Also: Jervaux/Jor-vall/Jerovall/Girovall/Geroval/Jorevalle/Jorevall/Jorwall/Jore-vaulx/Joreval/Yorevale/Euredale/Gervis.
A Cistercian monastery so named from the River Ure or the valley of the Ure (Eure, Yore, Jor) which today forms Wensleydale. John Leland, Henry VIII's antiquarian recognising it's association with the River Ure called it 'Ure Vaulx Abbey' about which he noted 'There is meatly good wood here'. The River Ure eventually becomes the River Ouse which runs through the city of York (Danish: Jorvik). Similarly, Rievaulx Abbey was named after the River Rye whereas Bella Landa super moram (Byland Abbey) was not sited near a river but on moorland.

The abbey at Jervaulx was founded near the beginning of King Henry II's reign in 1156 by Acarius FitzBardolf, a predecessor of the FitzHugh family of Ravensworth, a village situated near Scotch Corner. Acarius' overlord was Alan III count of Brittany who gave the permission for a monastery to be established at 'Fors'. Previously in 1145 Jervaulx had been sited as 'Fors', but was moved to its present site by Acarius' son, Hervey, under permission from Count Alan's son, Conan. This move occurred after the monks and their first abbot, John de Kingston, complained that the site was unsuitable for their needs. Today Fors is sited at Grange (formerly Dale Grange) on the opposite bank of the River Ure to Bainbridge. Closer to Askrigg is Abbey Head. The name Fors may have been named from the nearby Whitfield Gill Force.

The hall of the abbot's lodging at Jervaulx dates from the 1300's. The under-croft or cellar was at ground level and lay beneath the hall's wooden floor which was supported by corbels. This hall had a large south facing window or solar overlooking the rich pasture land of the valley. The abbey was never as large as some of the other remote Cistercian Northern monasteries, having only sixteen monks in residence in 1380. Jervaulx Abbey  has no surviving cartulary which may have been destroyed by 'plunderers', probably Scots raiders.

Many of the FitzHugh family are recorded as being buried* at Jervaulx, notably Hervey FitzAcarius, his son Henry FitzHervey,  his son Ranulf FitzHenry (d. 1243) and  Ranulf's son Henry FitzRanulf (d. 1262) etc.



                                             Acarius FitzBardolf* d. 1161 - Lord of Ravensworth, In 1145 he gave land at Fors for a monastery. His bones were relocated to Jervaulx


                                                                            Hervey FitzAcarius* - Permitted the re-location of the monastery as Jervaulx


                                                                               Henry FitzHervey*


                                                                                   Ranulf FitzHenry* d. 1243== Alice de Stavely   


                                                                                                      Henry FitzRanulf * d. 1262



                                                                                |                                                 |

                                                                        Ranulf                            Hugh FitzHenry d. 1304 Bur. Romald Kirk, Co. Durham. Adopted FitzHugh as a surname.


                                                                                                                   Henry FitzHugh b~ 1266, d. 1356. 1st Lord FitzHugh (baron May 1321)


                                                                                                                   Henry FitzHugh* d. 1386, 2nd Lord FitzHugh ===Joan le Scrope


                                                                                                                   Henry FitzHugh* b~1363, d. 1425,  3rd Lord FitzHugh K.G.


1st baron FitzHugh of Ravensworth, Henry FitzHugh, who attended the Sherburn Assembly in June 1321 with these arms.








Pasture to the south of Jervaulx Abbey, the fence in the foreground marks the position of a Ha-ha, this was a ditch and embankment designed to keep animals out of the buildings while maintaining an uninterrupted view.

The Cistercian monks ('white monks') or brothers known in Latin as 'freres' were renowned for sheep rearing and the breeding of horses. The cheese produced by the monks of Jervaulx from vaccaries in Wensleydale and the forest of Richmond eventually became known as Wensleydale Cheese, a white crumbly textured variety much loved today by cheese connoisseurs. 

The importance of sheep to Jervaulx is shown during the 1300's when 10, 000 fleeces (50 sacks) were produced from 500 sheep at nearby Rookwith Grange, with the wool being shipped to Flanders.

