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COUNTRY SKETCH BOOK.
The remains of this priory are situated in a lovely valley on the banks of the river Wharf, in the district of Craven, about five miles from Ilkley, the site of the old Roman Station, Olicana. The surrounding country is one of the most beautiful that can be imagined, combining sylvan and pastoral, with mountain and moorland scenery. The woods which stretch from the Priory to Barden Tower, are amongst the most picturesque in England; and the fine taste of the Duke of Devonshire who owns the estate, and has a hunting-box within the abbey precincts, has caused the richest views to be exposed to the visitor, by artificial openings in the trees. Some of these views are of enchanting description; revealing rock, wood, and waterfall, in all the variety which light and shade can cast upon them. Rural seats, and arbours, are
placed along the walks of the various terraces, commanding fine views of the valley below. You may wander for days amongst this glorious scenery, and be continually surprised with fresh beauties. Every diversity which the eye can require to satisfy its longings is to be found here, from the deep, dense foliage of the overhanging woods, the waters tumbling and roaring down the rocks, to the pasture lands of Barden, and the bare and barkless, trees, the stunted thorns, and shrivelled oaks in the “ Valley of Desolation.”
Bolton Priory was founded in the year 1120 by William de Meschines and his wife Cecilly, at Embsay, about two miles east of Skipton, and was subsequently in the year 1151 translated to Bolton. William the Conqueror had granted to Robert de Romille, who was one of his followers from Normandy, immense estates in Craven, and Meschines succeeded to them through his wife, who was Romille's heiress.
In 1138, when the daughter of the Norman noble had grown to womanhood, the nephew of David, king of Scotland, descended with his army upon Craven, and carried off all the herds and cattle his men could lay their hands on. Fourteen years after this, he returned to Yorkshire with another army, took Skipton Castle, the residence of Meschines, and married the fair daughter of its owner, who was likewise heiress to the estates. It was the son of these persons, Fitzduncan and Adeliza-well known to tradition as the “ Boy of Egremond,” whose death by drowning, in his attempt to cross the Strid, with his leash of greyhounds, was the occasion of Bolton Abbey being founded. There is something very touching in the short account which we have of this catastrophe. The old forester who was with the boy when he was drowned, returned to Skipton, and with a voice full of lamentation, asked the trembling mother—" What is good for a bootless bean?"that is, “ What is left when prayer is unavailing ?” *The answer of the poor woman is as fine as that of Jacob when he was brought before Joseph in Egypt: “Endless sorrow !" And when she was made acquainted with the full particulars of this melancholy event, she resolved to build a religious house to commemorate the event.
“When Lady Adeliza mourned
At the time of the foundation of this abbey, the population of the entire country was sparse and thinly scattered ; and Bolton was literally secluded, and almost beyond the reach of the influence of civilization, on account of the absence of roads, and the dense woods and marshes by which it was surrounded. Wild boars and wolves haunted the forest, and wild eagles built their nests upon
the neighbouring cliffs and rocks. Erncliffe (eagle's cliffe) is the name given to several craggy ravines in this neighbourhood; and there is one bill which is still called Arnberg Scar, or Eagle's Hill. Saxon and Danish names abound all through Craven ; Thorgill, Hellafield, Helgafell, Gastrills, are of
frequent occurrence, especially near Bolton and Barden.
In an admirable paper written by Dr. Smiles, in No. 90 of “ Eliza Cook's Journal,” the following passages occur respecting the outer and inner life of Bolton in the old time :
The choir, the ruins of which still stand, was erected and finished at one effort, and dedicated to St. Mary and St. Cuthbert. As the wealth of the foundation increased, and additional gifts flowed in from successive patrons, the principal of whom were the Cliffords and the Percys, many additions were made to the building. Permanent residences were erected for the monks, with ample dormitory, refectory, and cloisters; and as the more luxurious tendencies of abbey life developed themselves, cellars were dug, and a kitchen was built, with its huge oven, eighteen feet in diameter—so large that a stray flock of sheep, in recent times, concealed themselves there, and were given up for lost. Nor were the state and comforts of the prior neglected ; for, the fine carved timber lodgings were now reared, for his use, with the adjoining prior's chapel and offices. Then the guests' great hall was reared apart from the rest of the building, for the entertainment of visitors and travellers. The massive gateway was added, in which the priory records were kept ; gardens and terraces were laid out; fish-ponds were dug; the priory mill was built; as also sundry outhouses for the accommodation of the armigeri and bowmen, villeins, garcions or slaves, and the numerous servants of the house.
“Now, look at the life within the priory, and the various offices which the heads of the establishment had to perform. The chief of the house was the prior, who governed the whole establishment;
and he was aided in his duties by the sub-prior, who governed in his absence, while he attended the installation of bishops at York, or visited the court of the sovereign, or the parliament at London, or travelled abroad, to wait upon the Head of the Church at Rome. The prior had his own separate establishment, his chaplain and his clerk, (generally trained in the law, and he had his separate body of armigeri and servants. He inhabited the commodious Prior's Lodgings, where he occasionally entertained noble and aristocratic, sometimes even royal guests, and dispensed to them liberally of his hospitality. The more numerous body of visitors were entertained in the large guests' hall, which was open to all comers. The prior, who was elected by the canons, was the landlord of the house and the estate. He kept the great-seal of the priory, managed all moneys and estates of the house, dispensed the church patronage in his gift, saw to the repairs of the property, the improvement and enlargement of the domain, the enclosing of the parks, the preservation of the game, and the defence of the prior's rights against encroachment. We find him on several occasions buying manors, negociating for loans with the Lombard merchants for the purpose, and then proceeding to Rome for a Bull from the Pope, to enable him to hold such additional lands for the good of the house. He rebuilds farm-houses when they have been destroyed by his savage neighbours, the Scots. In 1298, we find him letting a farm, with nineteen cows, to Adam de Elshow, the said Adam undertaking to pay, as his rent, four stones of cheese and two of butter, yearly, for each cow. At another time, we find him busily working a lead-mine on the estate. Then what herds of