Abbot of Calder

The Abbot of Calder

The Abbot of Calder rode out from his gate
To the town, saying, "Sorrow lies, early and late,
In this wretched wide world upon every degree;
And each child of the Church must have comfort from me!
So on palfrey I wend to Lord Lucy's strong hold:
For this life must press hard on these barons so bold."

The Abbot was welcome to Lucy's proud hall.
And he sat down with knights, and with ladies, and all,
High at feast, joyous-hearted, light, gallant, and fair:
Where to speak upon woe were but jesting with care.
So his palfrey re-mounting at evening, he troll'd,
"The world goes not ill with these barons so bold."

Ambling on by the forge, he drew up by the flame,
"Well, my son! how is all with the children and dame?
Toiling on!"—"Yes! but, father, not badly we speed;
We have health; and for wealth, we lack nought that we need."
Then at least, thought the Monk, here no text I need urge,
For the world passes well with my friend at the forge!

Turning off by the stream at the foot of the hill,
All were busy, as bees in a hive, at the mill.
"Benedicite!" cried he to women and wives,
Where they sang at their labour as if for their lives,
All so fat, fair, and fruitful. The Abbot jogg'd on,
Humming, "Sweet, too, is rest when the labour is done."

As he pass'd by the lane that leads up to the stile,
Pretty Lillie came down with her curtsey and smile,—
"Well, my daughter!" the Abbot said, chucking her chin;
"How is Robin?—or Reuben? which—which is to win?"
"—Thank you!—Robin," she said, as she blushed in her sleeve;
While the Monk, spurring on, laughed a joyous "good eve!"

On the verge of the chase rode the falconer by:
With a song on his lip and a laugh in his eye,
All the day o'er the moors he had gallop'd, and now
He was off to the quintain-match over the brow;
Then to crown with good cheer all the sports of the day.
And the Abbot sighed, "Springtime, and beautiful May!"

And at length in the hollow he came, as he rode,
To the forester Robin's trim cottage abode.
And there stood the youth, ruddy, stalwart, and curled:—
"—Ha, Robin! this looks not like strife with the world!"—
"No! and please you, good father, she's  coming to-morrow!"
"—Well! a blessing on both of you!—keep you from sorrow."

So he reached his fair Abbey by Calder's sweet stream,
Well believing all troubles in life are a dream;
Looked around on his park and his fertile domain,
With a thought to his cellars, a glance at his grain;
While the stream through his meadow-lands rippled and purled;
And exclaimed, "What a place is a sorrowful world!"

And the Abbot of Calder that night o'er his bowl
Felt a peace passing speech in the depths of his soul.
And he dreamt mid the noise and the merry uproar
Of the brethren beneath—all his fasting was o'er;
That earth's many woes had to darkness been driven;
And the sweet woods of Calder were gardens in Heaven.

Notes to "the Abbot of Calder."

On the northern bank of the river Calder, in a deeply secluded vale, sheltered by majestic forest trees, which rise from the skirts of level and luxuriant meadows to the tops of the surrounding hills, stands the ruined Abbey and home of that little colony of Monks, who, with their Abbot Gerold at their head, were detached from the mother Abbey of Furness in 1134 to begin their fortunes under the auspices of Ranulph de Meschines (the second of the name) their powerful neighbour and founder. Here they contrived to live "in some discomfort and great poverty for four years, when an army of Scots under King David despoiled the lately begun Abbey and carried away all its possessions. Finding they could get no help elsewhere, the hapless thirteen resolved to return to the maternal monastery" for refuge. This happened about the third year of King Stephen.

The Abbot of Furness refused to receive Gerold and his companions, reproaching them with cowardice for abandoning their monastery, and alleging that it was rather the love of that ease and plenty which they expected in Furness, than the devastation of the Scottish army, that forced them from Calder. Some writers say that the Abbot of Furness insisted that Gerold should divest himself of his authority, and absolve the monks from their obedience to him, as a condition of their receiving any relief. This, Gerold and his companions refused to do, and turning their faces from Furness, they, with the remains of their broken fortune, which consisted of little more than some clothes and a few books, with one cart and eight oxen, taking providence for their guide, went in quest of better hospitality.

The result of the next day's resolution was to address themselves to Thurstan, Archbishop of York, and beg his advice and relief. The reception they met with from him, answered their wishes; the Archbishop graciously received them, and charitably entertained them for some time, then recommended them to Gundrede de Aubigny, who sent them to Robert de Alneto, her brother, a hermit, at Hode, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, where for a period she supplied them with necessaries. They afterwards obtained a monastery of their own called Byland, when they voluntarily made themselves dependant upon Savigny, in order that Furness should exercise no right of paternity over them.

