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Photographer's Note

Rievaulx Abbey was founded by St Bernard of Clairvaux as the first Cistercian monastery in the north of England. 12 monks arrived in 1132 and by the 1160s it housed around 650 men and was one of the most powerful monastic houses in Britain. Walter Espec from nearby Helmsley Castle owned the land in the Rye Valley on which Rievaulx Abbey is built.(The name "Rievaulx" is derived from "Rye Valley") As an active supporter of ecclesiastical reform Espec was the abbey’s patron and gifted them 1000 acres of land. Many of the buildings, the ruins of which are still here today, were built by Aelred, the third abbot and the most prominent religious figure of his day. After his death in 1167, Aelred was canonised and the presbytery was re-built in the 1220s in a more elaborate style to house his remains. Its full height is still visible today.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538 the new owner of Rievaulx Abbey, the Earl of Rutland, began dismantling the abbey’s contents. Some of the building materials were used to build many of the cottages in the village.

Much of the rubble left by Rutland was still there in 1917 when the owner at the time, who was unable to afford the upkeep of the abbey, gave the site to the government, who employed Sir Frank Baines to make the restorations necessary to avoid collapse of the buildings still standing. Between 1918 and 1921 veterans of WW1 were engaged to clear the 90,000 tonnes of rubble. Unfortunately, much of the “rubble” was archeologically important and it is now lost. Also, rubble was used to level near-by fields, so obscuring important earthworks of the abbey. The site is now owned and maintained by English Heritage, of which I am a member.

This photo shows what remains of the abbey’s church still at its full original height. The main part is the presbytery where the main altar would have been. The south transept is on the left. There is a view of the east end in the WS

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Additional Photos by Kath Featherstone (feather) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7646 W: 399 N: 14391] (51130)
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