Simon de Midgley was elected abbot of Jervaulx in 1304, in the same year that Hugh FitzHenry died. He was thus a contemporary of Hugh and his son, Henry. Simon was replaced by Thomas de Gristhwaite, elected 1312 although the VCH has a John intervening. At this time other large landowners in the valley were the Mowbrays, Le Scropes of Masham and Clifton, the Marmions of West Tanfield and later the Nevilles. Today Masham boasts the Theakston brewery, providing a worthy addition to the range of excellent English ales.






                                                                                                                     Drawing from a brass plate in Wensley Church >

                                         ABBOTS OF JERVAULX:

1. JOHN DE KINGSTON; 1141 [?] ; 1170. First abbot.  John de Kinstan in VCH Yorkshire vol. II. Coffin shaped tombstone with clear inscription in the Chapter House in 1890. [Bulmer's History of North Yorkshire.]
3. WILLIAM; 1198; Fine, 1209.  Coffin shaped tombstone in the Chapter House 1890.[Bulmer's History of North Yorkshire.] VCH Yorkshire vol. III has a THOMAS occurring 1218 between William and Eustace
4. EUSTACE; Fines, 1224-54. 
Coffin shaped tombstone in the Chapter House in 1890. VCH has Eustace as 5th abbot.
5. THOMAS; 1258 ; Fines, 1267-80.  Monasticon Eboracense omits Thomas
6. PHILIP; mentioned 1290.  Murdered 1279 by one of the monks, William de Modither who fled and was outlawed. Said to have been succeeded by THOMAS. [VCH, Jervaulx.]  Monasticon Eboracense omits Philip VCH Yorkshire has a THOMAS occurring 1280 between Philip and Ralph
7. RALPH; occurs 1289; 1300. Lay subsidyy of 1301: in the Wapentake of Hang
Abbas Jerovallis: De Abbacia Jerovallis xxxiiijs  Summa, xxxvli ijs xjd o.q.     (q. = quadrans = farthing )
8. SIMON DE MIDGLEY or Miggelle; elected 1304. [York Archiepis. Reg. sed. vac. fol. 33.] VCH Yorkshire vol. III says Simon was succeeded by JOHN 8th abbot who died or resigned 1312 . Simon is sometimes given as the 6th abbot. JOHN is described in Bulmer's (1890) as the 8th abbot - his coffin shaped tombstone was noted in the Chapter House in 1890. Monasticon Eboracense omits this John. Abbot Simon would have known Henry FitzHugh [probable effigy within the grounds] and probably Henry's father, Hugh FitzHenry [d. 1304.]
9. THOMAS DE GRISTHWAYT; Elected 1312, occurs 1338. Gristhwayte, Griselhurst [Bulmer's 1890], Grisethurst. [Mon. Ebor.]

In 1316 the abbot of 'Jorvall' was lord of Horton in Ribblesdale. [Nomina Villarum, p. 362.]

In 1318 the convent of Jervaulx is recorded as being in possession of a sheep fold at Braithwaite, now located by Braithwaite Hall below Braithwaite Moor near Coverham. [C.P.R., 1317-1321, p. 218.]

In 1323, while on a progress through the lands of Thomas earl of Lancaster's defeated rebel barons, King Edward II stayed at Jervaulx, spending ten days journeying between Richmond, Jervaulx and Barnard Castle and thence to Skipton-in-Craven where he remained for three days. [Walker, J.W., Y.A.J., vol. 36, (1944), p. 30.]

10. HUGH; occurs1342.

11. JOHN; occurs 1349; ? DE NEWBY, mentioned 1378. Monasticon Eboracense has John de Newby elected 1374.
 Monasticon Eboracense has John de Newby elected 1374. VCH Yorkshire vol. III has John de Rokewyk, occurring 1398 between John 1349 and Richard Gower.
12. RICHARD GOWER; elected 1399; died 1425.  Monasticon Eboracense has THOMAS  elected 1409 inserted between RICHARD and PETER.
13. PETER DE SNAPE; succeeded; 1435. VCH Yorkshire vol. III has Peter de Snape elected 1425 as the 17th abbot.
14. JOHN BROMPTON; elected 1436; Pardon, 1464. John Brompton II in VCH Yorks. vol. III.
15. WILLIAM JAEOME; Pardon, 1469; 1471 ; died. William Jerome in VCH Yorks. vol. III.
16. WILLIAM HESLINGTON; succeeded 1475.
17. ROBERT THORNTON; elected 1510.
Robert Thorneton in VCH Yorks. vol. III.
18. ADAM SEDBURGH; elected 1533.  Hanged at Tyburn 1537 for assisting in the Pilgrimage of Grace; last abbot.

