“Cistercian monasteries were, in reality, the best-organised factories the world had ever seen – versatile and diversified. The Cistercian monk/engineers developed their new technologies and spread them throughout Europe. They tinkered and innovated.”
International Water History Association
“Thus three centuries before the mechanical clock, these early 'puritans' had virtually perfected a time disciplined microsociety. Their success was so spectacular that within two generations they became rich in wine, wool, grain and gold, vying with money lenders as purveyors of credit”
Science in the Middle Ages by David C Lindberg
Genealogy of Cistercian Abbeys
The Cistercian order was founded in 1098 and, with the arrival of Bernard de Clairvaux, spread across Europe and into Yorkshire. They developed a well established and standardised model for monasteries whereby every abbey was located near a river providing power for the mills as well as providing water for cooking, washing, bathing and carrying away the waste. They also built windmills and often became the mulcture mills - grinding the corn for the surrounding area.
The spread of their monasteries was always done in the same way – 13 monks, representing Christ and the 12 apostles - would be sent out from the mother church to found 'daughter' abbeys.
this time, Yorkshire was ideally suited to them as it was a desolate place, commonly known as 'the wastelands'. Sheep, integral to the Cistercian economy, thrived here and with the availability of water power, the area had a huge economic advantage. It became known as the sheep farm of Europe.
Abbeys across Yorkshire and East Lancashire included:
- Rievaulx Abbey – the first to be built and which then proceeded to found its own daughter abbeys across the region.
- Fountains Abbey – excavations have found remains of a fulling mill and dye vats. It is estimated that at one time it must have owned 18000 sheep. It even owned its own ship in 1224, which was licensed to carry wool.
- The Abbey of Byland – originally Bellalanda. It certainly owned a fulling mill and also a corn mill. Ditches were dug to drain the surrounding land to provide a water supply for the abbey as it had no natural supply of its own.
- Abbey of Jervaulx, a daughter abbey of Byland.
- Kirkstall Abbey was founded by Henry de Lacy, grandson of Ilbert de Lacy, lord of Blackburnshire, who, when ill, vowed that if he recovered, would found an abbey of the Cistercian order. Originally built at Barnoldswick in Lancashire, it moved to Airdale after suffering from raids. There are remains of a mill within Kirkstall’s precinct.
- The Abbey of Meaux was founded in 1150 by the Earl of Albermarle, William le Gros, in lieu of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was a “well watered and wooded district”.
- Roche Abbey – the name 'de rupe' is derived from a supposed miraculous sculpture of a cross found by a monk on a rock.
- Sawley Abbey, near Pendle, was founded in 1148, when Abbot Benedict with twelve monks came from Newminster Abbey, itself a daughter Abbey of Fountains Abbey. Described as "terra nebulosa et pluviosa" there were questions around its suitability – the climate being so bad that the crops would rot in the ground. Sawley Abbey sat by the main north/south route and so held an important position, not least as a stopping place for knights and pilgrims on their way across the Pennine pass to the East coast.
- Whalley Abbey, near Clitheroe (and also on a River Calder – but a different one), was originally built in Cheshire and moved to Whalley in 1178. The house received a grant of the rectory of Rochdale and its lands from Roger de Lacy. The 'Coucher Book' or chartulary of Whalley was drawn up in the time of Abbot Lindley and contains a treasure chest of medieval information about its holdings.
The Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller
The Cistercians played a leading role in the Crusades – providing for the military and spiritual needs. The Knights Templar were strongly connected to the Cistercians and they established many Preceptories across the north of England – these are monasteries with working farms. The Templars owned more land and property and people in Yorkshire than any other county and it was considered extremely important to them.
After the first Crusade in 1099, many pilgrims started to travel to the Holy Land but many areas were unsafe and the pilgrims were attacked by bandits. Knights going on pilgrimage would leave their valuables with the Templar Preceptories to avoid travelling with them, being given letters of credit which could then be cashed in the Holy Land. This was a very early form of banking and created a simple cheque system.
As this system improved, the order of the Templars became wealthier and they began to establish a financial network across Europe buying and building farms, vineyards, churches and castles across Europe. They had their own fleet of ships, importing and exporting – arguably the first multi national company and the start of the world's first Industrial Revolution.
In 1185 a survey was made of everything the Templars owned so there is a good record of their holdings. From this, it is known that they owned ten preceptories in Yorkshire.
- Faxfleet – busy and thriving harbour which saw the export of wool and the import of dyes
- Temple Cowton
- Temple Hirst
- Temple Newsam – this preceptory was given to the Knights by Henry de Lacy along with Faxfleet and Temple Hirst. The first recorded English fulling mill was at Paxton in Huntingdonshire, in 1173, followed by two mills at Temple Newsam, although the Thoresby Society of Leeds claims that Newsam was the first. This abbey, with working farm, used the profits it made to fund the crusades. In 1311 it had over a 1000 sheep.