In the same year, 1142, the Abbot of Furness understanding that Gerold had obtained a settlement, sent another colony, with Hardred, a Furness monk, for their Abbot, to take possession of ravaged Calder, which the Lord of Egremont, William Fitz-Duncan, nephew of David, King of Scots, had refounded. Their endowments and revenues were chiefly from the founder's munificence, and were small, being valued, at the suppression, at about sixty pounds per annum.

The ruins of this Abbey are approached from Calder-Bridge by a pleasant walk for about a mile on the banks of the river, presenting several glimpses of the tower rising out of the foliage of the forest trees by which it is surrounded.

The Abbey Church was in the form of a cross, and small, the width of the chancel being only twenty five feet, and that of the transepts twenty two. Of the western front little more than the Norman doorway remains. The five pointed arches of the north side of the nave, dividing it from the aisle; the choir; the transepts, with a side chapel on the south; the square tower supported by four lofty pointed arches; the walls and windows of a small cloister running south; with the remains of upper chambers, showing a range of eight windows to the west and seven to the east, beautiful specimens of early English Architecture, terminated by a modern mansion, occupying the site of the conventual buildings, but built in a style altogether unsuited to the locality; these, with the porter's lodge at a short distance from the west end, and a large oven by the side of a rapid stream in the meadow on the east, all so changed since the times of Gerold and Hardred, constitute in our days the Abbey of Calder.

Against the walls of the Abbey are fragments of various sepulchral figures, which from the mutilated sculptures and devices on the shields, would seem to have belonged to the tombs of eminent persons. One of them is represented in a coat of mail, with his hand upon his sword; another bears a shield reversed, as a mark of disgrace for cowardice or treachery; "but," says Hutchinson, "the virtues of the one, and the errors of the other, are alike given to oblivion by the hand of time and by the scourging angel Dissolution."

Sir John le Fleming, of Beckermet, ancestor of the Flemings of Rydal Hall, Westmorland, gave lands in Great Beckermet to this abbey, in the 26th year of Henry III, A. D. 1242. He died during that long reign, and was buried in the abbey. One of the effigies above alluded to, with the shield charged fretty, is probably that mentioned by Sir Daniel Fleming, who says that in his time (in the seventeenth century) here was "a very ancient statue of a man in armour, with a frett (of six pieces) upon his shield, lying upon his back, with his sword by his side, his hands elevated in a posture of prayer, and legs across; being so placed probably from his taking upon him the cross, and being engaged in the holy war. Which statue was placed there most probably in memory of this Sir John le Fleming."

Among some ancient charters and documents in the possession of William John Charlton, of Hesleyside, Esq., (1830) and which came into his family, in 1680, by the marriage of his great-great-grandfather, with Mary, daughter of Francis Salkeld, in the parish of All-Hallows, in Cumberland, Esq., is one that is very curious. It is an assignment made in A. D. 1291, by John, son of John de Hudleston, of William, son of Richard de Loftscales, formerly his native, with all his retinue and chattels, to the Abbot and Monks of Caldra. The deed is witnessed by "Willmo. Wailburthuait. Willmo. Thuaites. Johe de Mordling. Johe Corbet. Johe de Halle et aliis:" and is alluded to in the following passages quoted by Mr. Jefferson from Archælogia Æliana. "It is, in fact, that species of grant of freedom to a slave, which is called manumission implied, in which the lord yields up all obligation to bondage, on condition of the native agreeing to an annual payment of money on a certain day. The clause, 'so that from this time they may be free, and exempt from all servitude and reproach of villainage from me and my heirs,' is very curious, especially to persons of our times, on which there has been so much said about the pomp of Eastern lords, and the reproachful slavery in which their dependents are still kept. Here the Monks of Caldra redeemed a man, his family, and property from slavery, on condition of his paying them the small sum of two pence a-year. The Hudleston family were seated at Millum, in the time of Henry the Third, when they acquired that estate, by the marriage of John de Hudleston with the Lady Joan, the heiress of the Boisville family."

"Slavery continued to thrive on the soil of Northumberland long after the time of Edward the First; for in 1470, Sir Roger Widdrington manumitted his native, William Atkinson, for the purpose of making him his bailiff of Woodhorn."

The inmates of Calder were probably neither better nor worse than other cowled fraternities. A certain Brother Beesley, a Benedictine Monk, of Pershore, in Worcestershire, speaks very boldly of certain shortcomings, in his own experience of "relygyus men." The following passage occurs in a petition addressed by him to the Vicar-General Cromwell, at the time of the visitation of the Monasteries:—

"Now y wyll ynstrux your grace sumwatt of relygyus men——. Monckes drynke an bowll after collatyon tyll ten or twelve of the clok, and cum to matyns as dronck as myss (mice)—and sum at cardys, sum at dyes, and at tabulles; sum cum to mattyns begenying at the mydes, and sum wen yt ys almost dun, and wold not cum there so only for boddly punyshment, nothyng for Goddes sayck."