|We are particularly grateful to Professor Janet Burton who has provided invaluable advice in preparing this page. She is the author of “The Monastic Order in Yorkshire 1069-1215” – see bottom for details. Unattributed facts below are taken from correspondence with Professor Burton and her book. We also thank Dr Charles Fonge of the Borthwick Institue for his valuable assistance.
In the twelfth century, an Augustinian priory was almost established to the south of Seaton Ross. Although this didn’t happen – see below – the land was owned and farmed by canons and priests from Warter priory for four centuries.
Nearby to Seaton Ross, Warter Priory (about 8 miles to the NE) was established as an Augustinian House, following a strict regime, sometime before 1140 (possibly 1132) – and included 5 bovates of land in Seaton Ross (about 100 acres). Warter Priory was likely to have been founded by Geoffrey Fitz-Pain (d.1139) in the early 1130s, but there is some ambiguity.
Augustinians were called canons (often know as Black Canons because of their black habits) rather than monks and were divided into lay brothers and priests.
William de Roumare (Earl of Lincoln – created by King Stephen) was subsequently patron of Warter Priory and he and his son William and their wives made grants of lands in Warter and Seaton Ross to the priory. Further, the canons had decided ‘for their greater benefit’ and on the advice of their patron, the younger William, to transfer the site of their priory to Seaton Ross. This was confirmed by the archbishop but, although Pope Innocent II gave it his approval in 1140, did not actually happen. The land intended for this was called Prestwarth – or Priest Ford – which may be identified as the Priest Bridge (Prestbrycg) on Southfield Lane that can be seen on the maps today (Warter cartulary, 12th century – English Place Name Society, volume XIV).
However, although they did not move to Seaton Ross en masse, by 1142 the canons had extended their land to include further waste land in Seaton Ross. Further binding Seaton Ross to the priory, the church was confirmed in 1170-1180 as the property of Warter. Often the patronage of parish churches was given to Augustinian canons seemingly with the intention of the canons serving in them – taking over pastoral care.
It was later recorded that Warter Priory had 1000 sheep based at Seaton Ross. This number is in line with the area of land owned in Seaton Ross by Warter priory. Sheep farming and wool production became the mainstay of many Yorkshire religious houses.
The Cistercians were the first to establish Granges – which were farms linked to a main religious house – but the idea and name were taken up by other orders. It is quite likely that the land at Seaton Ross became the base for an Augustinian Grange engaged -as they nearly all were – in sheep farming and wool production. This could be the origin of the Prestwyk – or Priest Farm – identified to the south of Seaton Ross in the Warter cartulary, 1178 (English Place Name Society, volume XIV). Grange Farm (previously Seaton Grange) lies nearby and to the west of Priest Bridge on the modern map and could be the site of this.
The Augustinian priests would not have engaged in in sheep farming and wool production themselves, but would have used the lay brothers for anything manual.
This monastic land to the south of Seaton Ross – possibly extending to several hundred acres – would have survived until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII between 1536 and 1540. So for a period of 400 years the village would have been significantly influenced by the canons/priests living and sheep farming to the immediate south. It is quite possible that the land to the south of the grange land remained ‘waste’ at this time as it is low and would have been very wet.
Janet Burton (1999) The Monastic Order in Yorkshire 1069-1215. 353 pages. £43 on Amazon.
The image at the top of the page is of Soay sheep – which would have been similar to sheep farmed in the middle ages. They were well able to tolerate damp ground.