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ABOUT half-way on its northward course to Darlington, the York, Newcastle, and Berwick Railway passes within a mile of the market town of Thirsk.
It is a sufficiently picturesque little place on the banks of the Colbeck (or Caldbeck), a tributary of the Swale, but its attraction now consists chiefly in its convenient nearness to the Hambledon Hills and its fine perpendicular church.
The traditions that this church was built with the ruins of the ancient castle of the Mowbrays, and that its carved oak altar came from Byland Abbey, are about equally improbable; but the connection of Thirsk with the Mowbrays and of Byland Abbey with both are historical facts.
It was in the reign of Stephen, and probably the year of the Battle of the Standard, that a waggon drawn by eight slow-paced oxen lumbered and creaked along the street of Thirsk. As in the familiar scene of Goethe’s Herman and Dorothea the waggon conveyed the whole store and possessions of a party of outcast wanderers. But here the resemblance ceases. There were no women, no children, no relics of a home-indeed all things domestic were conspicuously absent. The party consisted of an abbot and twelve monks, the waggon was laden with books and scanty changes of raiment.
The seneschal of the Castle of “Thresk” took pity, so runs the story, on the weary travellers, and invited them within the gates. Now at this time Roger de Mowbray—the future Crusader and herowas a minor under the guardianship of his mother, Gundreda. So the seneschal came to his lady and told her what he had done. “And when the said lady, in a certain upper chamber, had peeped secretly through a certain window and seen their poverty, for very piety and pity she melted into tears. Yet was she glad at their coming, and edified by their simple aspect and bearing, so she made them all stay with her and ministered to them abundantly in all things needful, forbidding them to depart.”
From the chronicle of Philip, third Abbot of Byland, we learn that these monks went forth in
1134 from Furness Abbey and settled, with one Gerald for their Abbot, at Calder. Here they stayed several years, and were about to begin building when they were driven out by an incursion of the Scots. They fled to Furness, but, finding the gates of the mother Abbey ruthlessly closed against them, determined to apply to Thurstan, Archbishop of York, of whose share in the founding of Fountains Abbey, some five years earlier, they had doubtless heard. To York accordingly they were now making the best of their way.
Gundreda and her son arranged at first that the monks should receive for their support a tithe of all things which came into the castle larder, but the practical drawbacks to this plan were soon found to be intolerable. George, the steward or head cookor whatever may be the best equivalent of the original “ dapifer”—became hopelessly confused between the tithe due to the monks and the claims of his master's guests, and was often obliged, in sudden emergencies, to borrow the former's share to supply the necessities of the latter. It became necessary to assign to Gerald and his fellows a more distinct and convenient revenue, and Roger de Mowbray, at his mother's request, granted them his cow pasture at Cambe, with other lands; and eventually the Lady Gundreda gave