Parish main page
Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Ryedale - Electoral Division, Poor Law Union, County Court District, and Rural Deanery of Helmsley - Archdeaconry of Cleveland - Diocese of York.
This parish, sometimes called Helmsley-Black-Moor, from the bleak moorlands close by, and Helmsley-in-Ryedale, from its situation in that dale, comprises. in addition to the township of its own name, those of Beadlam, Laskill Pasture, Pockley, Rievaulx, and Sproxton. The population in 1881 was 2,377. The ancient parochial boundary included a vast tract, extending 16 miles from north to south, and embracing about 46,000 acres. The township of Helmsley contains 8,562 acres, including moorland, and is valued, for rating purposes, at £3,747. The inhabitants in 1881 numbered 1,550. The Earl of Feversham is lord of the manor and owner of the whole township, excepting three houses.
Helmsley is a place of considerable antiquity, and merits a somewhat lengthy notice from its many interesting historic associations. It is supposed to have been held sacred by the Druids, from whom the neighbouring valley has received its name of Drudale-howl, or Druids'-dale, and scattered over the moors are numerous tumuli or sepulchral mounds. In Domesday Book it is called Elmslac, and in later documents it is written Hamlake. At the time of the Survey it was held by three thanes, who had three-and-a-half carucates of land to be taxed, and land for two ploughs. Shortly afterwards we find the manor in the possession of Walter l'Espec. This Walter was a doughty warrior, and was one of the three to whom the aged Thurstan, Archbishop of York, committed the command of the army at the battle of the Standard. Dying without surviving issue, the manor was conveyed by the marriage of his youngest sister, Adeline, to Peter de Ros. Robert de Ros, surnamed Fursan, built the castle of Helmsley, or Hamlake, which was also sometimes styled, from him, Fursan Castle. He was lord of the castle and manor of Wark, in Northumberland, and founded a hospital there for lepers, subject to the abbey of Rievaulx. He died in 1227, and was buried in Temple Church, London. Another Robert de Ros, in the reign of Edward I., played the traitor to his king, as the price of the love of a Scottish lady, by transferring his services to the Scottish monarch. The family figures conspicuously in the wars between the Houses of York and Lancaster, and Lord Thomas de Ross,. having fought on the losing side at the battle of Hexham, was taken prisoner and beheaded.
After passing through seventeen generations of De Rosses, Helmsley was conveyed in marriage to Sir Robert Manners, Knt., of Etall Castle, Northumberland. His grandson, Thomas, to whom the De Ros title and lands had descended, was advanced to the dignity of Earl of Rutland in 1525. Francis, the sixth earl, left an only daughter, Catherine, who, in 1632, married George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham.. Their son, the second duke, the once brilliant wit and courtier, spent much of his time here after his retirement from court and cabinet, squandering away his vast wealth in reckless extravagance, and died in comparative indigence at Kirby Moorside. The Helmsley and Kirkdale estates were sold by his trustees in 1695 to Sir Charles Duncombe, Knt., for the sum of £90,000, and from him they have descended to the Earl of Feversham, the present owner.
The castle, which is now in ruins, crowns a gentle eminence on the west side of the town, and was protected by an outer and an inner moat, both wide and deep, and filled with water. The grand entrance was on the south, through a square tower, 20 feet wide, and now roofless. This was defended by a portcullis, the groove of which still remains, and the machicolations through which boiling pitch or molten lead could be poured on the enemy, may still be seen. The The inner gateway admitting to the court yard, or bailey, had also its portcullis. The fragments which remain of the outer walls of the castle, are of immense thickness, and their vast strength, together with the double ditches and earthworks must have rendered it almost impregnable. The keep, of which little more remains than one side, 95 feet high, was a massive square tower, originally 100 feet in height and 53 feet square, with an embattled parapet and square battlemented turrets at the angles, rising about 10 feet above the curtain wall. From these look-out towers the position of besiegers could be observed. The lower part of the keep is in the transitional style, and was probably the work of "Fursan" de Roos; alterations and additions, by succeeding owners, in the Early English and decorated periods. There was the usual dungeon for the detention of unfortunate captives, and above this were three stories, which communicated with each other by a winding staircase, a portion of which still remains, in the northwest corner. On the side of the ward opposite the keep are two ranges of buildings which formed the domestic portion of the castle. The larger and older block, square in plan, with lofty and massive walls, retains traces of Norman and Early English work, though considerably restored and altered in the decorated period. The other block is in the Elizabethan style, and is supposed to have been built by Edward, Lord Manners, third earl of Rutland, The rooms now appropriated to the storage of lumber retain their fine old oak panelling and plaster work. The cornice is a piece of elaborate modelling, exhibiting shields of the earl, with sixteen quarterings, impaling the arms of Isabel his wife, daughter of Sir Thomas Holcroft, Knt. Between each shield is a device, consisting of a fleur de lys, supported on each side by a wyvern, below which is a mermaid with glass and comb, between a dolphin and another marine animal.
The double ditches were filled with water from the Rye, and crossed by four drawbridges, all the piers of which are still perfect, and traces of two gateways, to which they gave access, are still visible. The area occupied by the castle and its fortifications is 10 acres.
The most interesting event in the history of the castle is its siege by the parliamentary forces in 1644. It had been garrisoned for the king, and placed under the command of Colonel Crossland. Sir Thomas Fairfax led the enemy, who were of considerable strength. The attack was vigorous; the defence, determined and obstinate. Sir Thomas was wounded in the shoulder, and afterwards removed to York. A party of royalists, from the garrisons of Skipton and Knaresborough, attempted to relieve the besieged, but were repulsed by the enemy and retreated, The little garrison shortly afterwards capitulated on honourable terms, and the castle was dismantled by order of the parliament.
Duncombe Park, the residence of the noble owner of Helmsley, was built in 1718, from the designs of Sir John Vanbrugh, and subsequently enlarged under the superintendence of the late Sir John Barry. It was a handsome mansion, in the Doric style, and magnificently decorated in the highest style of art. On January 11th, 1879, it was entirely destroyed by fire, in which some valuable works of art perished. The north wing, originally the servants' quarters, has been partially restored, and converted into a temporary residence for the family. It contains two valuable pieces of statuary, preserved from the flames. One is the marble figure of a dog, resembling the famous "Dog of Alcibiades," in the Uffizi gallery at Florence. This work was discovered at Monte Cagnuolo, and brought to England by Mr. H. C. Jennings, from whom it was purchased for 1,000 guineas. It is supposed to be the work of Myron, a Grecian sculptor, who lived about 440 years before Christ. The other is a statue of Discobolus, the quoit thrower, said to be one of the finest studies of the human frame in existence. There is also a valuable collection of paintings, by the old masters, including Correggio, Domenichino, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Rubens, Salvator Rosa, Titian, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Hogarth, &c.
The park is extensive, well-wooded, and stocked with red and fallow deer. The Rye winds through it, forming, in one place, a beautiful cascade. Skirting the valley of the river, is the famous Rievaulx terrace, formed by Thos. Duncombe, Esq., in 1758. It is a magnificent stretch of green sward, nearly half-a-mile in length, of ample breadth, and sheltered on the east by a thick belt of trees. At one end, is a circular temple, with a Tuscan colonade, and surmounted by a dome, the ceiling of which is painted in fresco. The floor is of tesselated pavement, discovered among the ruins of Jervaulx Abbey in 1821. On one of the tiles appears the inscription "Ave Maria." At the other end of the terrace is a square temple, with spacious pedimented portico, supported by six Ionic columns. The ceiling of the interior is beautifully decorated by fresco paintings of mythological subjects, executed by an Italian artist; and the richly carved white marble mantlepiece was the work of an eminent Roman sculptor. In the lower storey are the keeper's apartments. The view from many points of the terrace is charmingly beautiful and varied.
The family of Duncombe was originally settled at Barleyend, in Buckinghamshire, where they possessed lands; but their pedigree, in Herald's Visitation of that county, does not extend further back than John Duncombe, Esq., who died in 1531. Sir Charles Duncombe, Knt., the purchaser of the Helmsley estate, was a member of parliament and lord mayor of London in 1708. He died unmarried in 1711, leaving his property to his sister, Ursula, the wife of Thomas Brown, Esq., of London, who assumed the name of Duncombe. Charles Duncombe, Esq., their great-grandson, was created Baron Feversham* in 1826. He married Charlotte, only daughter of the second Earl of Dartmouth, and had seven sons and three daughters. William, the second baron, married Lady Louisa Stewart, daughter of the Earl of Galloway, and at his death, in 1867, was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, William Ernest, who, the following year, was created Viscount Helmsley and Earl of Feversham.
* Anthony Duncombe, nephew of Sir Charles, was, in 1747, created Lord Feversham and Baron of Downton, in Wiltshire, but dying without male issue the peerage became extinct.
The town of Helmsley, which is situated on the north bank of the Rye, is small, but attractive. The houses are usually well built, chiefly of stone, and slated; but a few of the old timber and plaster ones, coloured in white and black, still remain and give to the place the spice of antiquity. Helmsley is distant 16 miles N.W. of Malton, 6 miles W.S.W. of Kirby Moorside, and about a quarter-of-a-mile from the railway station. The market is held on Friday, to which day it was changed after the opening of the railway. The Market Place is a spacious square. Here stand the market cross and the beautiful monument of the late Lord Feversham. The latter was erected by the tenantry in 1869, at a cost of £800. It was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, and consists of an elegant canopy resting on a substantial base, and surmounted by a lanthorn and spire. The style is Gothic, and, in general effect, resembles Scott's monument at Edinburgh. The marble statue beneath, representing the deceased nobleman in his robes as a peer, was executed by the late Mr. Noble, the celebrated Yorkshire sculptor, at a cost of £600, defrayed by the Duncombe family. The town is supplied with water from a spring called Foot Head, about a mile from Helmsley. The works were constructed about 20 years ago by the late Lord Feversham. The Court House is situated in the Market Place; here magisterial and county court business is transacted, The manorial courts are held regularly at the castle.
The Church of All Saints. According to Burton's Monasticon, Walter de Espec gave the church and manor of Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey, and a vicar was then appointed to Helmsley. The same authority says Theodric was vicar in 1129; this was probably soon after the erection of the fabric. The present edifice is a restoration, certainly the most perfect of its kind in the neighbourhood, and almost a rebuilding of the interesting old parish church. The tower is the only external portion where the original work is apparent, but the arches of the porch and chancel, deeply ornamented with dog-tooth work, provide good examples of its original Norman beauty. The work of restoration was begun in 1866 by William, second baron Feversham, and completed by William Ernest, first earl of Feversham in 1868, at a cost of £16,000. The result is a handsome stone building, substantial enough to last for as as many future centuries, as the old Norman one it replaced did in the past. It consists of chancel, nave, north aisle, transepts, south porch, and a western tower. The tower has octagonal spiral pinnacles at the angles of the parapet, and contains eight bells and a clock, with musical chimes, striking the quarter hours. Four lofty arches, apparently transitional, on clustered piers, separate the nave and aisle. The tower arch is also transitional, and has plain caps. In the north side of the pillar, at the extreme east of the north aisle, is inserted a fine old piscina, much dilapidated, but worth restoring to its original condition. The ancient octagonal font is now in Pockley church. A grave slab, with floriated cross, is placed in the church for preservation. The north chancel is occupied by a fine organ, the gift of the Earl of Feversham, and behind it is a small chapel, used for morning service, and the vestries. The chapel contains a marble altar by the vicar, in memory of his father, Robert, late Bishop and Metropolitan of Cape Town. The body of the altar is of black marble, and is approached by two steps of white marble. The canopy is of carved oak, beneath which is a painting of the Entombment. The east window of the chapel represents the Crucifixion, and two other scenes from scripture. Two fine memorial windows have been placed in the north aisle by the present vicar, one to the memory of his mother, Sophia Gray, wife of the Bishop of Cape Town; the other in memory of one of his curates. Though modern, they possess great interest for the antiquarian. In one, Walter L'Espec is represented granting a charter to Rievaulx, endowing it with nine carucates of land at Griff. The other window represents in one panel St. Aelred; in the other, a full-length figure of Walter L'Espec, faithfully delineated from the very minute description handed down in ancient records, The chancel windows and some in the transepts are filled with stained glass. The eastern triplet is illustrative of the dedication of the church to All Saints. The centre light contains the Saviour in a sitting attitude, of heroic size, in the act of receiving and blessing bands of saints, groups of whom fill the lights on each side; while four single light windows in the sides of the chancel contain figures of the Evangelists. There are numerous monuments to the Duncombe family and others, but the most interesting is that of Lord Thomas de Ross, the last of the line connected with this estate. After being captured and beheaded in 1464, whilst espousing the defeated cause at Hexham, his body was interred at Rievaulx, but was afterwards removed to this place after the dissolution. The monument consists of a marble slab in the floor of the tower, 8 feet by 3½ feet. Lord Thomas and his wife are represented by brasses 26 inches in length, inserted in the stone; the former in the costume of a knight of the period, in plate armour, with finely engraved collar, a short dagger on one side, and a long sword on the other, spurs, and the semblance of a dog at his feet. The lady is arrayed in the double peaked cap of the period of Edward IV., dress close fitting, and the hands joined in prayer. The beautiful candelabra in the centre of the church is the gift of the late John Pierson. The church is seated with oak benches, and will hold 650 persons.
The Canons Garth, a very old religious house, stands close to the north of the church. It was probably built by the monks of Kirkham Abbey, about the middle of the 12th century, when the advowson of Helmsley was given to the Augustinian Canons of that monastery, then lately founded by Walter L'Espec, the lord of Helmsley. The building continued to be used as a vicarage in post-Reformation times, until it was exchanged (as is believed) for another house in 1770. "Its medley gables, rude slates and chimneys, relieved by lath and plaster, in black and white, has been pourtrayed on the canvas of many an artist." It has recently been handed back by a deed of gift by the present owner and lord of the manor for the use of the All Saints sisters.
The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Earl of Feversham, held since 1870 by the Rev. Charles Norris Gray, proctor for Cleveland, in the Archdeaconry of York, and is of the annual value of £360.
The Wesleyan chapel, in Bondgate, was erected in 1800, and enlarged in 1852. It is galleried all round, and has a good organ. Accommodation for 320.
The Baptists and Primitive Methodists have also places of worship here.
The Boys' National school is liberally supported by Lord Feversham. In 1881 the building was enlarged by a class-room, giving additional accommodation for 22. Last average, 80. Master, C. Oxley. The Girls' and Infants' schools have each accommodation for 100, and an average attendance of 90 each. Miss Emily Spencer, mistress.
The Wesleyan school, situated in Bondgate, was erected in 1852 of limestone, and enlarged in 1878, at a cost of £300. It has a class-room, and gives accommodation for 100. Average at present is 70. Miss Janet Smith, mistress.
Carlton is a hamlet about two miles N. of Helmsley, containing a new church in the Early English style, three farms, and a few cottages. East Moors is another hamlet about three miles further north. A church and school have been recently erected here.
