Record Series - 154     

The Bolton Priory Compotus 1286-1325. Together with a Priory Account Roll for 1377-78

Ian Kershaw and David M. Smith (2000)

The Bolton Priory Compotus is a unique document – a thousand-page book of accounts of an Augustinian Priory in the Yorkshire Dales, offering extraordinary insight into the material side of monastic life in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century. This edition now makes fully available to medieval scholarship for the first time the wide-ranging accounts of the Priory over a consecutive forty-year span from 1286 to 1325 [in Latin].

In addition, a recently discovered later account illustrates the major changes introduced into the running of the Priory’s estates in the mid-fourteenth century.

Most knowledge of medieval monastic economy in England is drawn from the estates of large and wealthy Benedictine establishments in the midlands and south. Bolton Priory, by contrast, was modest in size, poorly endowed, located in an unyielding farming region, and faced with daunting financial problems. The accounts of the Priory provide remarkably comprehensive and rich details of all aspects of its affairs. The Priory’s dealings with Italian wool-merchants (to whom it owed heavy debts), the build-up of its estate, the running of its granges, the patterns of household food consumption, and the devastating impact of agricultural crisis compounded by damage inflicted by marauding Scottish raiders, are all fully documented.

The Bolton Priory Compotus is a striking and significant addition to existing documentation on medieval monasticism in England.

Ian Kershaw is Professor of History at the University of Sheffield; David M. Smith is director of the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research, University of York.

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