In search of Prior Moon’s birthplace

Tony Stephens
 JOURNAL 
 2017 
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Introduction

The will of Prior Richard Moon, 1541, the last Prior of Bolton Priory, tells us that he was born in Long Preston. The research summarised in this paper had two main objectives, firstly to investigate whether the Prior might have been related to the Moon family of Long Preston who were tenants of Bolton Priory in monastic times and secondly to consider where in the township the Prior might have been born. None of the many surviving documents relating to the Moon family answer these questions directly. However, a combination of documents reveals only one family of the name of Moon in the township between the 15th century and the 17th century. Other documents enable us to trace the land farmed by the Moons in monastic times through to the first map of the township, the map which accompanied the tithe survey of 1839. It is the location of the Moon family croft which enables us to identify where in the township the family is likely have lived in monastic times, and that this will have been the Prior’s birthplace.

Bolton Priory's relationship with Long Preston in the monastic period

Bolton Priory held the tithes of Long Preston for about a century from the middle of the 12th century, but no Priory records survive for this period. Priory accounts do however survive for the period 1285-1325 and for the single year 1377/8 in the form of a compotus. This shows the Priory incurring considerable expense in procuring the right to appropriate Long Preston church in 1304, and celebrating their acquisition with a festival. The appropriation gave the Priory the right to the Long Preston tithes, 10% of the agricultural output of the parish. Because we know the amount of land in cultivation in Long Preston at the beginning of the 14th century, the Priory tithe returns enable us to see the effect on the Long Preston yields of oats and barley of a period of extremely bad weather which affected the whole country. Of particular relevance to our interest in the Moon family is that the compotus records enable us to calculate that the grain yield from an oxgang of land was just sufficient to provide a single family with a subsistence level of food. The Moon family held only one oxgang of land (about 20 acres) until the 17th century, explaining why records show only one Moon family in residence in the township until then. The most detailed account of the Long Preston tithes is from 1377/8, when 175 quarters of oats and 63 quarters of barley were taken from Long Preston to the Priory; about 12% of all the Priory tithes. This illustrates how important Long Preston must have been to the Priory, and may explain why the Long Preston steward was paid a stipend of 10s. This was much greater than the stipend of other stewards, and was only exceeded at the Priory itself by the baker, 13s 4d, and the carpenter,18s. The Long Preston tithes would have weighed around 3 tons, explaining why it took a Priory worker five and a half weeks to collect the tithes from Long Preston using a plaustrum, a light weight single axle wagon, which may have needed to make five round trips to collect the tithes. The most obvious route between the Priory and Long Preston would on first sight appear to have been through Skipton and Gargrave. It is more likely, however, that the route used by the Priory will have been through villages on the west of the river Aire, where the Priory had appropriated churches and tithe barns in which the Long Preston tithe wagon could be stored safely over night, and the driver accommodated. The river crossing is likely to have been at Kildwick, where the Priory had a large tithe barn and a bridge. The strategic importance of Kildwick bridge to the Priory may be judged from the £65 expended on its building between 1305 and 1309, the second largest Priory construction expenditure recorded in the compotus after the £75 spent on extending the Priory itself between 1308 and 1313. It is possible that it was the appropriation of Carleton church in 1292, followed by the appropriation of Long Preston church in 1304, which stimulated the building of Kildwick bridge in 1305.

The crofts and the township layout in the medieval period

Crofts are usually of late medieval origin and, where they survive, provide useful information about the early layout of a township. The crofts reveal residents living in three separate settlements in the late medieval period. What would appear to be the original settlement comprised a group of farmsteads and crofts around an open green which is now bisected by the A65 to create two smaller triangular greens. At the north of the township was a settlement on what is now Moor Lane, whose residents farmed the land stretching north to the township boundary with Settle. Between the village centre and Moor Lane settlements was a small settlement of monastic tenants who farmed Priory land to the west of the village. It is this monastic settlement in which we are primarily interested, particularly the associated crofts which provide us with the locations of the monastic tenants’ residences.

The glebeland

In acquiring the rights to the Long Preston tithes in 1304 the Priory was given the responsibility for providing the township with a vicar. Since the Priory was required to pay the vicar’s stipend and pay for the upkeep of the church chancel, it endowed the church with 8 oxgangs of glebeland. Between 1304 and 1319 the compotus shows the Priory tenants paying a yearly rent of 6s 8d for each of the 8 oxgangs of glebeland. Largely based on the ‘forward’ sale of the following year’s wool from the Priory’s sheep flock, the Priory was able to live beyond its means at the beginning of the 14th century. This period of apparent prosperity was not however to last long. The Long Preston tithe returns reveal a dramatic reduction in the township grain yields in the second decade of the 14th century. Poor weather was experienced nationwide, with high mortality among both people and animals and, in desperate straits, the Priory accepted a loan of £160 on usurious terms from the Chancellor of York. The loan was secured against Long Preston church. Worse was to follow however, with a series of Scottish raids, the most severe being in 1319. The Prior and canons fled from the Priory, and much of the cattle herd, which had already been depleted by disease, was taken north when the Scots retreated. The compotus recorded that the cattle herd which numbered 496 in 1315 was reduced to 31 in 1321. The sheep flock was reduced from 3027 in 1315 to 1568 in 1321 and the Priory was unable to deliver the wool to Italy which had already been paid for. The Priory was technically bankrupt, but was given protection from its creditors by the Crown. From 1320 the compotus recorded rent from only 6 oxgangs of glebeland. Although no reason was given for the loss of the 2 of the 8 oxgangs later records show Fountains Abbey holding two oxgangs of land in Long Preston. The earliest record of the names of the Long Preston Priory tenants was in 1473, when the tenants were Thomas Moon, Thomas Clark and Thomas Knowles. The Dissolution accounts of 1539 reveal the tenancies in the hands of the same three families, including a Richard Moon.

Post-monastic records

Following the Dissolution of the Priory, the Cliffords of Skipton Castle acquired both the Priory and its holdings from the Crown, and a particularly informative rent survey was carried out for George Clifford, the Third Earl of Cumberland, in 1579. Crucial to our ability to trace the monastic holdings of the Moon, Clark, and Knowles families is that the 1579 survey informs us that leases given in 1545 were former monastic holdings, and that the leases of 1545 are explicitly mentioned in 18th century deeds

Rycherd Moone’s entry in the 1579 Clifford survey shows that he held an oxgang for a yearly rent of 12d ‘by like Indenture’ i.e. a 300 year lease of 1545, with no requirement to pay the usual fine. In addition to the 1473, 1539 and 1579 records which show only a single Moon family in Long Preston, a single residence is also revealed in the records of the tax payments of the Moon family in 1522, 1543 and 1547. It is not until the middle of the 17th century that the Long Preston Parish Registers reveal, for the first time, two Moon families living in the township. The Richard Moon who was living in the family home at the time of the Dissolution is likely to have been the Prior’s nephew, since the Prior’s will of 1541 makes a bequest to a Richard Moon and another of a ‘doubler a dish and a salver’ to ‘Richard Moon’s wife of Preston’.

References to the Moon family farm holding in deeds recorded at Wakefield

A Wakefield Deed memorial (West Yorkshire Archive Service) of 1719 records Anthony Moon paying his father Richard Moon £240 for ‘one house one garth and croft with one oxgang of land’ , which was held by an ‘indenture of lease bearing date under his hand and sealed the twenty eight day of August in the 37th year of the reigne of Henry the Eight for the term of 300 years’. Clearly this was the former monastic holding acquired by Richard Moon and recorded in the Clifford Survey of 1579. The Long Preston Parish Registers enable the identification of the birth dates of Richard and Anthony Moon as respectively 1661 and 1688. They were the last descendants of the former monastic tenants to live in Long Preston and farm the former monastic glebeland. Later deeds registered at Wakefield show Anthony Moon remortgaging his property in 1725 when it comprised four holdings totalling 41 acres, and further remortgaging in 1729 when it comprised six holdings of 75 acres. These memorials are the first to give the field names of the Moon holdings, the monastic holding always being listed first. The fields of the Moon’s monastic holding were The Well Croft, the Mire Croft, Tranmoors, Fleets, Far Fleets, Horse Sawdale, Farr Sawdale, the Ing and Bork Close.

Fortunately, subsequent records enable us to trace the Moon’s monastic holding through to 1839. Table 1 compares the field names of the former monastic holding from the time when it was farmed by Richard Moon in 1719 to the field names in 1839. Despite small changes in both spelling and measurement of acreages, these are clearly the same fields. The property was always tenanted rather than farmed by its owners, and this may explain why the Moon’s former monastic holding remained intact throughout the period.

The location of the Moon family residence

The tithe survey of 1839 enables us to identify the crofts associated with the former monastic holdings of the Clark, Moon and Knowles families as those shown in Figure 6. We can be certain of the Clark croft because the 1579 Clifford Survey tells us that Richard Clarke was ‘of Kirkmangayt’, and a property survives to this day at Kirkmangate.