   See aerial photograph of the abbey and surrounding enclosure remains 

Path leading to the ruins of Jervaulx Abbey  
Spring and water trough at Jervaulx Abbey  
The Lay brothers infirmary.   
Entrance to the cloister, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Arched doorways to Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale. The facing arch appears to exhibit Norman dog-tooth decoration.  
The ground level ambulatory with octagonal columns that lay beneath the monks dormitory, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Remains of the cloister, with the abbey church in the background, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Chapter House, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale. The house was supported by six grey marble columns of which four remain entire as in 1890. Each capital is surmounted by rich foliation. There is evidence for a number of grave slabs here. In 1890 there were seven 'coffin shaped tombstones' identified here, one supposedly belonging to John the first abbot of Jervaulx and exhibiting a clear inscription. The Chapter House has a stone bench running around the room (compare with the Chapter House in York Minster). Other sites for burials were the abbey nave, cloister and the cemetery to the east of the site.  
Carved archways, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
 Refectory (99' x 30' ) next to the kitchen, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale. There are the remains of six octagonal columns five of which were extant in 1890.  
ffigy pedestal and niche, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Monk's Infirmary and Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Lancet windows, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
 Arches in the monks infirmary, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Second level of the monks infirmary, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Lower level of the monks infirmary, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Lower and upper levels of the monks infirmary, showing corbelling, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Carved stone cross, monks infirmary, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
The abbot's lodging house with its large south-facing window. The cellar was in the lower level.  
Wall niche in the upper level of the abbot's lodging house, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Cellar under the abbot's lodging house, looking north,  Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Abbot's lodging house from the outside, the south-facing window is to the left, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
Abbot's lodging house from the outside showing the large south-facing window and the kitchen to the left,  Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
 Archway and collapsed steps to the monks dormitory, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale  
A carved but weathered effigy, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale.

This is the cross-legged effigy with chain mail mentioned in 1890 in Bulmer's History of North Yorkshire, said to be of Lord FitzHugh, a crusader. As the official crusades were over by 1270 this is possibly an effigy of  either Hugh FitzHenry who died in 1304 or if an 'individual crusader', his son Henry FizHugh appointed 1st baron FitzHugh of Ravensworth in 1321 (d. 1356). Chain mail can be seen on the left side of the head and the shield bears some of the markings of the FitzHugh arms. At one time it was thought that crossed legs in medieval effigies signified presence at a crusade but this is now considered to be incorrect.

Grave slab with inscribed long cross, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale.  
 Monks embalming slab, with runnel to drain the blood, Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale.  


 A MEDIEVAL BELL The tenor bell now at St. Gregory's, Bedale c. 1350- 1360. Supposedly taken from the church belfrey of Jervaulx Abbey at the Reformation. From the foundry of John de Stafford and inscribed:
iou : ego : cum : fiam : cruce : custos : laudo : mariam : digna : dei : laude : mater : dignissima : gaude.


Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, vol. 10, (1889), p. 476.

Ibid. vol. 21, (1911) Photographs providing an interesting comparison with the modern day appearance of the abbey.

Page, William. Victoria County History for Yorkshire vol. III (1907), pp. 138-142.

Burton, John. Monasticon Eboracense (1758).

Bulmer's History of North Yorkshire (1890).

Sunter, Robert. The Monastic Ruins of Yorkshire

Burton, Janet. The Monasstic Order in Yorkshire 1069-1215. CUP, 1999.

Yorkshire Lay Subsidy 30 Ed. I (1301).  Lay Subsidies - were a form of taxation. Yorkshire Archeological Society, 1897.



Tim Midgley, February 2017, revised  31st July 2023.