The history and foundation of Bylands Abbey was unusually complicated. It’s foundation was spread over 40 years and involved at least four site changes. Within this time the abbey community witnessed the entire collapse of the monastic order to which it had been born.
The foundation story began way back in 1134 when the prestigious royal monastery at Furness in Cumbria then belonging to the Order of Savigny sent out a colony of 13 monks to settle at Calder. Just three years later, the fledgling abbey was destroyed by the Scot’s, and the monks tried to return to Furness. They were refused entry, and so decided to journey across the Pennines to seek the advice of Thurstan, archbishop of York He sent them to the young nobleman, Roger de Mowbray who’s mother Gundreda de Albinism received them kindly and with hers son’s agreement sent them to Hood near Thirsk where a relation of her family, one Robert De Alneto, who had been a monk in the Benedictine Abbey of Whitby, was living as a hermit. In the short time the hermit joined their order and the monks settled down at Hood, but this was only for a short amount of years for as their possessions and numbers increased, the site became to small; and the gift of the vill of Byland in 1143 made occasion for a removal into Ryedale, where Roger de Mobray gave them a site on the banks of the Rye.
As the latter arrivals, the Bylands monks had to give way and once more in 1147, they set forth on a journey, this time westward over the moor to a new site given to them by Robert de Mobray “two carucates of waste land in the territory of Cuxwald below the hill at Blakhou.”
Here they built a small stone church with a cloister and offices and settled down for a while. In this year the order of Savigny was absorbed into the Cistercian order and Byland became a Cistercian house.
The subsequent history of the Abbey was uneventful. It makes its one appearance in the national history in 1322, when an invading Scottish force defeated and nearly captured King Edward II at Shaw Moor near Byland.
At the suppression in 1539 the annual income of Bylands was £295 and there were twenty-five monks beside the Abbot. The site was granted in 1540 to Sir William Pickering and came successively to the families of Wotton, Stapylton and Wombwell.
Bylands Abbey is the perfect place to stop with the family or if your walking or cycling in the North YorkshireMoors National Park. If you want a full day of culture and history why not visit nearby Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle.