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Griff medieval settlement and Cistercian monastic grange, 400m west of Griff Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Rievaulx, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.2463 / 54°14'46"N

Longitude: -1.105 / 1°6'18"W

OS Eastings: 458416.386206

OS Northings: 483772.585983

OS Grid: SE584837

Mapcode National: GBR NMQB.KK

Mapcode Global: WHF9R.0J2K

Entry Name: Griff medieval settlement and Cistercian monastic grange, 400m west of Griff Farm

Scheduled Date: 16 January 1959

Last Amended: 7 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019344

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32673

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Rievaulx

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Helmsley All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of a medieval settlement
that formed part of a grange (or farm), which was under the direct control of
the Cistercian Abbey of Rievaulx. It is located on the north side of the
steeply cut valley of the River Rye, 600m south east of Rievaulx Abbey.
Griff is briefly mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was divided
equally between the king and Count Mortain, his half brother. The king's land
was let to Grimr who had arable land for one plough team. The settlement was
granted along with other lands by Walter d'Espec at the foundation of Rievaulx
Abbey in 1131. It is not known if the original peasant settlement had already
been abandoned by this time, or was displaced by the abbey, or absorbed with
its inhabitants working the land for the abbey. There is a tradition that
Griff was occupied by lay brothers employed during the construction of the
abbey buildings. By the time of Abbot Ailred (1147-1167), Griff was operated
as a grange. Further confirmation of its status comes from the 1301 Lay
Subsidy, a tax levied to support Edward I's military campaigns, where Griff
was listed as one of Rievaulx's granges and assessed at 61 shillings and 4
pence. Although thought to have originally been predominantly an arable
grange, Griff is also thought to have acted as a bercarie (a sheep farm), as
it was linked via a bridge over the River Rye to the abbey's important sheep
house at Sproxton to the south east. By the Dissolution in 1539, the grange
was still farmed directly by the abbey rather than being leased to a tenant.
The farm covered 490 acres divided between 24 closes and open fields of which
96 acres were arable, 244 acres pasture, and 50 acres meadow all valued at 10
pounds, 11 shillings and 10 pence, which included the 12 pence estimated value
of the `edifices and barns' at the grange. Griff was then granted to Thomas
Manners, Earl of Rutland along with the site of the abbey and many other
Rievaulx landholdings.
The earthworks at Griff are complex and only a small proportion are shown on
the 1:10,000 map. These are thought to represent the remains of the original
settlement along with later remains of buildings forming part of the monastic
grange. The administrative core of the grange is traditionally thought to have
been to the east and to have developed into the modern Griff Farm in the years
following the Dissolution.
The feature shown on the 1:10,000 map on the far east side of the monument is
a stoney boundary bank topping a lynchet which is typically over 1m high on
the eastern side, but only up to 0.5m high on the western side. At the south
end of the lynchet, the bank turns south west, also shown on the 1:10,000 map.
Here it forms the north eastern and south eastern footings of a building
approximately 23m by 7m with two pairs of opposed entrances through its north
west and south east walls. The remains of a second building about 7m by 7m,
also incorporating the bank as its south eastern wall lies 5m further along.
The bank continues south west, to reach the south east corner of a small
quarry, where it can be seen as the footings of a drystone wall. The quarry is
about 35m across and over 2m deep in places. It is considered to be medieval
in date. Two main working faces can be identified, both on the east side, each
with a small spoil heap immediately to the west. Immediately to the west of
these, in the base of the quarry there is an open area with a much bigger
spoil heap filling the north western part of the quarry. The open area would
have been a dressing floor where the large stone blocks freed from the face
were reduced to more portable sizes. Passing immediately to the west of the
quarry, running north-south, there is a hollow way. This track has a
substantial stoney bank to its west which is marked on the 1:10,000 map. Just
beyond where this bank turns north west and another lower bank continues
northwards, also marked on the map, the hollow way turns north eastwards.
Centred 50m to the north of the quarry, on the eastern side of the hollow way
there is a open area 25m by 15m interpreted as a former yard with the
earthworks of buildings on the north, east and south east sides. On the north
side the building is approximately 13m by 5m, split into two rooms with an
eastern room 5m by 5m. On the east side there is a building some 10m by 8m to
the north of a second building 9m by 5m which appears to partly overlie the
remains of another building some 7m by 4m set at an angle on the south east
side of the yard. Of these three buildings, the northern one has been cut
through at a later date by a re-routing of the hollow way which cuts
diagonally across the yard. This continues to the NNE and is shown on the
1:10,000 map as a break of slope following a course shaped like an elongated
`S'. Possibly at the same time, the course of the earlier hollow way was
blocked with the insertion of two low banks across its route. Behind the
northern building there is a triangular area which extends 20m northwards,
defined by low banks and the courses of the two hollow ways. On the far side
of this there are the slight earthwork remains of a structure 8m by 6m which
was probably either a timber outbuilding or a small enclosure. Between the two
