An interesting talk was held at Grosmont by Roger Pickles, a local historian and member of the Friends of Whitby Abbey, regarding the priory that once stood near the village.
The mother house of the Grandmontine Order was in
Limoges in France. It was founded in 1078, the same year as Whitby Abbey, and in its infancy consisted of just some wooden huts and a church.
The brethren preferred to be known as hermits, rather than monks, to reflect the solitary life they led. All the other houses of the Order were known as off-shoots or cells that came under the over-all leadership of the mother house. The brethren were organised by a Corrector, with lay brothers responsible for constructing buildings and receiving and distributing alms – donations.
Initially the brethren were all barefooted but they later introduced leather shoes, perhaps to withstand the northern climate. They were also vegetarian.
The main mother house moved in 1150, with the interesting development in 1185 and 1219 in that the lay brothers expelled the prior and a Corrector was put in charge.
In 1150 there were 1,200 members, falling to 800 by 1300.
There were only five other Grandmontine houses outside of France, two in Spain and three in England, the other two being in Herefordshire and Shropshire.
The Yorkshire house was the longest lived of the three.
Grosmont Priory was founded around 1200 by Joan Fossard, who was heiress to both the Mulgrave and Egton estates.
She provided 200 acres for the site, which was located according to the three principals for location: solitude, surrounded by woods and near a highway.
The latter was presumably to provide hospitality for passers by, who in turn provided donations.
The only other income was from proceeds of Egton mill, fishing on the Esk and the services of three peasants.
In 1317, after reformation of the Order, Grosmont became a Priory with a Prior in charge. By 1334 there were nine brethren and four servants.
In 1360 a large part of the buildings were destroyed in a fire, with a smaller church being rebuilt on the site.
In 1387 the Abbot of Whitby investigated selling the property but it continued, breaking away from the motherhouse in 1394, until dissolution in 1536, at which point there were only five monks, aged between 31 and 68 and eleven servants.
The west range of the priory buildings provided accommodation for travellers, with hospitality being given by the lay brothers.
The church itself was stone built with a barrel vaulted nave, in line with French houses, with a plain interior.
Water was important to the site, with a channel providing fresh water to the kitchen and taking away waste water, including from the rere dorter (the monastic loos) upstairs.
There were also an infirmary, granaries, watermill, brew and bake house and a dove cote on site, unusual for a vegetarian order.
There was also a Corrody house was where someone with an annuity in kind lived.