Farndale, where Edmund the Hermit used to live


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The first historical reference to Farndale

Rievaulx Chartulary


Subsequent references to Farndale in the twelfth and thirteenth century












A gift to Rievaulx from Roger de Mowbray 


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General Sir Martin Farndale KCB




Dates are in red.

Hyperlinks to other pages are in dark blue.

Headlines are in brown.

References and citations are in turquoise.

Context and local history are in purple.


This page is divided into the following sections:


·         The First Reference to Farndale in the Rievaulx Chartulary

·         Monastic grants

·         Edmund the Hermit

·         The Fern

·         Subsequent references to Farndale in the twelfth and thirteenth century


The First reference to Farndale in the Rievaulx Chartulary


Gundreda, on behalf of her guardian, Roger de Mowbray, gave land to Rievaulx abbey land which included a place called Midelhovet, where Edmund the Hermit used to dwell, and another called Duvanesthuat, together with the common pasture within the valley of Farndale.


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 of Farndale….’


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Rievaulx Abbey                                                                                                                                    Rievaulx and Farndale                                                                                                              


Midelhovet is probably Middle Head 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 Duffin Stone, grid 646987 on the west side of High Farndale.


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Middle Head and Duffin Stone at the northern end of Farndale                                                                           


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Middle Head in 2021




Gundreda, wife of Nigel de Albaneius, greetings to all the sons of St. Ecclesiff. Know that I have given and … confirmed, with the consent of my son, Eogeri de Moubrai, God and St. Marise Eievallis and the brothers there. . . for the soul of my husband Nigel de Albaneius, and for the safety of the soul of my son, Roger de Molbrai, and of his wife, and of their children, and for the soul of my father and mother, and of all my ancestors, whatever I had in my possession of cultivated land in Skipenum, and, where the cultivated land falls towards the north, whatever is in my fief and that of my son, Roger de Moubrai, in the forest and the plain, and the pastures and the wastins, according to the divisions between Wellebruna and Wimbeltun, and as divided from Wellebruna they tend to Thurkilesti, and so towards Cliveland, namely Locum and Locumeslehit, and Wibbehahge and Langeran, and Brannesdala, and Middelhoved, as they are divided between Wellebruna and Faddemor, and so towards Cliveland.


Middlehoved is Middle Head at the north end of Farndale. See above.



Roger of Molbrai, to all the faithful, both his own and strangers. Let it be known that I have granted . . to the Rievallis brothers, in perpetual alms, Midelhovet - scil. that meadow in Farnedale where Edmund the Hermit dwelt, and another meadow called Duvanesthuat, and the common pasture of the same valley - scil., Farnedale: and in the forest wood for material, and for the own uses of those who remained there, save the salvage.


Witness Samson de Alb[aneia]; and Peter of Tresc; and Anschetillo Ostrario; and Walter Parar; and Eicardo de Sescal [or ? Desescal.]; and John the Scribe; and Walter de la Eiviere; [and] Eiinaldo le Poer.



In the same town I gave them two oxen in full land, with a stable, and other appurtenances and appurtenances, as I had granted them in Mideltune, and they shall have for the shepherds of their animals one lodge of length xv feet and of the same width. And it must be known that this logia emanates in the upper part from Eskletes, and that the aforesaid brother, with two servants, will attend the aforesaid house of horses, as prescribed, without a larger family and without occasion. But if, in these pastures, the cattle have passed their set goals, without having been guarded, my men will turn them away without trouble.


Monastic Grants        


The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 40, Page 481. The Monastic Settlement of North East Yorkshire:


After the foundation, sometimes a very large grant as at Guisborough and Whitby, or a very niggardly ones as at Rievaulx, the accumulation of lands and rights was rapid, alarmingly so. At Rievaulx, for example, the greater parts of the lands were acquired and a very large number of granges established by the end of the twelfth century. Even by 1170 the monks had required all Bilsdale, Pickering Marshes, parts of Farndale and Bransdale, the Vills of Griff, Tileson, Stainton, Welburn, Hoveton, and the lands of Hummanby, Crosby, Morton, Wedbury, Allerston, Heslerton, Folkton, Willerby, Reighton... Some donors had apparently not bargained for such a rapid increase in monastic possessions. It came as a shock to find that the monks were not “all that was simple and submissive; No greed, no self-interest …” The result was that men like Roger de Mowbray, Robert de Stuteville, Everard de Ros and other great Lords, formerly great donors and foundations, began unsuccessfully, to evict the monks from certain lands, but monastic expansion continued...