The Knights Hospitaller, or Order of St. John of Jerusalem, founded in 1113, had its roots in the hospital built in Jerusalem, served by Benedictine monks. Their surcoat was black with a white cross. Whist remaining a religious order, it cared for the sick and also defended pilgrims in Jerusalem. Like the Knights Templars, they settled in Yorkshire and held Preceptories in York, Feliskirk, Newland and Beverley and 'camerae' at Copgrave, Huntington, and Stainton in the 12th century.
The parish church of Halifax was dedicated to St John the Baptist, who also figures in the Coat of Arms of the town. The wool weaver's guilds took St John as their patron saint in the Middle Ages.
St John's Ambulance Brigade are based at the Priory of Clerkenwell headquarters, having emerged from the Order of St John.
The decline of the Templars came about early in the 14th century when they were arrested across Europe and their property seized at the decree of the Pope, persuaded by King Phillip of France who owed them a lot of money.
Whilst Templars in Europe suffered, charged with heresy and blasphemy, were tortured and often burned at the stake, those in Yorkshire were treated more kindly. They were taken to York castle and at first even allowed to walk freely around the city. Their properties were taken and they were allowed to join other orders. Kirkstall Abbey received some, but many would not accept them as they were considered surly and rude.
All Templar property in Yorkshire was given to the Knights Hospitallers, except for Faxfleet, Temple Hirst and Temple Newsam which were retained by the crown.
Although we have no abbeys or preceptories in Calderdale, there are several houses which have connections to the Knights Templar or Hospitaller - they paid a rent for their properties to the Knights, and all bear crosses and insignia, including:
Wynteredge Hall, Hipperholme
One of the outbuildings is inscribed with several phrases: ”Garrulus insano crucietur mundus amore, Dum mea placide vita serena placet”
(Let the chattering world be tortured by senseless love While my calm life quietly pleases me)
“Meliora spero 1693”
(I hope for better times)
“Contra vim mortis, non est medicamen in hortis”
(There is no medicine in the garden against the power of death)
Note: A winteredge is what a clothes horse is commonly known as in certain parts of the area – possibly a bad weather alternative to the summer custom of hanging cloth to dry on hedges.
This was owned by the Templars and after their dissolution, passed to the Hospitallers. Such properties had to display the cross or be fined until it was replaced. Estates in the order contributed to the welfare of the Crusaders and houses bearing this ornament were said to be ’under the cross’.
It is said that a number of priests lived here before the Knights were established at Coley – hence the name Priestley (Priest's Field).
In 1187, Jordan de Rookes, the son of Peter de Priestlee, witnessed a deed 1187 which “granted Two Parcels of land in Hipperholme Township to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, who had an hospital at Coley”.There are also a number holy wells in the vicinity including Holy Well, which became Holywell, Lister’s Well (a lister was another name for a dyer) and St. John’s Well.
Other houses include:
- Field House, Shibden,
- Hartshead Hall, (demolished in 1959)
- High House Farm, Midgley
- Lower Field Bottom Farm, Shelf
- Ovenden Cross, Ovenden, later called the White Lion
- Ox Heys Farm, Shelf
In this area, there were two great ruling families – the de Lacy's and the de Warrens. The Honour of Pontefract was held by the de Lacys, and the Manor of Wakefield belonged to the de Warrens. The two areas were intertwined and it is believed that this was an intentional act to secure the strategic pass across the Pennines.
The de Lacy family - in 1067 Ilbert de Laci (named from Lassy in Normandy) was granted many of the existing manors in Calderdale by William I following the Norman Invasion. His estates in Yorkshire filled seven pages of the Domesday Book.
Much of the upper valley was in the Manor of Wakefield, gifted to the de Warrens by William 1st. The area covered by the Parish of Halifax was at that time called the Forest of Hardwick.
There was no love lost between the two families – culminating in the battle of Elland.
Both the de Lacy and de Warren families fought in the Crusades. We know that the Knights brought many oils, spices and perfumes – including the rich and secret dyestuffs from the East, including Saffron. It is tempting to think that the saffron crocus which is still in evidence, especially around their houses, came from attempts to grow the plant in Yorkshire possibly for medicinal purposes and as a dye plant.
Knights and their followers certainly passed through this area – travelling across the Pennine pass from Whalley preceptory to the houses of Holdsworth and Wynteredge in Halifax on their way through to Temple Newsom and the coast.
There is an 18th century rhyme based on this route that the later yeoman clothiers took:
“Burnley for ready money,
Mereclough noa trust,
ye're peepin in at Stiperden,
But call at Kebs, ye must,
Blackshawhead for travellers,
and Heptonstall for whores,
Hepton Brig for landladies,
and Midgley near the moors,
Luddenden's a warm shop,
Royle's Head's varry cold
if ye get to Halifax,
ye mun be varry bold”