Monastic Estates

There have been a significant number of investigations of both monasteries (see The Monastic Orders) and the exploitation of the lands they owned (see Technology and Production). Our understanding of sites that were part of their estates has also moved forward in the past ten years due to excavations of possible granges and vaccaries. Regional studies of monastic orders, their estates and their use of the landscape may now be possible.

Chorlton Fold, Eccles (GM) may have been part of a monastic grange held by the monks of Whalley and evidence is suggestive of 15th century activity (McPhillips 2008, 9). At Gatesgarth Farm, Buttermere (C) the site of a probable vaccary mentioned in the 14th century was excavated, revealing the remains of at least three buildings with associated yards, track ways and remnant ridge and furrow. The most significant feature was the remains of a longhouse, possibly late medieval in origin, and a further possible timber structure. The pottery assemblage, dated to the 13th/14th century, is significant as ceramics from rural sites in Cumbria are rare (Railton & Wooler 2008).

Work along the M6 Heysham link discovered what may be the remains of Beaumont Grange (L), an estate possibly associated with Furness Abbey (Fig. 16) Evidence for timber buildings probably from the 12th century were discovered as well as a series of kilns that were used for drying grain and producing lime. In the 14th C the focus of settlement shifted as the remains of stone buildings were found along with a possible mill leat. A copper alloy candlestick recovered is of a rare type and indicative of a high status site (Fig. 17) (OAN forthcoming). This site has the potential to expand our knowledge of relationships between monasteries and their granges.

These investigations of possible granges and vaccaries present an opportunity for studying the operation of monastic estates in the region, especially when enhanced by detailed documentary research.

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