The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 40, Page 636:


… The monks had a larger area given to them at Skiplam by Gundreda de Mowbray (1138 to 1143). This allowed for expansion since the grant included Farndale Head and Bransdale, about 18 square miles of dale pasture land.


It must not be imagined that the monks were beginning colonisation in an area entirely unused. Although the extent of settlement and cultivation was small it had existed. Griff and Stiltons, for example, were vills before 1069 but in 1086 were waste. Presumably the monks grant here was of land which had gone out of cultivation. Their task would be one of reestablishment rather than the colonisation of new land. It was a decided advantage to have such a tried starting point. At Skiplam, too, although the greater part of the area had never been settled for or tilled, there is evidence to show that the monks began the efforts from land already or recently cultivated. Gundreda’s grant, for instance cover included “de culta terra” (“of cultivated land”), as well as a grant “ubi culta terra deficit versus aquilonem” (“where the cultivated land declines towards the north”). Of course the subsequent work of the monks in all these places did result in a very great extension of the cultivated land. But it is worthwhile to point out that the Cistercians, so-called solitaries, did in fact owe something to previous lay efforts. In fact, it was largely the success or failure of lay farmers in a particular area which helped the monks to see the potentialities it offered them.


…. The granges had easy access to two types of pasture - moorland and valeland. Skiplam, for instance, had extensive pasture in the moorland dales, only a few miles north. There was the rough pasture (saltum) of Farndale Head and common pasture in Farmdale and Bransdale. It had, too, the meadow of the clayland at its disposal. This was even nearer, being no more than three miles to the south. The plough teams from Skiplam could easily pasture at Welburn, where the monks had common pasture rights, or at Rook Barugh, Muscoates, and several other places, just as the animals from Griff went to Newton grange for pasture. The limestone hills had then a great deal to recommend them for the observant eyes of the monks.


The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 40, Page 636:


Although arable granges would require access to pasture land this would be more important to pastoral granges in which movement of animals, sometimes over great distances, was an economic necessity. Most grants of common pasture to the monasteries were made early. Rievaulx had common in Welburn (1138 to 1143); Wombleton (1145 to 1152); Farndale (pre 1155), for example, and sometimes the privilege was purchased, eg Arden Hesketh (pre 1159) 1 ½  marks, Morton (1158 to 1160) 1 mark... Some specific grants of sheep pasture were very large... and undoubtedly induced the monasteries to set up their granges nearby.


The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 40, Page 636:


A closer inspection of the map suggests that some vital changes had occurred by 1301. This comprised an extension of the settled area. Those areas colonised since Domesday were mainly of two kinds: in the marshy vale lands and in the moorland dales. In the latter, Bilsdale, Farndale, Bransdale and Eskdale were mainly concerned. In the former the Vale of Pickering especially in its central part was affected, but settlement on the limestone dip slope to the north had also increased, eg Skiplam, Carlton.


One outstanding fact is evident, that the monastic share in the expansion of settlement after 1086 was very great indeed. In Bilsdale, for example, Byland and Rievaulx between them had settled almost the whole of the valley by 1301 while lay settlement was confined to a few vills in the north of the valley, e.g. Raisdale, Broad Fields, Bilsdale, and these were largely dominated by Rievaulx. In Eskdale too, a whole series of new settlements had been established by Guisborough Priory at Skelderskew, Wayworth, Dibble Bridge, Glaisdale... Rosedale was entirely a monastic settlement although the ironstone in the dale was to attract lay settlers there by the mid 14th century. Bransdale and Farndale had apparently been colonised by laymen, although even here Rievaulx had twelfth century pasture rights which presumably led to some form of small settlement. At any rate, by 1282 lay settlement here was considerable. There were for instance 90 natives in Farndale and 54 natives and bondsman in Bransdale. Along the north east fringe of the moors at Stanghow, Scaling, Sandsend ... and in certain spots deeper in the moors, eg Hartoft, laymen had played a major part in the expansion of settlement.


Significant as the monastic colonisation of uninhabited areas was it must be remembered that their greatest contribution was the development of the already settled areas. Their granges were often inside vills or on the outskirts of them. In the north east, the monastic contribution to the revival of settlement after 1069 was great. The great extent of waste presented them with an unsurpassed economic opportunity. If so much waste had not existed it is quite possible that the donations to the monasteries would have been less; that the chance to secure and enlarge a foothold would have been decreased….


Edmund the Hermit


Edmund the hermit of Farndale was a legendary figure who lived in a cave in the North York Moors in the Twelfth century. He was said to be a holy man who performed miracles and healed the sick. He was also reputed to be a descendant of King Alfred the Great and a cousin of King Stephen.


