Walter Espec founded Kirkham Abbey around 1121 and Rievaulx Abbey around 1132. Later he granted most of Bilsdale to the monks. In 1145 the area south of the bridge at Chop Gate was granted to Rievaulx, but this excluded "Steinton", the area of Bilsdale Westside which is now in Hawnby Parish. A few years later the North Eastern section was granted to Kirkham. Subsequently Stephen de Meinill granted Stainton and it was not until the 13C that Raisdale was granted to Rievaulx.
The monks had a major impact on the dale, though they operated in different ways. The Augustinians at Kirkham were the landlords to the tenant farmers and collected rents. They were also more involved in their communities. The Cistercians at Rievaulx used lay brothers to work the land from a nunber of granges located along Bilsdale so the monks spent most of their time in the monastary. They drained the valley bottom and developed a very profitable sheep business which attracted wool buyers fom across europe. By the 14C there were severe problems, the business collapsed and tenant farmers became involved in farming the dale.
Published: 18 November 2017 (Updated: 26 February 2022)