Sources for Byland Abbey

This section provides a guide to the main sources, both published and unpublished, for our knowledge and understanding of Byland Abbey. A comprehensive list of sources can be found in:

Detail of an engraving of Byland Abbey from the south in 1721, by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck. The lake in the foreground may be an artistic licence
Detail of an engraving of Byland Abbey from the south in 1721, by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck. The lake in the foreground may be artistic licence

Primary Sources (unpublished)

Bodleian Library

  • MS Dodsworth 63 (SC5005), fols 9–31: a copy of the Historia Fundationis, written by Abbot Phillip in 1197, transcribed by Roger Dodsworth in the 18th century. The Historia formed a part of the cartulary of the abbey, and details the abbey’s early history. This part of the original cartulary was later destroyed.

British Library

  •  MS Egerton 2823: The cartulary of Byland Abbey is a compilation of the charters detailing the landholdings and grants given to the abbey. It formed a guide to the individual charters and where they were kept. Many charters were kept in a tower at St Mary’s Abbey in York that was blown up during the siege of York in 1644. Despite this many charters have survived. After the cartulary had been partly copied by Dodsworth and others it was damaged.

Primary Sources (Published)

Burton, J, Monasticon Eboracense (York, 1785), 329–40 

Burton, J, ‘Charters of Byland Abbey relating to the grange of Bleatarn’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmoreland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 79 (1979), 29–50 

Burton, J (ed), The Cartulary of Byland Abbey (Surtees Society, 2004), 208 [edited edition of the Byland Abbey cartulary. Burton also reconstructed much of the missing parts, lost since Dodsworth made his record of contents. The present location and distribution of all the known Byland charters and their content are cited. This is a key source in tracing the landholdings and the whole history of abbey charters since the suppression of Byland.]

Burton, J, The Foundation History of the Abbeys of Byland and Jervaulx (York, 2006)

Burton, J, ‘The settlement of disputes between Byland Abbey and Newburgh Priory’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 55 (1983), 67–72

Caley, J, Ellis, H and Bandinel, B (eds), Monasticon Anglicanum, by Sir William Dugdale, vol V (London, 1817–30), 343–54

Farrer, W, Early Yorkshire Charters (Edinburgh, 1914–16)

Gairdner, J and Brodie, RH, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 14(I) (1898), 47 no. 724

Griesser, B, ‘Registrum Epistolarum Stepheni de Lexinton’, Analecta Sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis, 8 (1952), 181–378

Howlett, R, Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I, Rolls Series, I (1884–9), 49–53 [printed version of William of Newburgh’s Historia Regium Anglicarum, a 12th-century canon at the Augustinian house of Newburgh, less than a mile away from Byland]

Walsh, PG and Kennedy, MJ (eds), The History of English Affairs, vol 1 (Warminster, 1998) [contains an English translation of William of Newburgh’s Historia Regium Anglicarum)

Visual Sources

Many of the visual sources listed below are reproduced in the English Heritage Research Department Report on Byland (2011).

  •  A large estate map, kept in the library of Ampleforth Abbey (ref BX27-1) and thought to date from about 1730, shows the remains of the abbey at that time, with individual field and close names. It includes the layout of the watercourses and traces of surviving ruins and buildings. It is notable for the number of buildings that then comprised the village of Byland, the majority of which have since disappeared.
  • An engraving of 1721 by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck of the abbey church taken from the north. This rather inaccurate and distorted view shows the south transept south wall and possibly one arch of the presbytery still standing. Some traces of other buildings from the precinct and a watercourse or lake is in the foreground. The Buck engravings often showed watercourses in this way even in circumstances where we know they did not exist.
  • An engraving by Thomas Hearne, published in his Antiquities (London, 1786), shows the west front and, in the background, a side view of the south transept. In the foreground are other ruins of presumably precinct buildings that have since been demolished.

  • Thomas Atkinson made an engraving (dated 1801 but probably prepared earlier) for Burton’s Monasticon Eboracense that was never included in the published volume. It shows a plan of the abbey buildings including some remains in the outer court that have since disappeared and the original arrangement of the principal watercourses before they were altered. There is also a view of the ruins from the south-east showing the south wall of the south transept before it collapsed; this is the only known depiction of this aspect of the transept.

  • A pen and ink drawing by Henry Cave, in York City Art Gallery. This shows the interior of the south transept south wall in great detail before its collapse around 1822. This is by far the most informative of the known engravings and drawings (and is reproduced in the English Heritage guidebook to Byland Abbey).

  • A drawing by F Mackenzie, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Prints and Drawings Collection PD194. This shows a view taken along the triforium gallery of the south transept before its collapse in 1822. It confirms that much of the detail shown by Henry Cave is accurate.