Helmsley Poor Law Union comprises 72,885 acres and 5,919 inhabitants. The total rateable value of the land and property within its boundary is £39,283. It includes the following places:- Ampleforth, Arden, Beadlam, Bilsdale Westside, Byland Abbey with Wass, Cawton, Cold Kirby, Coulton, Dale Town, Gilling, Grimston, Harome, Hawnby, Helmsley, Laskill Pasture, Morton, Newton East and Laysthorpe, Old Byland, Oldstead, Oswaldkirk, Pockley, Rievaulx, Scawton, Snilesworth, Sproxton, Stonegrave, and Thorpe-le-Willows.
BEADLAM is a township in the parish and union of, and three miles east of Helmsley, and three west of Kirby Moorside. The area is 1,273 acres, of the rateable value of £1,228, and the population 154 at the last census. The lord of the manor is the Earl of Feversham, and, with the exception of two freeholds, the owner of the township. The soil is gravelly and clayey, and the crops wheat, oats, barley, and turnips. Part of this township, for ecclesiastical purposes, was united to Kirkdale in 1882.
The church of St. Hilda, a chapel-of-ease to Kirkdale, was erected in 1883, at a cost of £1,200. One half of this sum and the site was given by Lord Feversham, and the remainder raised by subscriptions; £50 was granted by the Incorporated Society. The material is limestone, except the dressings, which are of freestone. The church consists of nave, chancel, small vestry, and tower containing one bell. There are sittings for 110 persons. Tho brass flagon in the font has an inscription to the memory of Lucy Bramley, June 29th, 1884. On a brass plate at the west end of the church is inscribed, "To the Glory of God, and in commemoration of the Jubilee of H.I.M. Queen Victoria, a clock was placed in the tower of St. Hilda's Church, Kirkdale, by the inhabitants of Beadlam, Nawton, and Skiplam, June, 1887." Under this is the 12th verse of the 90th Psalm. The church is under the patronage of the University of Oxford, and the living is worth £250 per annum, The Rev. Richard Bramley, incumbent of Kirkdale, resides at Beadlam.
LASKILL PASTURE is a township of Helmsley parish, on the east side of Ryedale, and six miles N.N.W. of Helmsley It has an area of 1,504 acres, 500 of which are moorland. The rateable value is £453, and the population, 93. Lord Feversham is lord of the manor and landowner. The Society of Friends have a meeting house and burial ground here.
In 1855 were uncovered remains, near Laskill Bridge, indicative of the site of an ancient church or religious house. Some of the loose stones placed together formed parts of columns three feet in diameter; and among other debris turned up were two large stone crosses, a font and its pillar, and flooring tiles of various shapes and colour.
POCKLEY township is in the parish of and three miles north of Helmsley, and five miles west of Kirby Moorside. The acreage is 3,212, of which 1,263 acres are woods and moors; and the population in 1881 was 188. The Earl of Feversham is lord of the manor and sole landowner. The chapel-of-ease of St. John the Baptist is a modern edifice, rebuilt of limestone, with freestone dressings, at a cost of £1,500. It consists of chancel, nave, south porch, and a western turret containing one bell. It contains an organ, as also a font formerly in the parish church at Helmsley. There is a chapel here, built about 1886, jointly used by Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists, with accommodation for 80. The site is rented. The National school was erected in 1881 for 50 children. It is partly supported by Lord Feversham, and also receives £5 annually from Stockton's bequest.
SPROXTON township belongs to Lord Feversham, who has the manorial rights. It contains 2,846 acres of rateable land, valued at £1,680, and has a population of 165. The village is small and scattered, on the crown of a hill, two miles south of Helmsley. Near to Sproxton is the site of an extensive moated building, of which nothing is known. Connected with the spot are two oval basins formed with hammered stone, resembling in shape a pair of spectacles. These are supposed to have been used for spawning fish for the fish ponds hard by, and are about four feet deep.
The church of St. Chad, a structure of the Tudor period, stands on an eminence as you enter the village. It formerly occupied a site near West Newton Grange, and latterly was used as a barn. Lord Feversham presented the building to the present vicar of Helmsley, who took it down, and rebuilt the present edifice in 1879. It has an oak roof and panelled walls, with carved oak chancel screen and rood above it. The stained window at the east end, representing the Crucifixion, is the gift of Lord Feversham. The font and communion table are of marble.
