Sunday, 8 February 2015

Byland Abbey

This weekend allowed me to tick off another from The List of things to do before I am 40, but it is also linked to two other items on there.

Byland Abbey is a few miles away from the town of Helmsley in North Yorkshire, near the village of Wass. Despite growing up in the area, I had never visited Byland Abbey until this weekend. I had driven (and been driven) past it, but had little idea of what was there apart from the ruins of the church and it's impressive rose window. The Abbey, along with others in North Yorkshire, is under the care of English Heritage so we took the opportunity to try out the corporate membership and get in for free.

The whole site at Byland Abbey is impressive and very well preserved. There are still parts of the tiled floor of the church intact. However, since much of North Yorkshire still had snow this weekend, the tiles were covered to protect them from further frost damage. There was so much more to see than just the entrance to the church which can be seen from the roadside. According to the guide book, the earliest parts of the abbey date from 1155 with additions in the 13th, 14th and 15th century. Far more detail regarding the dates and sections of the buildings is included in the guide book - I won't copy it all out here! The Abbey is thought to be one of the greatest monasteries in England (English Heritage) and its design has influenced other churches in the region. From the guidebook I have learned that the rose window at York Minster was inspired by the design at Byland Abbey.

The reason why a visit to Byland Abbey was on The List is because Byland was the name of one of the house teams at my primary school. The other house teams at St Mary's RC School in Malton were Rievaulx and Kirkham. Rievaulx is another notable Abbey in the area, and Kirkham Priory is also local to Malton. I am pretty sure that as a child I visited Rievaulx and Kirkham, but I really don't have any recollection of either, so I have made it my mission to visit all 3.

The concept of house teams seems to be a little "Harry Potter" to some, but life at primary school wouldn't have been the same without it. Yes, like Slytherin and Gryffindor etc, each team had its own colours, and we did get points awarded for good work or performance. But it also meant that on sports day and other events, you were no longer just cheering on your best friend, but other children who were wearing your team colour. On sports day there were team events organised in the house teams that included children from reception to Year 6 (as it is now - 4th year if you ask me!) so everyone was involved. The school was really small when I was there - around 60 pupils, so everyone knew everyone else, and everyone knew which team you were in. I was in Kirkham, and both my brothers were in the other teams. I am delighted to find out that St Mary's has now expanded but is still quite small, and still retains the teams of Kirkham, Byland and Rievaulx. I wonder how many team members visit the abbeys and priory that their teams are named after - perhaps more to the point, how many would remember being there, and actually appreciate them for what they are. Perhaps all St Mary's children should visit like I am doing, before they're 40.

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