Granges of Fountains Abbey in Nidderdale

This section is taken from Colin Platt's book, 'The Monastic Grange in Medieval England'. Published in 1969, this book is long out of print. The following extracts, giving brief accounts of the Nidderdale granges of Fountains Abbey, are quoted in full from this text.


A small stone chapel of the early sixteenth century survives at Bewerley, bearing the initials of Abbot Huby (1494-1520). The chapel was rebuilt and extended late in the seventeenth century, and there were further nineteenth-century additions. Bewerley, with the principal Nidderdale granges and lodges of Fountains, was the gift of Roger de Mowbray, d. 1188 (Fountains Memorials, II 14). It would seem to have served as an estate-centre for the region, possessing an important sheep-house of its own at Moor House to the west (ibid. I 344). Following the suppression of Fountains, Bewerley and Moor House were included in the large purchase of abbey lands negotiated by Sir Richard Gresham on 1 October 1540 (L & P, Hen. VIII, xvi 96)


The existing farm-house at Bouthwaite is a building of the seventeenth century, although it may incorporate earlier work. Some traces of earlier foundations, including the remains of at least one large building, may still be seen in the meadow immediately to the north-west of the farm-house. In Richard's general confirmation, dated 9 November 1198, Bouthwaite was listed as a lodge of Dacre (Fountains Memorials, II 14). Through the centuries it remained an important centre for the Nidderdale lodges of the abbey. In common with many of the other granges and lodges of the area, Bouthwaite was held by a lay keeper in the fifteenth century. The keeper returned a rent both in cash and in kind, the terms being recited most exactly in the agreement negotiated on the appointment of Robert Brown as keeper of Bouthwaite in 1537 (ibid. I 276-80). Shortly after the Dissolution the grange would seem to have been farmed by Robert Smith, possibly in partnership with Brown. The total value of the estate was calculated at £12 (ibid. I 338-9)). Bouthwaite was among the former demesnes of Fountains granted to Sir Richard Gresham on 1 October 1540 (L & P, Hen. VIII, xvi 96).


No complete medieval buildings have survived at Brimham, but plentiful fragments of worked stone, fifteenth-century in character, remain built into the existing farm-house, cattle-sheds and barn. The fragments include several letters of an inscription similar to that placed by Abbot Huby on his extant chapel at Bewerley. Recent trial excavations at Brimham have uncovered several foundation walls, as well as part of a late-medieval tiled floor immediately to the south of the modern garden wall. The first lands at Brimham came to Fountains by gift of Roger de Mowbray (d. 1188). Roger also gave half a carucate in the township to the Templars, but the latter were persuaded to concede this property to Fountains on an agreed yearly payment of 10s (B.M. Add. MS 18276, folios 30v, 31v). Early in the fourteenth century John de Mowbray (1286-1322), a descendant of the original donor, disputed the rights of the abbey in Nidderdale, including Brimham. An agreement between the parties was negotiated successfully in 1308 (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1385-89, pp. 119-20). The abbot seems to have visited the grange at regular intervals, probably for the hunting. This was certainly the case in the mid-fifteenth century, when the expenses of the abbot at the grange featured regularly in the abbey accounts (Fountains Memorials, iii 25, 52, 67). Shortly before the Dissolution the silver plate kept at Brimham for the abbot's use included a silver chalice, a goblet with a silver-gilt 'covering', a silver salt-cellar, and seven silver spoons (ibid. I 293-4). On the same occasion there were ten quarters of rye, twenty quarters of oats, and a hundred loads of hay at the grange (ibid. I 295). At the Dissolution, and probably before it, the demesne at Brimham had come to be farmed out in two parts. Of these, John Steel paid £3 for his 'half' of the estate; the other portion, at £6, was farmed by Robert Ellis (ibid. I 313-14). On 1 October 1540 the grange was granted, with other Fountains properties, to Sir Richard Gresham (L & P, Hen. VIII, XVI 96).


Important earthworks survive to the east and south of the present farm buildings at High Cayton, near South Stainley. They include well-marked enclosure banks, presumably the site of the original grange, as well as the earthworks of what appears to have been a small peasant settlement, lying immediately to the south of the grange site itself. It is a reasonable supposition that the settlement earthworks testify to the presence of a community of peasant cultivators employed in the working of the grange. Fountains acquired the vill of Cayton by gift of Serb of Pembroke before 1135 - presumably the two carucates confirmed by Eustace Fitz-John, lord paramount of the fee (Fountains Memorials, I 55-6, ii 2). The grange was sited above and to the east of Cayton Gill, and the monks would seem to have dammed the waters of the gill towards Ripley to make fish-ponds for themselves (B.M. Add. MS 18276, fo. 33v, and Fountains Cart. I 153).
Cayton was among the Fountains properties to suffer in the Scottish raids. In 1363 the abbot sought, and obtained, permission to convert Cayton (with eight other granges) into a vill (Fountains Memorials, I 204). There is no evidence that such a conversion took place. At the suppression of Fountains the grange had already been partitioned into two almost equal portions. The first of these, called 'Near Cayton' and rated at £II yearly, was held by George Horner. The second, at a rental of £10, had been demised on a forty-five-year lease, dated 19 June 1538, to John Vavasour (ibid I 318-20). Cayton was among the Fountains properties granted to Sir Richard Gresham on 1 October 1540 (L & P, Hen. VIII xvi 96). (Fig. 15.)


Signs of early enclosures, and possibly some buildings, are preserved in the pasture immediately to the east of Warsill Hall. They include a single enclosure bank and cross-wall; also the remains of a small building, semicircular in form. The forest of Warsill came to Fountains by gift of Robert de Sarz, the donor of the Morker estate (Fountains Memorials, I 55). Warsill was quickly organized into a grange, and was already described as such in a confirmatory charter of Henry Murdac granted a few years later (ibid. 1 157). The Warsill estate was to become the subject of a serious dispute with an unnamed archbishop of York, which is said to have 'gravely disturbed the peace' of both parties. A compromise settlement was reached, 'after many troubles', through the mediation of good men (Fountains Cart. II 740). In 1535 the grange at Warsill remained demesne property of the abbey (Valor Ecci. v 253). It was granted with other demesnes of the house to Sir Richard Gresham, holding by letters patent dated 1 October 1540 (L & P, Hen. VIII, xvi 96). At the time Peter Smith held the grange by indenture, paying a rent of £3 6s 8d for the pasture, woods and a small quantity of arable pertaining to the estate (Fountains Memorials, I 357).

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