The Wesleyans have a chapel, erected in 1867 of limestone, with accommodation for 80.
RIEVAULX or RIVAULX is a township and village, and lies chiefly in the deep, narrow, and woody valley of the Rye. Its area is 4,894 acres; population, 227; rateable value, £2,044. Lord Feversham is proprietor of the soil and lord of the manor. The village is 2½ miles N.W. from Helmsley, on the road between that town and Thirsk.
On the north side of Duncombe Park, embosomed in a deep valley through which the Rye winds its course, are the highly-picturesque ruins of Rievaulx, Rivaulx, or Rivalx Abbey. It is one of the most beautiful ruins in Yorkshire, being alike admirable for its situation and its style of architecture; less extensive than Fountains, but far more striking in the extreme beauty and picturesqueness of its surroundings. The site of the ruins is overshadowed by noble trees, and surrounded by steep hills, and is situated near the angles of three different vales, with each a rivulet running through them; that passing by where the abbey was built being called Rie, whence this vale took its name, and the house itself was thence called the abbey of Rie-val. The history of this, the first foundation of the Cistercian order in Yorkshire, is happily involved in no mystery, as we learn from Burton's "Monasticon," that St. Bernard, abbot of Clareval, sent some monks to England about 1128, who were honourably received by both king and kingdom, and particularly by Sir Walter le Espec, who in 1131 allotted to some of them a solitary place in Blakemore, near Hamelac, now Helmsley. Sir Walter, the founder of Rievaulx Abbey, was a Norman warrior of gigantic size and prowess, and one of the English commanders at the battle of the Standard. The death of his only son by an accident was the cause of his founding three religious houses - Warden, in Bedfordshire, Kirkham, and Rievaux. The monks, under the government of William, their first abbot, at once proceeded with the erection of the monastery, which, like all those of the Cistercians, was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The abbey was amply endowed with landed property to the amount of fifty carucates; of which nine were given by the founder, twelve by the Crown, twelve by Roger de Mowbray, and six by the bishops of Durham. There was also an extensive pasturage for upwards of 4,000 sheep and cattle in the neighbourhood, with free warren and other privileges; but it is singular that not one donation of a church or chapel occurs, so that their spiritual income must have been very small.
The Pope Alexander III., by his bull dated A.D. 1160, took the monastery into his immediate protection, enjoining that the Cistercian order should there continue for ever; confirming to the monks all their possessions; granting them many privileges; and confirming all the immunities granted to them by Kings Henry I. and Henry II. Burton says that Peter de Ros granted the monks leave to buy fish at Redcar, and carry it through all the ways of his lordships; that Roger de Mowbray gave the monks Midelhovet, Siclicet Salton, in Farndale, where Edmund the hermit lived; with the other Salton, called Du Vauthave.
Abbot William was the first of the abbots of Rievaulx; he died in 1146, and Maurice, second abbot, was elected in his stead. The next and most distinguished abbot was Aelred, who was elected in 1160, having been previously abbot of Revesby, which was a colony or offshoot from the parent abbey of Rievaux. This Aelred was the youth who fled the court and palace of David, King of Scotland, and afterwards wrote the life of that monarch. He is the author of many historical pieces, but is best known by his account of the battle of the Standard, 1138. He died in 1166, and was buried at Rievaulx, where his tomb, richly adorned with gold and silver, was to be seen a short time before the dissolution of the abbey. The last of the abbots was Rowland or Richard de Blyton.
The abbot of Rievaulx was head of the Cistercian order in England, and not unfrequently complaints were brought and causes judicially decided before him. At the feast given by Nevill, Archbishop of York, on his installation in 1464, the abbot of Rievaulx ranked fourth in the order of precedence at table.
