Holm Cultram Abbey and the Landscape

Holm Cultram AbbeyHave you ever thought about how places got their names?

A significant point in history, 1066 and all that meant that England was under the control of France, 'the Normans'. With the French came new orders of monks, and also, the French and Latin languages.

The Cistercian Monks, who founded the Holm Cultram Abbey in the mid 1100s, were originally French and brought their new language with them. The Abbey gave name to the village, which developed later - Abbeytown.

The land around abbeys was usually owned and developed by the monks or brotherhood. The land was managed in areas encompassing villages and towns, and these were called granges. Within the granges were cotes or places where things were kept. A ville or villa is the Latin term for a large country house.

With the French also came new names for animals like swine for pig.

So let's look at the land around Holm Cultram Abbey for clues about the types of economic activities the monks got up to.

Raby Grange

The place where the dog handlers lived.

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Raby Cote

The dog kennels: dogs were used for hunting game, such as deer, and for the rounding up domestic animals such as sheep, goats and cattle.

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Salt Coates

Salt Cote: a place where salt was stored.

Evidence can still be found for the shallow brine ponds that were developed on the landward edge of Newton Arlosh salt marsh. Salt was a very important commodity in the mediaeval period and used the preservation of meats and fish.

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Swinsty Farm

Swine - a pig sty - a place for pigs

Very few pigs are reared on the Solway today, but in the early Mediaeval period they were a good animal to fatten on rougher ground such as woodlands where they were given pannage (rough forage).

Stank End is probably connected to Swinsty as a wet area smelling of both pigs and general village waste.

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Abbey Cowper

Cowper is the name for cooper or barrel maker. Barrels were used as the standard trading container for those commodities spoiled by moisture. Otherwise sacks would be used. Salt would be traded in barrels, as would salt fish and meats such as salted hams known as swines.

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Through the establishment of these trades by the monks of Holm Cultram, the economy would have developed and thrived. By trading say hams back to France the monks will have secured wines for the table and, of course, for the Holy Eucharist.

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