, Old Byland is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Period, rarity, survival: for the good, relatively rare earthwork survival of a medieval monastic grange; * Potential: the site retains in situ archaeological remains that have the potential to shed light on Byland Abbey’s involvement with the nationally significant medieval wool trade, and perhaps the little understood early history of the monastic community, the cell established at Old Byland in 1143; * Group value: with the other scheduled sites associated with both Byland Abbey and other local Cistercian communities including at Rievaulx.


The settlement, now known as Old Byland, was named Begeland in the Domesday survey of 1086 which recorded it as a small community with a timber church, priest, three plough-teams and seven families. The church was rebuilt in stone before the estate was granted by Gundreda d’Aubigny, the mother of Roger de Mowbray, to a community of Savigniac monks in 1142. This community had been displaced in 1138 from Calder, Cumbria as a result of a Scottish invasion. It is thought that the monks started building a new abbey in the valley of the River Rye, near Tylas Farm, but also established a cell, a smaller monastic establishment, at what is now Old Byland. The close proximity with the already established Cistercian abbey at Rievaulx caused friction between the two communities, partly because of confusion caused by hearing each-others’ bells: bells that were used to keep time for the monks’ carefully programmed days. In 1147, the same year that the Savigniacs were absorbed into the Cistercian Order, the monks of Byland moved their community to Stocking (possibly near Oldstead Hall, Kilburn). Finally (in 1177) they moved to what subsequently became Byland Abbey. Old Byland was retained as a monastic grange, probably operated as a sheep farm as part of Byland’s international trade in wool. Byland Abbey was surrendered to the Crown in 1538 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, with most of the manor of Old Byland passing to Sir William Pickering. Old Byland Grange was named and granted to Thomas Wood and John Brown in 1556, but does not appear to have been named subsequently. Christopher Saxton’s map of 1598 marks a building, named 'Old Byland Cote' in the vicinity of Valley View Farm. The farm on the south side of High Gill, currently known as Grange Farm was formerly called Overgill House: it is not related to the medieval grange.

The earthworks to the north-west of Valley View Farm, now interpreted as including the remains of the monastic grange, were sketched and investigated via very small scale archaeological excavation undertaken by Raymond Hayes and members of the Helmsley Archaeological and Historical Society in 1961. They identified wall lines as well as a stack of roof tiles and a sherd of medieval pottery and interpreted the site as the possible site of the grange. In 1985 the site was surveyed by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments England (RCHME), producing an earthwork survey of the fields to the west and north of Valley View Farm, including the smaller area sketch-mapped by Hayes in 1961. The RCHME identified the site as 'almost certainly' being that of the monastic grange. In January 2018 Historic England’s Historic Places Investigation Team carried out a desk-based assessment using 50cm resolution lidar data from the Environment Agency. Three small (1 x 2m) trenches were also excavated by JB Archaeology. These trenches identified demolition debris including large quantities of medieval ceramic roof tiles, including some that were glazed, along with pottery dated to the C12-C15. These finds, including the high status roofing material, support the interpretation that the earthworks represent a monastic grange. It is possible that this site developed out of the monastic cell occupied in 1143-1147.

Monastic granges were farms owned and run by a monastic community and 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 C12, but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution in the late 1530s. This system of estate management was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers (secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy, but some were specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms, bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and industrial complexes. Wealthy monasteries like Byland held several granges. Frequently a grange was established on lands immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange. Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands. On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the size of the grange, the layout and architectural embellishment of the buildings and the quality of materials used. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of monastic sites, at several thousand. However, of these only a small percentage has been accurately located and of those, only a small proportion retain surviving archaeological remains.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: medieval monastic grange including earthwork and buried remains of farm and other buildings, enclosures, yards and associated features. The monument also includes sections of ridge and furrow surviving as low earthworks.

DESCRIPTION: the monument lies on the plateau on the west side of the River Rye, immediately to the west of the village of Old Byland. It extends over a gentle, south-facing slope on the north side of a steep-sided gill that widens and runs down to the east to join the Rye.

The clearest area of earthworks lies on the eastern side of the monument, north-west of the buildings of Valley View Farm. This consists of an area approximately 35m across that is terraced up to 1.2m deep into the rising ground, low stoney banks up to 0.4m high marking the tops of the scarps. On this terrace there are a further set of rectilinear earthworks, low stoney banks up to 0.3m high marking wall-lines which appear to represent a multi-roomed building approximately 7m x 20m orientated west to east. This includes some of the wall lines partially excavated by Hayes in 1961. There are slighter earthworks to both the north and south that are interpreted as representing the remains of parallel ranges or lean-to structures. At the east end, there is a levelled area defined by earthworks of wall lines which either represents a walled yard, or more-likely, a large, undivided cross-wing to the multi-roomed building. This may have been a medieval hall, but is most likely to be the remains of a large barn or sheep cote. Slight earthworks of further building remains lie just to the east and north-east of the terraced area, whilst to the north-west there is a further building platform. Beyond, in the north-western corner of the field, there is a further area of disturbed ground that is likely to be the remains of small-scale quarrying for walling stone.

Crossing the monument south-east to north-west is a built up trackway created in 2018. Sited on the southern side of this, around 40m to the south-west of the 35m wide terrace, there is a further east to west orientated building platform divided into two halves by a clear wall line, this being interpreted as the site of a medieval longhouse. The east end of this platform was investigated in 2018 with a 2 x 1m excavation which uncovered a posthole cut into the bed rock along with demolition debris. This building platform lies on the northern side of a set of slightly irregular small enclosures defined by low banks that extend westwards: these enclosures being interpreted as yard and garden areas. This includes some further building platforms, probably for timber rather than stone-built structures as they lack earthworks of wall lines. At least one of these building platforms lies on the western side of a modern drystone field wall. To the west, and extending beyond the boundary of the monument, are the slight earthwork remains of medieval-style, curving, broad ridge and furrow. This ridge and furrow appears to be earlier than the building platforms and enclosures. Within some, but not all of the small enclosures around the long house, along with two larger bank-defined enclosures up-slope from the main set of building earthworks, there are the slight earthworks of narrow, straight ridge and furrow which is slightly irregular, being formed of rigg-strips defined by deeper furrows that are subdivided into two or three narrower strips by slighter furrows. This is interpreted as the result of horticultural practice making best use of the shallow soils, potentially medieval hand-cultivation rather than representing later arable ploughing which is typically more regular in form.

AREA OF MONUMENT: this extends over two post-medieval fields defined by drystone walls, the eastern field being subdivided into two by a timber fence line. The south eastern corner of the eastern field has been cut into and incorporated into the farm yard. This excavated part, and the land immediately to its south that has been disturbed by farm machinery, is not included in the monument. Drystone field walls, timber fence lines and track surfacing are excluded from the scheduling, however the ground beneath is included.


Books and journals
Close, R, Hayes, R H, 'Old Byland' in Transactions of the Scarborough and District Archaeological Society, , Vol. 1.6, (1963), 37
"Site of Probable Monastic Grange: Valley View Farm" (1985) Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England (typescript report and survey plan)
"Valey View Farm, Old Byland, North Yorkshire Archaeological Evaluation" (2018) JB Archaeology Ltd


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.

End of official listing

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