After a succession of 31 abbots (according to some writers 32, 33, and by others 36), and an existence of more than four centuries, the abbey was surrendered by Richard de Blyton and twenty-three monks, who received pensions to the amount of £165 13s. 4d. per annum, of which sum the abbot received £66 13s. 4d. The gross income at that time was £315 14s. 6d., and the net, £278 10s. 2d. per annum. The plate of the church, 516 ounces in weight; 100 fodder of lead, and five bells, were also surrendered into the hands of the commissioners.
The site was granted in exchange for other lands in 1538, to Thomas, earl of Rutland, a descendant of the founder of the abbey. Catherine, daughter and heir of Roger, earl of Rutland, married George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, who, in her right, became possessed hereof. From him it descended to his son, the second duke, and it afterwards passed by purchase, with the Helmsley estate, to Sir Charles Duncombe, an ancestor of Lord Feversham, the present owner.
Sir Walter le Espec, the founder, took the habit of a monk in this abbey. where, after two years, he died, and was buried at the entrance to the Chapter house, in 1153. Henry le Scroope ordered, by his will, that his body should be interred before the altar of "Our Lady of Pity." In 1206, Sir John de Ros was buried on the side of the choir, near the altar. In 1328, Sir William Malbys had a license to remove the remains of Sir John Malbys, and Agnes, his parents, from the church of Acaster Malbys (Malbis), and inter them in the Conventual church of Rieval. In 1384, Thomas de Ros was buried in the choir of the church. In 1384, Lady Mary Ros of Oryby, by will, directed her corpse to be laid by her husband, Sir John, in this monastery, and ordered £100 for a marble tomb. In 1819, the bones of Henry le Scrope were exhumed from a stone coffin, and buried in Helmsley churchyard, near the porch of the south door.
The principal remains of this once elegant and magnificent abbey are those of the church and refectory. The former consist of the choir and part of the side aisles, with the transept and its aisle, and the lower part of the tower. The nave has entirely disappeared. The whole length of the church was 343 feet; the nave being 166 feet long by 63 feet wide; the transept, 118 feet in length and 33 in breadth. The arch opening from the transept into the choir is 75 feet in height, and the circumference of the pillows from which it rises 30 feet. The clustered pillars and fine mouldings of this arch are very beautiful. The lancet windows of the transept are the oldest style of Early English architecture to be found in the ruins, contrasting most strongly with the richly ornamented choir. The side aisles are divided from the centre by eight clustered columns on each side; above is the triforium arcade, consisting of 14 arches on each side; above which is a passage along both sides of the choir, going past the windows. The clerestory windows are small lancet lights, 14 on each side, one bold arch enclosing every two of them. The centre spandrils of the treforium are adorned with quatrefoils in circles, sunk in the stone. The southern end of the choir has six lights, three and three, the upper tier adorned with clustered shafts and lozenge mouldings. Opposite what has been the nave will be found the remains of the cloisters, the square of which is above 100 feet each way; one side apparently communicating with the church. Beyond this, still further to the west, we find the refectory, entered by a beautiful trefoil arch. This building, provided with a music gallery on the north side, is a majestic apartment, 125 feet long, and 35 feet wide, lighted by three lancet windows. The portion of the ruins to the south has probably been the kitchens. On the western side of the choir are traces of what has been the abbot's chamber and offices.
Beneath the windows of the refectory, towards the west, is a large heap of iron slag and cinders, showing that iron had been smelted here, and that the bloomery had been in operation a long time. On the opposite side is a small building with a window of three lights on one side, and a lancet in the other, which is supposed to have been the eleemosynary. Shortly after the dissolution of the monasteries, corn and provisions became greatly appreciated, a fact recorded in an old Somersetshire ballad"I'll tell thee what good vellowe, Before the vriars went hence, A bushel of the best wheate Was zold for vourteen pence And vorty eggs a penny, That were both good and new: And this, I say, myself have seen, And yet I am no Jew."
Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.