Last Photographed: Thursday 7th July 2005
Easby abbey was founded in 1152 by Roald, Constable of Richmond Castle. It was one of a number of British religious houses owned by the Premonstratensian order (also known as the "white canons" due to their signature white habits) who followed an austere code similar to the Cistercians.
Easby began life as a small abbey, hosting 13 canons (Premonstratensian's were canons rather than monks - a difference that allowed them to serve the local community, unlike the more insular orders that pursued monastic discipline for its own sake). In the 14th Century, the abbey benefited from donations pledged by the Scope's of Bolton Castle. This allowed them to accommodate a further 10 canons and expand the abbey buildings - including the construction of a chantry chapel and a hospital with the capacity to house 22 men. At its peak, Easby was home to 30 canons. By the time of the dissolution, this number had fallen to 17. Like many abbey's, Easby was already in decline by the time Henry moved to seize them.
Easby Abbey was a bit of a chance discovery really. I'd planned to visit it after I'd been to Richmond Castle, but only by virtue of its proximity. Nothing had led me to believe that this abbey warranted a visit in its own right. I was very much mistaken.
Like a number of smaller sites, Easby is unattended and access is free. This is actually quite surprising as it's significantly larger than some pay-for-entrance sites. The small hut at the gate (extensively vandalised) would suggest that once upon a time there was an admission charge.
Easby is another quiet ruin. There were a couple of other people here when I arrived, but by the time I left it was deserted. Given the rambling nature of the abbey remains, it's very easy to obtain a sense of seclusion here - even with other people around. This also lends the place a romantic charm and helps charge the atmosphere with a sense of exploration and adventure.
Also surviving is the abbey gatehouse, which you'll pass as you approach. Next to this is St Agatha's chapel. This chapel is now the parish church, and actually pre-dates the abbey. Make sure you step inside to see the unusual mid-thirteenth century wall paintings.
Also while you're here, take a stroll down to the river. If you continue along the road that runs by the side of the abbey, you'll be able to follow a footpath that eventually provides access to the riverbank. The river is very wide at this point and is flanked on both sides by heavy tree cover. The views are spectacular, and the chances are you'll be able to enjoy them undisturbed.