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What factors led Furness Abbey to become the second richest Cistercian Abbey in England?

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Introduction

What factors led Furness Abbey to become the second richest Cistercian Abbey in England? Richard Smith 4? In 1123 twelve monks travelled from France to the North of England with the intention of spreading their order. They settled first in Tulketh where they remained for four years. Then, in 1127, Count Stephen, the future King Stephen, gave them some land in the valley of Beckansgill. This is where the ruins of the abbey now remain. Being in a valley this already qualified as a better site than their previous settlement at Tulketh There were other reasons for the sites suitability as well as this. The valley was lined with red sandstone giving them a strong and easily accessible building material, which was also very close to the site. Another vital asset to the valley was that it had a stream running through it to provide fresh water for the abbey. There were many trees in and around the valley, which would have been able to be used as another building material, for fuel, scaffolding (while the building work was taking place), fencing and shelter. Also the site itself was generally better than Tulketh. For example, it was far bigger. ...read more.

Middle

Now the abbey had more land than it needs to build on, this 'good work land' (as it was known) was used to bring income into the abbey. The lay monks (of which there were around 500) were very good farmers and the land given to them was especially conducive to one particular type of framing: sheep farming. This brought in a lot of money to the abbey; through the sale of sheep and the abbey's main produce wool. The lay monks were not stationed at Furness; many lived on granges (the old English for farm) near to their work. This is one of the reasons why the abbey's farming was so successful, because each lay monk was concentrating on his own little job. (The main lay monk Headquarters was at Hawkshead.) The lay monks not only farmed sheep and kept animals, but also one or two arable farms were set up on what flat land they had. The best example of this is Walney Island. It was used as a huge crop growing area by the abbey. Also, the lay monks had some cattle, pig and fish farms around the county. Much of this produce was sold at Dalton Market. ...read more.

Conclusion

This allowed carts to be driven over to Walney (which was very important because of the crop farms there) and is a good example of the lay monks building sea defences. The most important reason for the abbey becoming one of the richest Cistercian Abbeys in England was probably the belief that giving money to the church was good for the sole. If this had not been common (i.e. rich people giving land to the church) most of the abbey's land would not have been the abbey's. This is also linked to all the abbey's income. For example, if the abbey had not been given all the land they used for sheep framing then the profits from that would not have existed. Most of their trading would not have taken place, thus diminishing their financial growth. I also think the other big reason for the abbey's power was the site itself. Being in a valley it was quite hard to attack. This had allowed it to remain (more or less untouched) for many years and therefore allowed it to grow and expand. However, this is again linked to the belief that people had about 'good works'. For this reason I think that the religious beliefs people had was the main factor in the abbey becoming one of the richest abbeys of its order in the country. ...read more.

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