However, there is no historical evidence to support his existence or his royal lineage. He may have been a fictional character created by local monks to attract pilgrims and donations to their monastery. Alternatively, he may have been based on a real person who lived in the cave, but whose identity and story were embellished over time. Some scholars have suggested that he may have been a Norman knight who fled to the cave after the Battle of the Standard in 1138, or a Saxon rebel who resisted the Norman conquest.


The cave where Edmund supposedly lived is known as Hob Hole and is located near Westerdale in Farndale. It is a natural limestone cave that has been enlarged by human activity. It has two chambers, one of which may have served as a chapel. The cave is now a scheduled monument and is protected by law. You can see some photos of the cave.


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 listed hermits among four kinds of monks. 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”


Religious hermits were the original residents of many 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 seems to come from the Celtic ‘farn, or fearn meaning ‘fern’ and the Norwegian ‘dalr, meaning ‘dale;’ and so was the ‘dale where the ferns grew.’


Of course whilst Farndale is today dominated by moorland bracken and ferns, ferns are naturally a woodland plant, so it must have been the ferns of the forested Farndale which gave rise to its name. Perhaps it was Edmund who must have known the valley intricately, first chose its name.


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The ferns in Farndale, from which Farndale gets its name



Subsequent references to Farndale in the twelfth and thirteenth century




By 1166, Roger de Mowbray having fallen out of favour with Henry II, the lands of Kirkbymoorside had passed to the House Stuteville. Robert III de Stuteville claimed the barony, which had been forfeited by his grandfather, from Roger de Mowbray, who by way of compromise gave him Kirby Moorside. Roger gave Robert Kirkby Moorside for 10 knights' fees in satisfaction of his claim (Victoria County History – Yorkshire, A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 1 Parishes: Kirkby Moorside, 1914).


Rievaulx Abbey was unable to sustain its claim to the Farndale property and a little before 1166, Robert de Stuteville granted Keldholme Priory timber and wood in Farndale together with a vaccary, pasture and cultivated land in East Bransdale


Rotuli Chartarum, 1199-1216, page 86: Confirmation of Keldeholm. Know that we have granted and confirmed the present charter regarding Keldeholm, all the signatures that were given to them. Grant of charters confirmed by the gift of Robert de Stuteville and the grant of William de Stuteville to his son, that place of Keldholme, with the whole



In or about 1209 the Abbot of St. Mary's obtained from King John rights in the forest of Farndale which the King had recovered from Nicholas de Stutevill. Pipe R. 11 John, m. 11.


Robert de Stuteville had given the nuns of Keldholme the right of getting wood for burning and building in Farndale, (Cal. Rot. Chart. 1199–1216 (Rec. Com.), 86) and in or about 1209 the Abbot of St. Mary's obtained from King John rights in the forest of Farndale which the king had recovered from Nicholas de Stuteville. (Pipe R. 11 John, m. 11)




Inquisitions Post Mortem, Edward I, File 31, Pages 252-262, Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem: Volume 2, Edward I. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1906: Extent, Tuesday the eve of the Annunciation, 10 Edw. I. Kerkeby Moresheved. The manor (full extent given with names of tenants), including the park a league in circuit with 140 deer (ferarum), a wood called Westwode a league in length, a messuage and great close in Braunsedale held by Nicholas son of Robert Nussaunt rendering an arrow at Easter, rents of nuts and woodhens, 'gersume,' marchet and the tenth pig, a messuage called La Wodehouse, waste places called Coteflat, Loftischo, Godefreeruding, Harlonde, and beneath Gillemore Clif, dales called Farndale and Brauncedale, and waste places called Arkeners and Sweneklis, held of Roger de Munbray. Knights' fees pertaining to the manor:


Circa 1250


In the mid thirteenth century, Lady Joan de Stuteville successfully prosecuted the Abbot of St Mary’s York, for exceeding his rights taking wood from Farndale by actually assarting 100 acres of land.


Joan de Stuteville was said to be afforesting her woods here in the reign of Edward I (1239 to 1307). (Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), i, 117.)




Only a few years later, the Inquisition Post Mortem taken after Joan’s death in 1276 reveals settlement on a grand scale. In Farndale, bond tenants holding by acres and paying a standard rent of 1-0d for each acre produced £27-5-0d, presumably for 545 acres. In East Bransdale, bondmen held another 141 acres paying a standard rent of 6d per acre, but they are said to hold ‘by cultures’. The significance of these terms is explained in the IPM of Joan’s Son, Baldwin Wake, taken only six years later in 1282, where the bondmen are said to hold their land ‘not by the bovate of land, but by more or less’. Thus standard bovate holdings, usually in the lowlands and in some of the older settled moorland villas, have been dispensed with in favour of holdings of varied size rented by the acre.


