Apr
19

Easby Abbey

Easby Abbey or the Abbey of St Agatha is an abandoned Premonstratensian abbey on the eastern bank of the River Swale on the outskirts of Richmond in the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire. The site is maintained by English Heritage and can be reached by a pleasant riverside walk from Richmond Castle.

The Abbey of St. Agatha, Easby, was founded in 1152 by Roald, Constable of Richmond Castle. The inhabitants were canons rather than monks. The Premonstratensians wore a white habit and became known as the White Canons. The White Canons followed a code of austerity similar to that of Cistercian monks. Unlike monks of other orders, they were exempt from episcopal discipline. They undertook preaching and pastoral work in the region (such as distributing meat and drink).

Other former Premonstraterian houses in the north of England include Egglestone Abbey in County Durham and Shap Abbey in Cumbria. Like most northern monasteries, Easby suffered from frequent Scottish raids during the Middle Ages. Ironically, great damage was caused to Easby and Egglestone Abbey in 1346 when the English army was billeted there on its way to the Battle of Neville’s Cross.

In the late 1530s Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. The abbey was abandoned and left to fall into ruins, though some of the best features were salvaged: the fine canopied choir stalls are now found in Richmond parish church.