Kirkstall Abbey

There’s a scene in my novel The de Lacy Inheritance where Richard stands outside the doors of the church at Kirkstall Abbey but is not allowed to go inside. I took part in a small re-enaction of that scene today when I went to visit Kirkstall but discovered that the remains are closed on Mondays.

Although it was disappointing it was possible to see much of the abbey by walking around the outside of the railings, and by putting my hands through the bars I was able to get a fairly good selection of photos.

When Henry de Lacy fell ill he vowed that if he recovered he would found a religious house. When he was well he helped monks from Fountains Abbey to found a new abbey at Barnoldswick, but the site proved unsuitable. On 19th May 1152 the monks came to the new site at Kirkstall. The land had belonged to William Peitevin, who held it of Henry de Lacy, but it is Henry who is recorded in the foundation history as being the driving force behind William’s grant of this land to the monks.

Kirkstall Abbey is one of the most complete examples of a medieval Cistercian abbey in Britain. As all Cistercian abbeys are built to a similar floorplan it is comparable with Fountains Abbey as well as Byland Abbey and Whalley Abbey amongst others.

The other attraction of Kirkstall is that it is free to visit (as long as you don’t go on a Monday or a Friday) so I will definitely be going back when it is open to have a better look!

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