Farndale, where Edmund the Hermit used to live


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Rievaulx Chartulary












A gift to Rievaulx from Roger de Mowbray 


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General Sir Martin Farndale KCB



The name Farndale, first occurs in history in the Rievaulx Abbey Chartulary in a Charter granted by Roger de Mowbray to the Abbot and the monks of Rievaulx Abbey in 1154. By it Roger bestowed upon the Monastery, ‘….Midelhovet, that clearing in Farndale where the hermit Edmund used to dwell; and another clearing which is called ‘Duvanesthuat’ and common of pasture in the same valley, to wit, Farndale….’ (Note: Midelhovet is probably ‘Middlehead’ at the head of Farndale near the source of the river Dove, 3.5 miles NW of Farndale East. ‘Duvanesthuat’ could be ‘Dowthwait’ in Farndale, but is more likely to be ‘Duffinstone,’ grid 646987 on the west side of High Farndale).




Edmund the Hermit


In Christianity, the term Hermit was originally applied to a Christian who lives the eremitic life out of a religious conviction, namely the Desert Theology of the Old Testament.


In the Christian tradition the eremitic life is an early form of monastic living that preceded the monastic life in the cenobium. The Rule of St Benedict (ch. 1) lists hermits among four kinds of monks. In the Roman Catholic Church, in addition to hermits who are members of religious institutes, the Canon law (canon 603) recognizes also diocesan hermits under the direction of their bishop as members of the consecrated life. The same is true in many parts of the Anglican Communion, including the Episcopal Church in the US, although in the canon law of the Episcopal Church they are referred to as "solitaries" rather than "hermits".


Often, both in religious and secular literature, the term "hermit" is also used loosely for any Christian living a secluded prayer-focused life, and sometimes interchangeably with anchorite/anchoress, recluse and "solitary".


There are a number of colourful characters in the dale today, but none with such a unique name as Edmund the Hermit, reputed to be Farndale's first inhabitant, who lived at a clearing called Little Hovitt, now known as Middlehead.


Religious hermits were the original residents of Ryedale's most remote outposts. Edmund was first at Farndale, Osmund at Goathland and the Saintly Godric in Eskdale.


The Fern

The name Farndale comes from the Celtic ‘farn, or fearn’ meaning ‘fern’ and the Norwegian ‘dalr’, meaning ‘dale;’ thus it was the ‘dale where the ferns grew.’ It seems likely that the first people to settle in Farndale were bands of mixed Celtic and Scandinavian stock and that it was they who began to clear areas in which to build and grow crops, but we have no records of them until the 13th Century.



The ferns in Farndale, from which Farndale gets its name



Location of Rievaulx






Sir Roger de Mowbray 



Sir Roger de Mowbray (c. 1120–1188) was an Anglo-Norman magnate. He had substantial English landholdings. He was a supporter of King Stephen, with whom he was captured at Lincoln in 1141. He would rebel against Henry II. He made multiple religious foundations in Yorkshire. He took part in the Second Crusade and later returned to the Holy Land, where he was captured and died in 1187


Family and early life



Roger was the son of Nigel d'Aubigny by his second wife, Gundreda de Gournay.


On his father's death in 1129 he became a ward of the crown. Based at Thirsk with his mother, on reaching his majority in 1138, he took title to the lands awarded to his father by Henry I both in Normandy including Montbray, from which he would adopt his surname, as well as the substantial holdings in Yorkshire and around Melton.


Career under Stephen



Soon after, in 1138, he participated in the Battle of the Standard against the Scots and, according to Aelred of Rievaulx, acquitted himself honourably.


Thereafter, Roger's military fortunes were mixed. Whilst acknowledged as a competent and prodigious fighter, he generally found himself on the losing side in his subsequent engagements. During the anarchic reign of King Stephen he was captured with Stephen at the battle of Lincoln in 1141.


Soon after his release, Roger married Alice de Gant (d. c. 1181), daughter of Walter de Gant and widow of Ilbert de Lacy, and by whom he had two sons, Nigel and Robert. Roger also had at least one daughter, donating his lands at Granville to the Abbeye des Dames in Caen when she became a nun there.


In 1147, he was one of the few English nobles to join Louis VII of France on the Second Crusade. He gained further acclaim, according to John of Hexham, defeating a Muslim leader in single combat.


Career under Henry II



Roger supported the Revolt of 1173–74 against Henry II and fought with his sons, Nigel and Robert, but they were defeated at Kinardferry, Kirkby Malzeard and Thirsk.


Roger left for the Holy Land again in 1186, but encountered further misfortune being captured at the Battle of Hattin in 1187. His ransom was met by the Templars, but he died soon after and, according to some accounts, was buried at Tyre in Palestine. There is, however, some controversy surrounding his death and burial and final resting-place.





Mowbray was a significant benefactor and supporter of several religious institutions in Yorkshire including Fountains Abbey. With his mother he sheltered the monks of Calder, fleeing before the Scots in 1138, and supported their establishment at Byland Abbey in 1143. Later, in 1147, he facilitated their relocation to Coxwold.


Roger made a generous donation of two carucates of land (c.240 acres), a house and two mills to the Order of Saint Lazarus, headquartered at Burton St Lazarus Hospital in Leicestershire, after his return from the crusades in 1150. His cousin William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel and his wife Adeliza, the widow of King Henry I, had been amongst the earliest patrons of the order and, when combined with Roger's experiences in the Holy Land, may have encouraged his charity. His family continued to support the Order for many generations and the Mowbrays lion rampant coat of arms was adopted by the Hospital of Burton St Lazars alongside their more usual green cross.


He also supported the Knights Templar and gave them land in Warwickshire where they founded Temple Balsall.


In total, Roger is credited with assisting the establishment of thirty-five churches













Abbot Aelred's monastery at Rievaulx in the mid Twelfth Century