buildings on the eastern side of the yard there is a narrow passageway leading
to another yard which is now a hollowed area 15m by 20m. This is bound to the
south by a low bank, beyond which there is a further hollowed area also
interpreted as a yard. To the east there are the earthworks of a range of
buildings shown on the 1:10,000 map as a NNW to SSE mound just over 60m long.
These substantial earthworks stand up to 1m high and are of a continuous range
of buildings 6m-8m wide, extending for just over 30m north-south, divided
irregularly into four rooms. To the north, on the same line, there is an area
of lower earthworks, not considered to be building remains, which extend for
another 20m. To their east there are the earthworks of another building 15m by
6m divided into two cells with a larger northern room. To the south of the 30m
long range there is an enclosure 13m by 19m defined by a 0.3m high bank which
forms the eastern side of the southernmost yard. On the eastern side of this
yard, partly obscured by spoil from the quarry to the south, there are the
slight earthworks of what is interpreted as a two-roomed timber building 4m
wide and at least 8m long. The area between the buildings and the bank-topped
lynchet to the east is divided up into six irregular smaller areas by low
banks and breaks of slope. These are interpreted as former crofts, yards and
gardening areas. The smallest extends eastwards from the north end of the long
building range and from the south end of the smaller building to the north.
This enclosure, which is up to about 25m east-west and 15m north-south, is
defined by a bank up to 0.5m high and includes the earthworks of a structure
5m across interpreted as a kiln or oven. Within the area of the monument, to
the north and west of the area of earthworks shown on the 1:10,000 map, there
are additional low banks dividing the area up into further enclosures. These
banks are generally slighter and the enclosures, interpreted as paddocks, are
typically larger. However they also include a number of small structures
typically 5m across interpreted as timber outbuildings. The remains of a much
more substantial stone building 7m by 11m also lies in this area of larger
enclosures, towards the north west corner of the monument.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern
fences, stiles, gates, and telegraph poles, although the ground beneath these
features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the East Yorkshire sub-Province of the Central Province,
an area characterised by marked local terrain variations: from the North York
Moors, to the Tabular Hills and Howardian Hills, to the Vale of Pickering and
the chalk Wolds, to the Hull Valley and the silt lands of the Humber and
Holderness. The sub-Province has the relatively low density of dispersed
settlements which marks the Central Province, but this uniformity masks strong
settlement contrasts. Some regions were typified by low density dispersed
settlement in the Middle Ages, whereas others have achieved a similar pattern
through extensive depopulation of medieval villages.
The Tabular Hills local region is a limestone plateau on the southern fringe
of the North York Moors. Where it dips beneath the younger, softer deposits of
the Vale of Pickering, varied soils and assured water supplies have encouraged
a distinctive chain of villages and hamlets along the break of slope.
Nevertheless nucleations are also found high on the plateau and in the deep
valleys between the moors and the limestone.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, generally sited at
the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land,
meadow and woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but where they survive
as earthworks, their most distinguishing features include roads and minor
tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns,
enclosed crofts and paddocks. In the Central Province of England, villages
were one of the most distinctive aspects of medieval life, and their
archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding
about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community,
independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile
labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for
consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide
surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th
century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution.
This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercians but was soon
imitated by other orders. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary
secular farms, although the wealth of the parent house was frequently
reflected in the size of the grange and the layout and architectural
embellishment of its buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic
connection, granges tend to be much better documented than their secular
Many granges retained small areas of peasant settlement which provided some of
the agricultural labour on the farm. The earthworks at Griff represents such
an area of settlement including the earthworks of a number of buildings and
other structures together with additional buried remains such as rubbish pits,
yard surfaces, and spreads of deposits such as smithing wastes which will all
add to the understanding of medieval village life, but will not necessarily
show as upstanding earthworks.
The small quarry included within the monument is also considered to be
medieval in date. It is important in its own right as its earthworks preserve
a typical working layout of a medieval quarry complete with a dressing floor.
This provides a sample of the medieval technology which also resulted in the
more extensive quarries in Quarry Bank Wood and further up Rye Dale.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Burton, J, 'Citeaux' in Estates and economy of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire, , Vol. 1-2, (1998), 29-93
Pacitto, A, 'History of Helmsley, Rievaulx and District' in Two Monastic Granges, (1963), 438-9

Source: Historic England

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