See FAR00017.




The next mention of Farndale, also Farendale, Farendal, Farnedale in the thirteenth century, is found at the beginning of the 13th century (Cal. Rot. Chart. 1199–1216 (Rec. Com.), 86). It formed part of the fee of the lords of Kirkbymoorside, of which manor it was parcel. For an extent in 1281–2 see Yorks. Inq. (Yorks. Arch. Soc.), i, 249.




The 1282 extent shows a considerable increase over that of 1276, but this probably means nothing more than that a new and up-to-date survey was used as the basis for the later document. The Farndale rents now amounted £ 38-8-8d together with a nut-rent and a few boon works and if the rate of 1s 0d per acre still applied, this would give a total acreage held in bondage of no less than 768 acres. In Bransdale rents were up to £4-14-3d which would give us about 188 acres at the old rent of 6d per acre. For the first time the number of bondmen are given - 25 in East Bransdale and 90 in Farndale.


The sheer scale is impressive enough, but there are features which point to a planned campaign of settlement. It is difficult to imagine how men of villain status, compelled to pay rents of 1s 0d per acre for minute holdings of marginal land, could also have managed to undertake their own assarting. It seems more likely that the land had been reclaimed in advance of letting, as at Goathland, by the Lord’s agents, while the standard rents suggest a single campaign on a large scale rather than piece meal assaulting. A number of key questions cannot be answered from the sources we have used so far. It is not clear whether settlement of the two Dales completed by 1282.


Baldwin Wake died in 1282 and was succeeded by his son and heir John Wake who was summoned to Parliament as Lord Wake by Edward I.


See FAR00020.




The lay subsidy assessments of 1301 afforded a brief glimpse of the settlement pattern, listing numerous contributors bearing the names of the farms which is still to be found at Farndale such as ‘Wakelevedy’ (Wake Lady Green), ‘Westgille’ (West Gill), Monkegate (Monket House) and ‘Elleshaye (Eller House) and which are scattered all around the dale. Further confirmation of this pattern is provided by surveys of 1570 and 1610, both of which give the names of many more extent farms and allow us to identify others from field names.


Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Yorkshire Lay Subsidy 30 Ed. I (1301) The Subsidy: Wapentake of Rydale, The Subsidy: Wapentake of Rydale, Pages 46-56, Yorkshire Lay Subsidy 30 Ed. I (1301):




De Willelmo de Almeheved'   ijs         ixd       o.

De Willelmo Ruddock' ijs         iijd       

De Nicholao Ruddock'            iiijs       vijd       o.q.

De Willelmo Clerico                xxiijd   

De Willelmo Wakelevedy       iijs        ijd        

De Nicholao filio Galfridi                     vd        o.q.

De Thoma Kerelle                   xiijd     

De Radulpho de Westgille     iijs        ijd         o.

De Thoma de Birkeheved'                  vjd       o.

De Willelmo de Monkegate               iijd        q.

De Willelmo ad Portam          iijs        iijd       

De Johanne de Brannordale   ijs         vjd       o.

De Rogero Bernard'                xxjd     q.

De Willelmo de Hoton'                        vd        o.q.

De Hugone de Redmyre        ijs         vijd       q.

De Nicholao de Ellrischaye    iiijs       vijd       o.

De Roberto de Brakanthayt'   iiijs       vijd       o.

De Harpino Coyly                   iiijd      

De Waltero de Ellerscaye      ijs         ijd         o.

De Ricardo Beverley              ixd       o.q.

De Willelmo Westgil'   ijs         vjd      

De Roberto ad Pontem                       vjd       o.

De Simone Molendinario        vijs       ixd       o.

De Johanne serviente ejus                 iijd        q.

De Stephano Alberd'  ijs         iijd        q.

De Radulpho de Capite                      iijd        q.

De Willelmo de Fademore                  iiijd      

De Willelmo filio Henrici                      vd        o.q.

De Galfrido de Hoton' iijs        vjd       o.q.

De Roberto filio Golde                        vd       

De Laurencio Syffewrythe                  iiijd      

De Willelmo filio Rogeri          iijs        xjd       o.q.

De Galfrido Saunder               iijd       

De Syther' vidua                     iiijd      

De Ada filio Johannis              iijd        o.q.


See FAR00029.