The Last of the Wolf

Anthony Dent describes how the last wolves of Yorkshire lived on into the reign of Henry VIII, but by then had almost vanished from England.

They pluck down towns and leave nothing | standing but only the church to be made a X sheep-house.’ All those interested in agrarian history know this passage from Sir Thomas More, his condemnation of the Tudor Shepherd Kings, by heart. It was written in 1516. Few notice how rare is a mention of the English sheep-house after about this date, or wonder why it should have faded out from then until quite recently.

Now a ‘new’ system of sheep-husbandry, involving housing in winter, is being advocated in England by a group of agricultural improvers, after four-and-a-half centuries during which the sheephouse or bargery has survived only as a scarce minor placename, like Ewecote Hall at Stakesby, one of the inner ring of granges on what were once the abbey lands of Whitby. Whitby was a considerable, though not a major, sheep-owning ecclesiastical estate. It never owned more than about 6,000 head (around the year 1300) which is small compared with Rievaulx’s 12,000. But then, the brothers of Whitby were not Cistercians.

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