Houses of Benedictine monks: Cell of Hackness

Page 107

A History of the County of York: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1974.

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Although the name of Hackness is so closely associated with that of the monastery of Whitby, both its relation to the post-Conquest Benedictine monastery and its history are somewhat obscure.

William de Percy gave to the re-founded monastery not merely the site at Whitby on which the earlier house had stood, but also the church of St. Peter at Hackness, and certain land there, which in the Domesday Survey is spoken of as the land of St. Hilda. (fn. 1) When Prior Reinfrid was accidently killed at Ormesbridge he was buried at Hackness.

It would seem, though there are discrepancies in the dates, that Prior Serlo and the monks left Whitby for Hackness (fn. 2) owing to the depredation by robbers, who hid themselves in the woods in the daytime, and the over-sea pirates who ravaged the monastery at Whitby. They do not seem to have remained very long at Hackness, and Serlo died about 1100 at Whitby. There is no doubt that some of the monks remained at Hackness and that afterwards there was a certain undetermined number of Whitby monks there; but, in the common acceptance of the term, Hackness cannot be correctly spoken of as a distinct cell, such for instance as was Middlesbrough. It had no separate government under a subordinate prior, and its accounts were entered in the compotus rolls of the abbey with those of the other manors and granges. It was, in fact, part of the corporate body of the monastery of Whitby under the direct government of the abbot and convent, and was never a separate subordinate establishment, dependent on the parent house, as a cell is generally understood to have been. It is spoken of as a manerium, (fn. 3) and not a cell, as Middlesbrough is. Unfortunately its subsequent history is a blank, all that is known is that a certain number of the Whitby monks generally resided there. Burton says their number was probably determined by the abbot, (fn. 4) and it is said elsewhere that at the Dissolution there were four monks at Hackness. (fn. 5)


  • 1. Young, Hist. Whitby, 257.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. ii, 634, no. 2. They began to construct a monasterium at the church of St. Mary Hackness (not St. Peter's) also granted by William de Percy.
  • 3. Whitby Chartul. 746.
  • 4. Burton, Mon. Ebor. 83.
  • 5. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. iii, 634.