Column by historian Roger Bingham of Ackenthwaite:

FROM 1124 to 1537, Furness Abbey held sway over much of South Lakeland.

As well as the abbot drawing in rent of £1,600 annually - making him one of the richest landlords in Cumbria - he also exacted ‘domestic provisions’ from his tenants to feed his 100 monks and 300 lay brothers.

The bill of fare was listed by Henry VIII’s commissioners at the abbey’s dissolution and was eventually published by Thomas West in 1774.

It included 105 quarters of wheat, 64 quarters of barley, 372 of oats, 159 year-old sheep, 24 stone of wool, 20 quarters of salt from Stalmine, 206 hens, 54 geese and 30 capons.

The economic effects of the dissolution were both harmful and beneficial. The tenants no longer had to render their produce to the abbey, but the successor landlords invariably wanted rent in cash. Therefore, at first, ‘agriculture received a fatal blow; the fertile fields and spacious lawns waved no more with a rich harvest of silver wheat and the inhabitants turned to another, remoter, market, and the breeding of cattle took the place of the plough’. But, as compensation, Father West concluded, the former ‘abbey lands produced a rich, though not luxuriant, grass, fit for pasturage so their cattle improved, and every market was open to them’.