Kirkmangate is an extremely rare example of a Long Preston property named in surveys or deeds of earlier centuries. Even in the 18th century the Moon farmstead was described in Wakefield deeds either as ‘where Richard Moon now dwelleth’ or, after his death, ‘where Richard Moon formerly dwelt’. What enables us to confirm the Moon croft highlighted in Figure 7 as the Moon croft of earlier centuries is a beam in a former barn on the croft which is now Guy’s Villa Barn. The beam bears the initials of Richard Moon (bp1661) and his wife Ellen - RME 1708. Ash Lea and Laneside, are the two roadside properties where we might expect to find the earlier residence. The mullion windows at the back of Ash Lea, and the blocked up former inglenook fireplaces in both properties, suggest both properties were in existence in the 17th century. These would appear to be the one-hearth homesteads of William and Richard Moon listed in the Hearth Tax of 1672. Hearth Tax assessments sometimes give an indication of the relationship of properties to one another on the ground, since tax assessors walked from house to house when making their assessments. This would appear to be the case in Long Preston, with William Moon living next to the Clark family at Kirkmangate. William Moon was the father of Richard Moon bp1661 and grandfather of Anthony Moon bp1688, all of whom would have lived in the ancestral home.

The Long Preston monastic site is probably unique in North Craven in having both documents and building timber which can be dated back to the monastic period.

Concluding remarks

An interesting question is how the son of a subsistence farmer of only one oxgang of land could rise to be the head of a great monastic house. He would need to have been fluent in Latin, and sufficiently well educated to be the spiritual head of a religious order. The Prior’s will shows that he came from a large family, and all his siblings would have grown up in the knowledge that only the eldest son would inherit the farm holding. Prior Richard Moon was not the first family member to make this choice of going into the church, a Richard Moyn being the Long Preston vicar from 1437 to 1454. Schooling would have been rather rudimentary in most rural areas in the 15th century, but Long Preston may have been an exception after 1469 when Sir Richard Hamerton established a school in the chantry chapel in Long Preston church for the teaching of ‘Grammar and song school for the children of the Parish’.

Acknowledgement

The author would like to thank Mr Sebastian Fattorini of Skipton Castle for permission to reproduce extracts from the Clifford Survey of 1579

fields farmed by Richard and Anthony Moon in 1719 Fields acquired by Robert Wildman in 1827 a r p Fields held by Robert Wildman
in the Tithe Survey of 1839
a r

p

Tithe schedule  
number Modern names              

 

 
  Crowtree croft 1   3 Crowtree croft 1 0

3

296  
  Serjeantsons                

 

low croft 6   12 Low croft 6 1 29

304

   
Borks close Bocks close 7 3 9 Balks Hill

7

3 33 303 Borks Hill
Well croft Low croft &  

 

  Croft   3 12 294  
Transmoor Transmire

7

3 15 Tranber Hill 7 0 12 298 Tranmere
Myer croft Shepherds croft   3 15 Shepherds croft 1 0 23

297

 
Fleets Fleets 6   12 Fleets 6

2

27 300 Fleets
  Hawes 17 3 10

Hawes

17 0 30 169 Hawes
       

 

           
Table 1 Comparison of the Moon monastic field names in 1719, 1827 and 1839.>BR>The areas listed are in statute acres, roods, and perches

Fig1.jpg
Fig1 Kildwick Bridge
Fig2.jpg
Fig2 THREE SETTLEMENTS
Fig3.jpg
Fig3 Rycherd Clarke 1579
Fig4a.jpg
Fig4a Richard Moon 1579
Fig4b.jpg
Fig4b Richard Moon 1579
Fig5.jpg
Fig5 Richard Lord’s holding
Fig6.jpg
Fig6 The Moon family croft
Fig7.jpg
Fig7 Barn
Fig8.jpg
Fig8 Barn beam



Fig1.jpg
Fig1 Kildwick Bridge


Fig2.jpg
Fig2 THREE SETTLEMENTS


Fig3.jpg
Fig3 Rycherd Clarke 1579


Fig4a.jpg
Fig4a Richard Moon 1579


Fig4b.jpg
Fig4b Richard Moon 1579


Fig5.jpg
Fig5 Richard Lord’s holding


Fig6.jpg
Fig6 The Moon family croft


Fig7.jpg
Fig7 Barn


Fig8.jpg
Fig8 Barn beam