  • A painting by Paul Sandby Munn, of about 1810, which shows the west front of the church with the south transept gable in the background and is notable for the depiction of a number of now lost cottages and a pond shown in the foreground.

Secondary Sources (Published)

Byland Abbey, on the Cistercians in Yorkshire project website [accessed 24 Nov 2014]

Fergusson, P, Architecture of Solitude: Cistercian Abbeys in Twelfth-century England (Princeton, 1984) [devotes a chapter to the abbey church at Byland and explores the architectural influences at work in detail] 

Gilyard-Beer, R, ‘Byland Abbey and the grave of Roger de Mowbray’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 55 (1983), 61–6 

Harrison, SA, Byland Abbey (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2012; 1st edn 1999) [buy the guidebook]

Harrison, SA, ‘Jervaulx Abbey and its relationship to Beverley Minster’, The Friends of Beverley Minster (74th annual report, 2009–10), 8–13 

Harrison, SA, ‘The stonework of Byland Abbey’, Ryedale Historian, 13 (1986), 26–47 

Harrison, SA and Barker, PN, ‘Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire: the west front and rose window reconstructed’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 3rd series, 160 (1987), 134–51 

Harrison, SA and Barker, PN, ‘Ripon Minster: an archaeological analysis and reconstruction of the 12th-century church’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 152 (1999), 49–78 

Hope, WH St J, ‘Byland Abbey’, The Builder, 71 (1896), 270–71 

Jecock, M, Burn, A, Brown, G and Oswald, A, Byland Abbey, Ryedale, North Yorkshire: Archaeological Survey and Investigation of Part of the Precinct and Extra-mural Area, English Heritage Research Department Report 4/2011 (Swindon, 2011)

McDonnell, J and Everest, R, ‘The waterworks of Byland Abbey’, Ryedale Historian, 1 (1965), 32–9 

McDonnell, J and Harrison SA, ‘Monastic earthworks south of Byland Abbey, Ryedale Historian, 9 (1978), 5 

Norton, C and Park, D (eds), Cistercian Art and Architecture in Britain (Cambridge, 1986) [see especially P Fergusson, ‘The twelfth-century refectories at Rievaulx and Byland Abbeys’, 160–80, and C Wilson, ‘The Cistercians as “missionaries of Gothic” in northern England’, 86–116] 

Page, W, ‘House of Cisterican monks: Byland’, in A History of the County of York, vol 3 (London, 1974), 131–4 [accessed 31 March 2015]

Peers, C, Byland Abbey (various editions from 1928–1990) [the original Office of Works, then English Heritage, guidebook to abbey] 

Richardson, W, The Monastic Ruins of Yorkshire (York, 1843), 45–8 [accessed 13 February 2013] 

Stopford, J, Pattern and Purpose: Tile Production between the 13th and 16th Centuries (Oxford, 2005) [detailed account of the Byland tiles and similar related tiled floors throughout the north of England] 

Suydam, M, ‘Savigny’s role within twelfth-century monastic reform’, Revue Benedictine, 86 (1976), 94–108 

Wilson, C, The Gothic Cathedral (London, 1990), 73–7

Secondary Sources (Unpublished)

Barker, PN, ‘Transitional architecture in the Northern Arch-Diocese: a structural analysis of the Minster church of St Peter and St Wilfrid, Ripon’, MPhil dissertation, University of York (1981) [contains some partial reconstructions and comparisons of Byland with Ripon Minster] 

Harrison, S, ‘The architecture of Byland Abbey’, MA dissertation, University of York (1988) [detailed analysis of the architectural development of the buildings that reconstructs much of their original appearance] 

Personal notebooks, compiled by the late Hessle architect and eminent architectural historian John Bilson, are now in the British Architectural Library of the Royal Institute of British Architects, MS X15/21. On several visits to Byland, Bilson made sketches and notes about details of the church. He recognised and tried to reconstruct on paper the tracery of the western rose window. He also drew a stone floor slab found in the warming house which had a part of the tracery design etched upon it. A similar drawing was also made by the late Kenneth Beulah. 

Office of Works notes on excavated material: this notebook was kept by the site foreman about some of the excavated finds made during the clearance of the site; held at English Heritage Archaeology Store, Helmsley.

Inventory of architectural stone from the abbey: in the 1980s an inventory of the architectural fragments held by English Heritage was compiled and to this was added the Byland Stone fragments then at Myton Hall. This added much to our knowledge of the buildings and enabled detailed reconstructions of the church to be made. Held at English Heritage Archaeology Store, Helmsley.

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