Jervaulx Abbey - History and Facts | History Hit

Jervaulx Abbey

Middleham, England, United Kingdom

The ruins of the 12th Century Cistercian monastery of Jervaulx Abbey, situated in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales.

Lily Johnson

02 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Jervaulx Abbey

A beautiful spot to explore, the ruins of the 12th century monastery of Jervaulx Abbey are situated in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales and provide a fascinating day out for history-lovers and leisurely tourists alike.

Jervaulx Abbey history

Founded in 1156, Jervaulx was a Cistercian abbey that spawned from the abbey at Byland, situated nearby. The Cistercian Order of the early 12th century was based on the austerity taught by St Benedict, and Cistercian monks often established monasteries in far-flung areas where they could dedicate their lives to prayer and meditation in peace.

Originally established at the nearby town of Fors, the monastery was relocated to its current position due to the higher quality of land and remained there for four centuries. At the height of its prosperity Jervaulx owned half of the valley and was renown for breeding horses, as well as being the originator of Wensleydale cheese.

In 1537 however, like many of the country’s religious houses, Jervaulx Abbey was plundered during Henry VIII‘s dissolution of the monasteries. The last Abbott of Jervaulx, Adam Sedbar, made the ill-fated decision to join the Pilgrimage of Grace, a large-scale Catholic uprising in protest of Henry VIII’s religious reforms.

The failure of this enterprise not only led to widespread closure of further monasteries, but also saw Abbott Sedbar executed for treason. It is still possible to see the spot in the Tower of London where he carved his name in his cell wall.

Jervaulx Abbey today

Today Jervaulx Abbey lies in atmospheric ruins, yet welcomes visitors to explore its rich history. The site is made up of the remains of the nave, transepts, and choir as well as a cloister, kitchen and chapter house.

All built in the traditional Cistercian style of smooth pale stone and traditionally simpler design with an emphasis on arches, they give an insight into the wealth of the once-grand monastic Church in England.

There is no formal charge for visiting the Jervaulx Abbey, but there is a suggested donation of £3 for an adult. The whole site is outside with very little shelter, but would make for an excellent spring or summer visit. There is also a delightful set of tea rooms and very popular Bed & Breakfast in situ as well.

Getting to Jervaulx Abbey

Jervaulx Abbey is located in North Yorkshire and can be reached via the A6108. With upwards of 50 parking spaces and wheelchair access to the main church, infirmary, and cloisters, the site is well equipped for all visitors. The 825 bus service also stops at the Hall stop, a short walk away.

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